July 2011



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Archive for July, 2011

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on July 13, 2011


For people at risk of panic, performance of regular, high-level exercise may be the tonic that can help to reduce anxiety.


In a new study, scientists found that people with “high anxiety sensitivity” — an intense fear of the nausea, racing heart, dizziness, stomach aches and shortness of breath that accompany panic — reacted with less anxiety to a panic-inducing stressor if they had been engaging in high levels of physical activity.


“Anxiety sensitivity is an established risk factor for the development of panic and related disorders,” said psychologist Dr. Jasper Smits of Southern Methodist University, lead author on the research.


“This study suggests that this risk factor may be less influential among persons who routinely engage in high levels of physical activity.”


Prior findings have documented the benefits of exercise among people who suffer from depression and anxiety.


“We’re not suggesting, ‘Exercise instead of pharmacotherapy or psychotherapy,’” Smits said. “Exercise is a useful alternative, particularly for those without access to traditional treatments. Primary care physicians already prescribe exercise for general health, so exercise may have the advantage of helping reach more people in need of treatment for depression and anxiety.”


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Article Date: 15 Jul 2011 – 0:00 PDT


Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. announces the launch of Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications (G4H), a new, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the development, use, and applications of game technology for improving physical and mental health and well-being. The Journal breaks new ground as the first to address this emerging, widely-recognized, and increasingly adopted area of healthcare. Published bi-monthly, Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications will be released in fall 2011.
Games are rapidly becoming an important tool for improving health behaviors ranging from healthy lifestyle habits and behavior modification to self-management of illnesses and chronic conditions to motivating and supporting physical activity. Commonly used applications include mobile phone-delivered games that track daily exercise and “exergames” that require physical exertion in order to play (e.g., on platforms such as the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation Move, and Xbox Kinect). Games are also increasingly used to train healthcare professionals in methods for diagnosis, medical procedures, patient monitoring, as well as for responding to epidemics and natural disasters.


Billions of dollars and immeasurable hours of research and development are being invested in developing and employing sophisticated software and technologies that deliver tailored, personalized game-based healthcare interventions. Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications will provide a print and online forum for peer-reviewed research articles, new system and game reviews, field news and reports, convention and event announcements, book reviews, and point-counterpoint discussions to support professionals in the field.


“This research journal will be an authoritative and influential resource for decision makers who purchase, use, prescribe, recommend, design, publish, fund, or invest in digital games for health, and it will serve our research field and its related academic disciplines in many valuable ways,” according to Debra Lieberman, PhD, Director of the Health Games Research national program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The Journal will be a starting point for anyone interested in the research and design of health games that integrate well-tested, evidence-based behavioral health strategies to help improve health behaviors and to support the delivery of care.”


Forthcoming articles for early issues of Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications include research on the effectiveness and design strategies of:


  • *Games intended to develop the social skills of people with conditions such as autism
  • *Exergames aimed at motivating more activity in physical education classes
  • *An alternate realty game designed to increase physical activity
  • *Exergames for young adults and families
  • *Games to help treat eating disorders and habits such as smoking
  • *Games to improve cognitive function in older adults
  • *The use of simulations to help develop the interpersonal skills of family members of veterans suffering from PTSD


“The benefits of games for health – from autism to Alzheimer’s to heart disease and other illnesses and conditions – are demonstrating significant promise for improving the way people manage their health and for the delivery of care both in and out of the hospital setting,” said Mary Ann Liebert, president and CEO of Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. “Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications is a critical and much-needed forum for this evolving area of healthcare.”


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David Seidler, stutterer and Oscar-winning screenwriter of The King's Speech.

David Seidler, stutterer and Oscar-winning screenwriter of The King’s Speech, salutes the bravery of stutterers. (David Alpuche)

The compassionate determination and quiet resolve of a thousand stutterers

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on July 14, 2011


In a new study, Ohio State researchers discovered consumption of fish oil reduced inflammation and anxiety among a group of healthy young people.


Researchers believe the findings suggest the elderly and people at high risk for certain diseases may benefit from similar dietary supplements.


The research is published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity and is the latest from more than three decades of research into links between psychological stress and immune response.


The benefits from omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have been debated for the last 30 years.


Earlier research suggested that the compounds might play a role in reducing the level of cytokines in the body, compounds that promote inflammation, and perhaps even reduce depression.


According to researchers, psychological stress has repeatedly been shown to increase cytokine production. Thus, researchers initiated the study to discover if increasing omega-3 might mitigate that process, reducing inflammation.


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Robin Williams

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on July 15, 2011


A new study finds that positive reframing — looking at a thing in a different light — and perhaps laughing about life’s daily small setbacks is an effective way to feel satisfied at the end of the day.


Researchers used a diary study to review the strategies people use to deal with the small setbacks and failures that we all experience on a daily basis.


In the study, 149 students completed daily diary reports for 3 to 14 days, reporting the most bothersome failure they experienced during the day, what strategies they used to cope with the failure, and how satisfied they felt at the end of the day.


Students used a variety of coping strategies including emotional or instrumental support; self-distraction; denial; religion; venting; substance use; self-blame; and behavioral disengagement.


Of these, using social support (both emotional and instrumental), denial, venting, behavioral disengagement, and self-blame coping had negative effects on satisfaction at the end of the day.


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By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on July 15, 2011


The benefit of taking an approach that views a glass as being half full is now supported by neuroimaging of the brain.


Many experts have linked aging successfully to the “positivity effect” – a biased tendency towards and preference for positive, emotionally gratifying experiences.


A new study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, explains how and when this effect works in the brain.


German neuroscientists used neuroimaging to evaluate brain activity in young and old adults when they performed a specialized cognitive task that included supposedly irrelevant pictures of either neutral, happy, sad or fearful faces.


During parts of the task when they didn’t have to pay as much attention, the elderly subjects were significantly more distracted by the happy faces.


When this occurred, they had increased engagement in the part of the brain that helps control emotions and this stronger signal in the brain was correlated with those who showed the greatest emotional stability.


“Integrating our findings with the assumptions of life span theories we suggest that motivational goal-shifting in healthy aging leads to a self-regulated engagement in positive emotions even when this is not required by the setting,” explained author Dr. Stefanie Brassen.


In other words, looking for silver linings can strengthen positive feelings, enhance emotional well-being and increase emotional control in aging.


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Related Article

LATimes “Positive Thinking Makes For Happy Old People”



Efficacy of Applied Behavioral Intervention in Preschool Children with Autism for Improving Cognitive, Language, and Adaptive Behavior: A Systemic Review and Meta-analysis
The Journal of Pediatrics, Vol. 154, No. 3. (March 2009), pp. 338-344. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2008.09.012 Key: citeulike:95247077



Objective To review the effectiveness of applied behavior intervention (ABI) programs for preschool children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in their cognitive, adaptive behavior, and language development. Study design Systematic reviews, randomized or quasirandomized controlled trials (RCT) of ABI delivered to preschool children with ASD were reviewed. Quantitative data on cognitive, language, and behavior outcomes were extracted and pooled for meta-analysis (RevMan 4.2). Results Thirteen studies met the inclusion criteria. Six of these were randomized comparison trials with adequate methodologic quality (PEDro ≥ 6). Meta-analysis of 4 studies concluded that, compared with standard care, ABI programs did not significantly improve the cognitive outcomes of children in the experimental group who scored a standardized mean difference (SMD) of 0.38 (95%CI −0.09 to 0.84; P = .1). There was no additional benefit over standard care for expressive language; SMD of 0.37 (95%CI −0.09 to 0.84; P = .11), for receptive language; SMD of 0.29 (95%CI −0.17 to 0.74; P = .22) or adaptive behavior; SMD of 0.30 (95%CI −0.16 to 0.77; P = .20). Conclusions Currently there is inadequate evidence that ABI has better outcomes than standard care for children with autism. Appropriately powered clinical trials with broader outcomes are required. Abbreviations: ABA, Applied behavioral analysis, ABAI, Applied behavior analysis intervention, ABI, Applied behavior intervention, ASD, Autism spectrum disorder, IBT, Intensive behavioral treatment, PDD, Pervasive developmental disorders, PEDro, Physiotherapy Evidence Database, SMD, Standardized mean difference





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Melbourne schoolgirl Holly Bligh, aged 9, has albinism which is a genetic condition that affects not only the pigment in her skin, hair and eyes, but also her vision. Normally for Holly to read, she would require a hefty magnifying glass, and work sheets given out by her teachers would have to be magnified when photocopied specially for her. Well now thanks to the iPad, it seems that most of her reading problems have been solved, as all she would have to do is swipe and pinch to flip through pages and to enlarge text. Her attention span reportedly has also increased and her “visual fatigue” now apparently takes twice as long before it sets in.


Just to point it out, this could have easily be achieved on an Android tablet, or any other tablet too for that matter, it just so happens that Holly and her parents decided to go for Apple’s iPad instead.


Apparently Holly’s mother was so grateful for what the iPad has done for her daughter, that she sent an email to Steve Jobs, thanking him for “completely changing” her daughter’s life. She was not expecting a reply, but he did. We guess it’s kind of Steve Jobs’ M.O. to surprise. He replied her email saying, “Thanks for sharing your experience with me. Do you mind if I read your email to a group of our top 100 leaders at Apple?” He then proceeded to sign off with “Thanks, Steve” and asked for a photo of Holly with her iPad. We guess this is probably a use of the iPad that maybe Steve Jobs did not foresee.


Research has also shown that school students with a range of physical and mental challenges, including autism and deaf-blindness, show an average of 20 percent improvement in communication abilities from using devices like the iPad.






Five people with superhuman abilities, named Alphas, use them to maintain justice. The Alphas’ abilities range from extra sensory hearing and sight through to one who can see radio waves and television transmissions. They discover that a group with similar abilities who used them to commit crime, although once thought to have been beaten and eliminated, have returned stronger and more organised than before.
When a witness is inexplicably murdered in a locked room at a federal courthouse, Dr. Lee Rosen is put on the case. He leads a team of “Alphas”, human beings with enhanced abilities due to differences in their brain structure: Gary Bell, a highly functioning autistic with an ability to process information that rivals most computers; Bill Harken, a former FBI agent who can amp up his “fight or flight” reflex, giving him extraordinary strength for a brief period of time; Nina Theroux, a beautiful woman who can reprogram other people’s minds to do as she bids; and Rachel Pirzad, a sheltered Persian girl who can intensify one sense at the expense of the others. However, with said powers comes a price – for Gary, autism which makes him a child for all intents and purposes; for Harken, severe anger issues that cost him his job and family; for Rachel, struggling to overcome her parents shame at her “illness”; and Nina, never really knowing how those close to her actually feel.
In any case, they’ve all come together for the common good with Rosen as their mentor, teaching them to further control their abilities with each passing day. As for the courthouse murder, it’s not long before the team uncovers that one of their own kind was responsible – Cameron Hicks, a former Marine sharpshooter with supernatural balance and aim (he guided the bullet through a ventilation duct). After bringing him in, however, they realize someone even more powerful was pulling the strings… someone with a new technology that can be used to mimic one of the team’s gifts.
Ryan Cartwright as Gary Bell in Alphas.
“Gary is functionally autistic: he can easily talk to wi-fis but has trouble relating to people — which could be interesting, but his defense mechanism is to be snippy.”

Last week we held a hugely successful conference in London on ‘Understanding and Managing Challenging Behaviour’.


The conference was attended by over 130 professionals, who heard about the latest research and good practice on topics including causes, early intervention and planning.


Speakers included leading experts John Clements, Dr Juli Crocombe, Dr Helen Pearce and Geoff Evans. Attendees also heard from Steve McGuinness and Jackie Edwards, who talked about their own experiences of anxiety and how it can lead to behaviours that some people may find challenging to deal with. (Download presentations from the conference here.)


We were also fortunate to have keynote speaker John Clements (pictured above right) do a book signing during the event. He is the author of Assessing behaviors regarded as problematic for people with developmental disabilities and People with autism behaving badly: helping people with ASD move on from behavioral and emotional challenges.


Responding effectively to challenging behaviour is a huge concern for people working in the care and education sectors. The topic was particularly relevant given the recent scandal over mistreatment of vulnerable adults living at Winterbourne View, a private hospital in Bristol.


Our high-quality conferences focus on important issues in the field of autism and bring together leading figures to discuss the latest research and practice. To find out more about our upcoming events, please visit www.autism.org.uk/conferences