The Impact of Mindfulness in the Lives of At-Risk Youth

Research is starting to show that mindfulness is impacting new populations. But can it help at-risk youth who are exposed to negative role models, experience unstable homes and are getting in trouble with the law? To look at this issue, Dr. Karen Bluth and her team of researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill designed this randomized controlled trial, published recently in the journal Mindfulness, for the effect of a school-based mindfulness program on at-risk youth. Researchers assigned 27 ethnically diverse at-risk adolescents in an alternative school setting to either a mindfulness program called Learning to BREATHE, or…

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Three Ways Trauma Changes the Brain

The treatment of trauma can be some of the most complex work practitioners face. And for years, this challenge was complicated by not having a clear picture of the impact that trauma has on the brain. But scientific advances within just the past few years have opened the eyes of practitioners to what actually happens in the brain of someone who has experienced trauma. And according to Bessel van der Kolk, MD, there are three major ways that the brain changes in response to trauma. To find out what they are (and their impact on the body), take a look…

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Treating Severe Trauma in Iraq

Trauma doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone, anywhere throughout the world and, unfortunately . . . . . . not everyone has similar access to resources for treating trauma or PTSD. So, what can we do to reach survivors of trauma who have limited access to treatment options? Paul Bolton, MBBS and a team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, wanted to test the effects of PTSD treatment provided by workers who had access to few resources and little training opportunities. To complete this study, Bolton coordinated 20 community health workers in Iraq. The…

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An Exercise to Boost the Brain’s Natural Anti-Anxiety Drug?

Is there an exercise that can boost feel-good chemicals in your brain while reducing anxiety and improving your mood? The answer is yes – it’s yoga. Now yoga isn’t the only exercise that’s been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety, but Chris Streeter, MD and her colleagues from the Boston University School of Medicine conducted a study that compared the efficacy of yoga to walking. Initially, Streeter and her team determined that yoga reduced anxiety, improved mood, and boosted the anti-anxiety neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. Next, researchers randomly assigned participants to either a yoga group or…

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Greater Empathy – In Just 3 Hours?

How attentive, empathetic, and caring was your physician the last time you had to go to the doctor’s office? Or, if you’re a physician, do you ever wonder how your patients perceive you? We recently reported on a study that showed severity of cold symptoms decreased among patients treated by physicians who demonstrated high levels of empathy. Empathy is a crucial skill when working with people who are sick or facing the diagnosis they most fear. So a training program to help medical practitioners develop a greater sense of attentiveness and empathy could offer patients tremendous support and relief, no…

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Can Traumatic Memories Be Changed?

Experiences that are distressing, painful and, perhaps, even traumatic are unavoidable in life. But are there ways we can work with people to prevent memories of traumatic events from developing into PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)? One possibility that’s being investigated for accomplishing this is a method called “updating.” This approach uses verbal techniques to change how traumatic memories are consolidated in the brain. Basically, “updating” tries to decrease the conditioned fear response that can lead to PTSD. You see, there’s a period of time known as the “consolidation window,” when fear memories are being established and strengthened in the brain….

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