GET INSPIRED

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GROW YOUR KNOWLEDGE

THROUGH READING THE LATEST RESEARCH FINDINGS 

We update these pages regularly to provide you with the latest research updates conducted by credible institutions and sources. You can find the categorised groups at the bottom of the page. Sign up for our free membership and follow us on our social meida to get monthly updates on the latest findings! 

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'Teenagers’ wellbeing seems to have little effect on GCSE performance'

UCL- Jerrim

DOI: 10.1080/0969594X.2022.2054941

28 April 2022 (Article)

Data collected from 4000 students in England from PISA (Programme of International Assessment) were analysed and 11 pupils were asked about their mood states using a four-point scale. Their responses were divided into three groups: low levels of well-being (the least happy 20%), high levels of well-being (the happiest 20%) and those who were in-between. Then, the link between well-being and exam performance is compared. The findings suggested that there is a minor difference between the grades when compared with well-being scores. Students' emotions were considered largely unrelated to their academic performance. It is concluded that the policy and practice should concern the emotions of students in their own rights, instead of associating them with future academic outcomes. 

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'Arts-Based Groups May Be Beneficial for the Wellbeing of Victims of Gender-Based Violence'

UCL- Collins et al.

DOI: 10.31219/osf.io/fs23c

25 April 2022 (Article)

Researchers used a literature review of studies published from 2000 to 2021, as well as a manual search of reference lists of arts and mental health journals, to find out if there is a connection between arts-based groups and the well-being of women who have experienced gender-based violence. The results indicate that supportive art groups tailored to the needs of the survivors have a positive impact on the women involved, leading the researchers to advocate for the necessity of arts and health disciplines working together to address important issues, like this one. 

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'Threatening faces and beefy bodies do not bias criminal suspect identification, study finds'

University of Cambridge- McElvaney & Mareschal

DOI: 10.3758/s13421-021-01268-w

20 April 2022 (Article)

The stereotype of the threatening or criminal appearance has long been a disadvantage in the judicial system. The aim of this study was to test whether people will be falsely identified as a criminal because of their threatening appearance. In contrast to the hypothesis, the findings of three experiments suggested that when identifying criminal suspects, there is no bias towards selecting people with muscular bodies or threatening facial expressions. 

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'Pioneering trial of MDMA treatment hopes to help veterans with PTSD'

KCL- Rucker

11 April 2022 (Article)

With previous research in the United States suggesting the effectiveness of prescribing MDMA for conventional PTSD treatments, researchers are planning to replicate the findings in five military veterans experiencing PTSD. While the effectiveness of conventional treatments is limited by the difficulties in overcoming traumatic experiences by the patients, MDMA enhances the treatment by reducing the overwhelming feelings of revisiting such experiences.

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'Trainee teachers made sharper assessments about learning difficulties after receiving feedback from AI'

University of Cambridge- Sailer et al.

DOI: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2022.101620

11 April 2022 (Article)

Artificial intelligence has significantly improved trainee teachers' reasoning skills in identifying students with learning difficulties compared to trainees who reflected upon the judgements made by experts. Researchers attributed such enhancement to AI's ability to adapt to the trainees' work, producing more personal and clearer feedback.

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'Trainee teachers made sharper assessments about learning difficulties after receiving feedback from AI'

University of Cambridge- Sailer et al.

DOI: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2022.101620

11 April 2022 (Article)

Artificial intelligence has significantly improved trainee teachers' reasoning skills in identifying students with learning difficulties compared to trainees who reflected upon the judgements made by experts. Researchers attributed such enhancement to AI's ability to adapt to the trainees' work, producing more personal and clearer feedback.

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'The Impact of Gallery-Based Arts Engagement on Depression'

University of Sydney- Irwin et al.

DOI: 10.1080/00050067.2022.2061329

10 April 2022 (Article)

The aim of the study was to determine how a gallery-based arts engagement program would influence individuals suffering from depression. According to the study, 32 participants were randomly assigned to two terms of the program and stated that the program helped them feel more included and that it had an overall positive impact on their sense of identity. Moreover, the program also managed to counteract negative cognitive, emotional, and behavioural patterns. Therefore, results show that community-based, non–clinical art programs may act not only as a destigmatizing agent but also promote recovery from depression. 

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'State school pupils just as happy with their lives as private school counterparts'

UCL- Henderson

08 April 2022 (Article)

A longitudinal study including over 7700 participants has been following the lives of a group of people in England born in 1989-90s since secondary school. It was demonstrated that there is no difference in life satisfaction between the private and state school pupils. Although private schools embraced better resources, the insignificant difference in life satisfaction might be explained by higher academic stress in private schools which cancels out the privilege of having better resources. The researcher added that the results could be different in contemporary society, where students from private schools are equipped with better mental health support, especially after the pandemic. 

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'Abused children who were adopted did ‘significantly better’ than those brought up in care – research'

University of Oxford- Ward et al.

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-76429-6

06 April 2022 (Article)

Compared to children who grew up in foster care, those who were adopted tend to show better life outcomes (e.g. academic performance, university uptake rates). This is probably because adopted children have a stronger sense of belonging and stability in their new family, thus forming a healthier sense of identity.

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'Brain charts map the rapid growth and slow decline of the human brain over our lifetime'

KCL- Edwards & Hajnal

06 April 2022 (Article)

By collecting brain scans from individuals of different ages, researchers from the Developing Human Connectome Project (dHCP) have found evidence supporting the hypothesis regarding the milestones of brain development. In general, brain scans across time have shown that the human brain develops rapidly from mid-gestation to adolescence and shrinks gradually as people reach 50 years old.

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'A Systematic Review Looks at the Connection Between Mental Health Recovery and Creative Writing Groups'

Copenhagen Research Center for Mental Health- Mundy et al.

DOI: 10.18261/njach.4.1.1

05 April 2022 (Article)

Aiming to gain an overview of current evidence of group-based creative writing interventions on mental health recovery, researchers conducted a systematic review of literature, assessing 7743 records. The results suggest that creative writing may support mental health clinical and personal recovery by encouraging connectedness, empowerment, and identity. 

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'Pandemic ‘shielding’ led to two-fold increase in depressive symptoms in older people'

University College London & University of Manchester- Di Gessa & Price

DOI: 10.1192/bjp.2022.44

04 April 2022 (Article)

The study aimed to investigate the effect of shielding taking place during the pandemic on the mental well-being of older people in England. Five thousand adults over 50 participated in the study and the data were collected from the first eight to nine months of the pandemic. Results demonstrated that among all the old people who were shielded throughout the first 8/9 months of the pandemic, 42% reported more depressive symptoms, compared to 23% among those who were never shielded nor stayed at home. The researchers recommended that extra care should be given to address the mental health issues of those who shielded or stayed at home. 

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'Doctoral researcher explains his thesis to children in Frontiers for Young Minds'

KCL- Rodero, Lamata & Niederer

DOI: 10.3389/frym.2022.685000

30 March 2022 (Article)

Researchers have translated complex concepts (e.g. cardiac activities) into easily-understood analogies and games for young readers to grow interested in the field of science, peer-reviewed also by young readers. Furthermore, the authors considered this a helpful practice for them to gain deeper insights into the topic they are studying by explaining them in plainer words.

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'How to Cope with Social Anxiety Caused by Returning to the Office'

Bond University- Sander

29 March 2022 (Article)

Since anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in Australia, professor Sander raises the question of how returning to the office might impact people. With anxiety and depression rates skyrocketing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sander emphasizes the importance of paying attention to this issue as people begin to return to in-person work. She argues that practising mindfulness, namely being present at the moment and taking regular breaks, is of utmost importance when dealing with social anxiety, as it can have a positive impact on emotional exhaustion, psychological detachment, and stress. Besides practising mindfulness, she recommends organizations provide easy access to counselling so that employees can be supported and comfortable in their transition to in-person work.

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'Little understood brain region linked to how we perceive pain'

University of Oxford- Atilgan et al.

DOI: 10.1093/brain/awac114

28 March 2022 (Article)

A recent review of claustrum lesion studies has detected potential associations between claustral lesions and changes in human cognitive, perceptual and motor abilities; electrical activity; mental state; and sleep. The study addressed the limited understanding of the role of the claustrum and called for further research in this field. Moreover, it was the first time that the link between claustrum and vulnerability to pain perception was uncovered.  

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'Scientists find that the impact of social media on wellbeing varies across adolescence'

University of Cambridge- Orben et al.

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-29296-3

28 March 2022 (Article)

Researchers have investigated the link between social media use and life satisfaction and found that there is a difference in the impact of social media on the well-being of adolescence. For girls, social media use between the age of 11 and 13 years was associated with a decrease in life satisfaction one year later, whereas the same impact occurred later in adolescence between the age of 14 and 15 years for boys. The discrepancy was suggested to be associated with boys’ later developmental changes in the brain and puberty, but further research is required.  This impact occurs again at the age of 19 years for both females and males, but the same effect is no longer statistically significant at other times. It demonstrates the great complexity of the link between social media use and mental well-being.  The changes within the bodies, such as brain development and puberty, as well as the social contexts, are all factors that make people feel particularly vulnerable to social media. The finding highlights the need to pay more attention to adolescents who will be particularly sensitive to social media at certain times. 

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'Conformity Outweighs Reciprocity in Socially Anxious People'

University of Bucharest- Bică

DOI: 10.1007/s12144-022-03021-1

25 March 2022 (Article)

This study shows that people with social anxiety can be excessively compliant in group contexts. Participants completed a Survival task (in order to make the group more cohesive) with 5 other participants and then completed a monetary Prisoner’s Dilemma Session against an unrelated person B, who was always cooperative and fair when distributing the money. The experiment aimed to find out whether the anxious would reciprocate the fairness toward person B and go against the group norm or if they would conform to their peers and follow the norms. The results show that socially anxious individuals tend to follow the group’s unfair behaviour, even if that means mistreating a stranger. This study is particularly interesting because while the general population usually follows the norms of reciprocity, highly anxious people tend to follow conformity more.

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'Arts activities may improve self-control and reduce antisocial behaviour among teenagers'

UCL- Bone et al.

DOI: 10.31234/osf.io/v2f6p

23 March 2022 (Article)

Recent research analysed the longitudinal data from two US-based studies, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, and observed that involvement in art activities predicted higher self-control scores and lower engagement in anti-social behaviour, e.g., misbehaving at school. It is worth noting that only a correlational relationship was found. More evidence is required to demonstrate the casual effects of art activities.

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'News of War Can Negatively Impact Mental Health: Here’s How to Cope'

University of Bristol- Ahmed

21 March 2022 (Article)

Studies show that even people who are far away from the actual conflict suffer as a result of the news and images they are witnessing, due to our brain’s tendency to look for threats in order to protect us from potential threats. Therefore, exposure to bad news can increase levels of anxiety and perpetuate negative thinking, leading to long-lasting feelings of distress. In light of the war in Ukraine, researchers recommend acknowledging and engaging with the feelings, since speaking about what you’re going through may disrupt the stress cycle and help feel more grounded. Furthermore, taking action by volunteering might also help, as it can tackle feelings of helplessness and give you a sense of reward. Finally, it is encouraged to try to shift your mind from tragic news and create a more resilient and positive mindset by focusing on yourself and doing some of the things you like.

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'In Hippocampus, Protein's Malfunction Is Potential Link to Memory and Other Impairments Seen in Schizophrenia'

University of Southern California- Kay et al.

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-28430-5

17 March 2022 (Article)

A recent study with rodents has demonstrated the role of a defective protein — synapse-associated protein 97 (SAP97)— in the development of schizophrenia. The study focused on how SAP97 affects the function of the dentate gyrus, which serves as the gateway for information entering the hippocampus, a critical region associated with learning and memory formation. The dentate gyrus was also associated with the formation of episodic memory —  a recollection of life experience, a function that is often altered in individuals with schizophrenia. In short, the current study found that the damage on SAP97 contributes to the dysfunctions in synaptic mechanisms involving the dentate gyrus and hence helps generate some schizophrenia symptoms.

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'Analysis of Brain Scans Reveals Differences in Brains of Boys and Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder'

Stanford University- Supekar et al.

DOI: 10.1192/bjp.2022.13

10 March 2022 (Article)

Given that autistic males were four times the number of autistic females, the neurobiological basis of such gender differences is poorly understood. A recent neuroimaging study at Stanford University has observed structural differences in brain organisation that might account for the gender differences in clinical symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Gender differences were detected in brain structures associated with motor, language and visuospatial attentional functions. Crucially, features of the primary motor cortex node were found predictive of the severity of restricted/repetitive behaviour in females while not in males with ASD.

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'Stress and mood regulation using music in times of COVID-19 lockdown: an ecological momentary assessment study'

University of Vienna- Anja C. Feneberga et al.

DOI: 10.31234/osf.io/93cfa

28 February 2022 (Article)

Researchers examined the relationship between music-listening behaviour and measures of stress as well as moods among 711 adults in Austria during the pandemic. The findings suggest that listening to music is associated with reduced perceived stress and better mood. Also, interaction is found between their music choice and emotions, highlighting the importance of music-listening during mental crises.

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'Child Psychologists Talk About the Importance of Talking to Children About the Invasion of Ukraine'

University of Calgary - Racine, N. et al.

28 February 2022 (Article)

Child psychologists explored whether, and if so how, to talk to children about tragic events, like the invasion of Ukraine. They claim that discussing a difficult event may in fact decrease stress and help children process their emotions better. Furthermore, the researchers argue that talking to children about the war in Ukraine may encourage empathic views and a better understanding of emotions. Even though the conversation needs to be adapted based on the age of the child, the benefits remain the same at every age. 

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'One in three young people say they felt happier during lockdown'

University of Cambridge and University of Oxford- Soneson et al.

DOI: 10.1007/s00787-021-01934-z

17 February 2022 (Article)

Although the negative effects of the national lockdown on children's mental health during the COVID-19 are well-known, there are groups of young people who report improved mental wellbeing.  According to the findings of the OxWell Student Survey, one in three students (33%) believed that their mental health was improved during the first lockdown. Better mental health is found to be associated with more sleep and exercise, less bullying and closer family relationships. The finding reminds us that the pandemic does not always negatively impacts people's mental health; instead, learning from those who benefit from the lockdown could be insightful to future changes being made under similar circumstance. 

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'Children and Young People's Wellbeing'

University of Oxford- Skripkauskaite et al.

15 February 2022 (Article)

The COVID-19: Supporting Parents, Adolescents and Children during Epidemics (Co-SPACE) study and its partner studies were conducted to understand parents' coping styles during the COVID-19 pandemic and strategies parents could apply to improve their children's mental health. Results suggested that primary-aged children are particularly vulnerable to changes that have taken place during the lockdown. Similarly, children from low-income households and those with special educational needs and neurodevelopmental disorders experienced more difficulties throughout the pandemic. The study could be useful in supporting particular families as the pandemic enters the next stage. 

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'Study reveals high rate of possible undiagnosed autism in people who died by suicide'

University of Cambridge- Cassidy et al.

DOI: 10.1192/bjp.2022.21

15 February 2022 (Article)

Researchers analysed 372 people in England who died by suicide and examined their autistic traits. It was suggested from the interviews with the families that 41% of people who died by suicide had signals of autistic traits, which is 19 times higher than the rate of autism in the UK. The finding highlights difficulties in the UK to obtain an autism diagnosis, which includes a limited number of autism diagnostic services in the UK. With the current study suggesting that undiagnosed autistic people could be at higher risk of dying by suicide, it is therefore urgent for policymakers to enable access for more people to get the autism diagnosis and prioritise suicide prevention within the community. 

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'Children’s Mathematical Skills are Influenced by Relational Language'

University of Minnesota- Chan, J. et al. 

DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13737

15 February 2022 (Article)

This study investigates how non-numerical skills, namely relational language (vocabulary describing quantitative and spatial relations) influences mathematical skills in kindergarteners. A test was used to measure children’s knowledge of relational languages (The Boehm Test of Basic Concepts), one to measure general verbal knowledge, and another one to measure number relation skills. The results suggest that there is a connection between relational language and later number relation skills, demonstrating potential pathways between relational language and math skills.

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'War-Related Trauma Is Linked to Increased Sustained Attention to Threat in Children'

Queen Mary University of London - Michalek, J. et al.

DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13739

11 February 2022 (Article)

Researchers explored the link between early experiences of war and displacement and later effects on children’s mental health and development. Syrian and Jordanian refugees were given questionnaires that measure PTSD, anxiety/depression, insecurity, distress, and trauma. Results indicate that children who have experienced trauma report that they not only have more problems like anxiety, depression but also tend to dwell longer on images of angry faces, suggesting difficulties in disengaging from threats. Attentional control theory suggests that disengagement may be due to disruptions to cognitive control. 

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'Musical preferences unite personalities across the globe'

University of Cambridge - D.M. Greenberg et al.

DOI: 10.1037/pspp0000397

10 February 2022 (Article)

Two musical preference assessment methods were used to assess more than 350,000 participants across the world by Greenberg and his colleagues. The MUSIC model which identified five major musical styles (Mellow, Unpretentious, Sophisticated, Intense, and Contemporary) were applied to conceptualise musical preferences.    The findings suggested that links between personality traits and musical preferences are universal. For example, extraversion is positively correlated with contemporary music with upbeat and danceable features, and such association is particularly strong across the equator, where most countries have warmer climates. This finding is important as it argues music has potential to reduce social division and could be used as a tool to bridge people from different cultural backgrounds. 

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'Multispecies probiotic administration reduces emotional salience and improves mood in subjects with moderate depression: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study'

University of Cambridge-  Baião et al.

DOI: 10.1017/S003329172100550X

07 February 2022 (Article)

The study investigates the influence of probiotics on emotional salience and mood. Researchers conducted a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled experiment with the experimental group having to take multispecies probiotic supplements. Results show that the probiotic group had increased accuracy in identifying neutral emotions, suggesting reduced attention on negative emotions. While the study provides insights into how probiotics could be used to treat depressive symptoms, the underlying mechanism behind its effectiveness is not made clear yet, suggesting a need for more research for probiotics to be implemented as a treatment for mood disorders.

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'Different types of focus: Caregiver–child interaction and changes in preschool children’s attention in two cultures'

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health- Senzaki & Shimizu

DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13731

31 January 2022 (Article)

Researchers employed behavioural and eye-tracking measurements to investigate how caregivers in different cultures direct children's attention and how their attention to objects and contextual backgrounds changed in the United States and Japan. The finding proposed that after caregiver-child interaction, significant cultural differences in attention emerged, which are suggested to be crucial to support children's concept formation and development. The finding highlights the role of cultural social interactions in the development of attention.

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'People with Complex Emotional Needs call for effective community mental health services'

KCL- Trevillion et al.

DOI: 10.1186/s12888-021-03605-4

27 January 2022 (Article)

A qualitative study was conducted among 30 participants classified as "Complex Emotional Needs (CEN)". Despite some positive regards of their experience with community mental health services, greater improvements are required to address their complicated emotional struggles. In specific, several areas should be enhanced: staff understanding, interpersonal connection, consistency and continuity in care, and adaptability and accessibility in care.

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'Stammering may be linked with anxiety in some children and adolescents'

UCL- Bernard et al.

DOI: 10.1044/2021_JSLHR-21-00236

27 January 2022 (Article)

The research compared symptoms of anxiety and depression of children and adolescents (from two to 18 years old) who do and do not stammer. Overall, it was found that children and adolescents who stammer reported higher anxiety symptoms than those who did not. However, the high variation across studies also means not all young people who stammer experience anxiety. Risk factors such as exposure to bullying are assumed to increase to risk or resilience of those who stammer, although they remain unclear due to the limited number of studies. The finding of the study highlights the importance to ensure the well-being and mental health of young people who stammer. 

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'Blood Markers Can Predict Depression in Pregnancy'

Van Andel Research Institute- Brundin et al.

DOI: 10.1038/s41398-022-01801-8

26 January 2022 (Article)

Since depression affects up to 20% of pregnant women, researchers explored the biological underpinnings of this. Scientists analyzed the blood samples of women in each trimester, as well as postpartum, to find out whether cytokines and kynurenine metabolites can predict the development of depression in pregnancy. What they found was that cytokine and kynurenine metabolites in the second trimester had a >99% probability of accurately predicting 3rd-trimester depression. 

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'Everything We See is a Mash-Up of the Brain’s Last 15 Seconds of Visual Information'

University of Aberdeen & University of California- Manassi & Whitney

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abk2480

26 January 2022 (Article)

Fascinated by the ability of the brain to perceive a consistently stable environment, in spite of changes in light, viewpoint, and other factors, scientists explored how the brain creates this illusion of visual stability. Researchers proposed that thanks to an underlying active mechanism of serial dependence, an object’s representation is continuously merged over time, resulting in the illusion of stability, in which object appearance is captured by past visual experience up to 15 seconds ago. Therefore, the visual system often sacrifices accuracy in favour of a smoother visual experience. 

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'Phonics teaching in England needs to change – our new research points to a better approach'

Edith Cowan University- Rusak

19 January 2022 (Article)

The research revealed the devasting impact of the pandemic on Australian artists' art activities and mental wellbeing. While at least half of the participants reported depression during the pandemic, support from art organizations, audiences, donors, and the government is essential in alleviating the heightened stress among artists. 

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'Phonics teaching in England needs to change – our new research points to a better approach'

UCL- Bradbury & Wyse

19 January 2022 (Article)

Recently, a mandatory phonics teaching technique has been enforced by the government in English primary schools. This type of teaching is separated from other English teaching;  it focuses on phonemes and how they are represented by letters. And this emphasis on phonics teaching remains debatable. The current research questions this approach and suggests that there is no solid evidence supporting the effectiveness of synthetic phonics teaching. Additionally, it was found that the most effective phonics teaching was associated with whole texts in every lesson. The finding highlights a need to call for a more balanced approach to the teaching of reading. 

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'Learning through 'guided' play can be as effective as adult-led instruction'

University of Cambridge- Skene et al.

DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13730

12 January 2022 (Article)

With significant evidence, the study suggested that  "guided play", which often refers to playful educational activities, are more effective than the traditional instructional styles to support children's learning and development. Those child-centred activities could be particularly useful when learning abstract mathematical concepts. The finding is meaningful as the study was the first to explore the effects of guided play with the additional support from an adult using prompts. 

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'Smokers become lonelier than non-smokers as they get older'

UCL- Philip et al.

DOI: 10.1016/j.lanepe.2021.100302

07 January 2022 (Article)

Contrary to the common impression of smoking as a social activity, the current longitudinal study (conducted over 12 years) have suggested the opposite: smokers tend to have reduced social contacts and experience high levels of loneliness compared to non-smokers.

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'Keeping the Aging Brain Connected With Words and Music'

Duke University- Andrews et al.

DOI: 10.3390/brainsci11010067

29 December 2021 (Article)

When normal ageing leads to a decline in white matter integrity across the brain, lifestyle changes could be made beyond a healthy diet and exercise.   It was recently discovered that complex sensory-motor activities that require high levels of cognitive functions could have a robust effect to slow down or even reverse the loss of white matter integrity. Scanning the brains of eight different musicians aged from 20 to 67 years old, the team suggested that highly skilled musicianship can increase cognitive brain reserve as one age. Acquiring a new language and picking up an instrument, therefore, should not be a pursuit merely restricted to young people. 

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'Is Energy the Key to Alzheimer’s Disease?'

University of Adelaide- Barthelson et al.

DOI: 10.1242/dmm.049187

27 December 2021 (Article)

Given that the effects of different mutations in different genes on brain cell function differ, researchers recently discovered that Alzheimer’s disease mutations affect a crucial cell function supporting all other functions, which is the use of oxygen within cells to produce energy. The finding might be useful for scientists to develop future precautions against Alzheimer’s disease and reduce the cost it brings to the ageing population and society as a whole. 

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'Clues to treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder found in recently evolved region of the ‘dark genome’'

University of Cambridge- Erady et al. 

DOI: 10.1038/s41380-021-01405-6

23 December 2021 (Article)

The study explores genome regions that might lead to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Previous research has indicated that these two mental disorders are highly heritable, leading researchers to investigate their genetic basis. Upon scanning the genome, researchers identified regions that create proteins associated with the two mental disorders. Interestingly, the identified regions are not conventionally considered as genes, calling for a broader scope of examination in exploring the genetic basis of mental disorders.

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'Interesting Patterns of Brain Activity Emerge During Musical Analysis Exercises'

University of Tokyo- Sakai et al.

DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhab478

23 December 2021 (Article)

To study the effects of music on the brain, researchers at the University of Tokyo used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the brains of school-aged students during a musical observation task where they had to identify errors in pitch, tempo, stress, and articulation. They concluded that students who were trained to play music at an early age had more brain activity overall, as well as unique patterns of activation in areas associated with emotion and melody. 

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'The Impact of Music Intervention on Mental Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Pandemic'

Hazaribag College- Mukherjee

DOI: 10.51402/jle.v2i2.19

21 December 2021 (Article)

In the face of mental health deterioration during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers conducted an experiment in order to investigate the potentially therapeutic effects of Indian classical instrumental music. They asked 45 adults to fill out a survey before and after the musical intervention, looking to evaluate their mental wellness. After the two weeks of musical intervention, participants’ wellness scores increased significantly, suggesting that classical music can induce positivity as well as promote psychological functionality. 

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'Brain Mechanisms Involved in Learning Also Drive Social Conformity'

University of Illinois- Bogdan et al.

DOI: 10.1111/psyp.13985

21 December 2021 (Article)

In the "ultimatum game" experiment that was conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois, it was suggested that participants' drive to conform was linked to the same EEG patterns as when the learning from the trials and errors takes place. The finding concludes that brain systems that actively engage in learning from trials and mistakes are similarly crucial when people conform to social norms. 

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'An Element of Surprise Is the Recipe for Creating False Memories'

Duke University- Sinclair et al.

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2117625118

19 December 2021 (Article)

This study demonstrates that surprise could be a critical element to influence memory by asking participants to watch and memorise details of a series of videos. According to the researcher, surprise engages the whole brain and activates some neuromodulatory systems. Consequently, people would have a much stronger memory for an event where a surprise occurs. The finding helps to reinforce learners' memory better by strategies such as letting learners make predictions and providing surprising feedback.

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'The importance of moving social policy from mental illness to public wellbeing'

University of  Cambridge- Fisher

DOI: 10.1017/S004727942100086

6 December 2021 (Article)

In light of the high rates of mental health problems and the ineffective interventions, the study proposes that social policy should shift its focus from the idea of “disease” to a focus on access to social contexts that favour psychological wellbeing. In this regard, the author highlights nine key areas for social policies to create optimal conditions for wellbeing: material conditions (e.g. housing, nutrition, and sanitation), meaningful work, child development and parenting, social relatedness, connection with and for nature, active communities, comprehensive primary health care, education, as well as the ideal environment. 

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'Using neurofeedback as a means of treating feelings of self-blame in depression'

KCL- Jaeckle et al. 

DOI: 10.1186/ISRCTN10526888

2 December 2021 (Article)

The study investigates neurofeedback as a therapy for feelings of self-blame in depression. Patients with depression were divided into two experimental groups, of which one received the sole psychological intervention, and the other had additional neurofeedback support. In the neurofeedback group, patients were allowed to view their brain activity using fMRI while determining the most effective strategy of tackling self-blame. Results show that neurofeedback significantly helps with symptoms for non-anxious patients, providing insights into neurofeedback as a method of intervention.

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'For the brain, context is key to new theory of movement and memory'

University of  Cambridge- Heald et al.

DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04129-3

24 November 2021 (Article)

A newly identified model known as the Contextual Inference (COIN) model suggested a mechanism in the brain that constantly decodes the current context. This may help humans master new skills without degrading the peripherical memory (e.g. motor movement memory). Compared to Artificial Intelligence (AI), the human brain is able to spontaneously adjust to the new context and build a new memory based on the current context.

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'Cultural trauma is a fundamental cause of health disparity'

University of California- Subica et al.

DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114574

17 November 2021 (Article)

The research study considers the effects of the cultural trauma (colonization, genocide, hate crimes, etc.) experienced by minority groups (e.g. indigenous people, refugees, and sexual minorities) throughout history. The researchers found that cultural trauma has an impact on social factors such as socioeconomic status, stigma and racism, which further widen the mental and physical health disparities because of the unequal access to health services. This increases the minority groups’ overall risk of illness (e.g. cholera, HIV/AIDS) despite medical and technological progress. 

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'Do Private Schools Improve Learning Outcomes? Evidence from Within-Household Comparisons in East Africa and South Asia'

University of Cambridge- Gruijter et al.

16 November 2021 (Article)

The research explores whether the increasing number of private schools in low-income countries benefits the learning gains of children in these countries. The findings of the study suggest that private schooling has a limited effect on increasing learning gains. While privately-educated children perform better academically than their state-educated counterparts, the difference becomes much smaller once factors such as family background are taken into account. Private educational institutions are also found to be poorly resourced and managed, explaining their minimal benefits on improving children’s learning experience.

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'Hearing problems associated with adverse mental health outcomes in the UK Armed Forces'

KCL- Parker et al.

DOI: 10.1007/s00127-021-02169-8

15 November 2021 (Article)

The research demonstrated a strong association between problems with hearing and higher levels of mental disorders. Meanwhile, people with hearing problems reported a higher level of alcohol misuse, which might be attributed to the maladaptive coping strategy of misusing alcohol. The research highlights the need for precautionary treatment to enhance the mental health of people with auditory difficulties. 

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'Multilingualism, Multilingual Identity and Academic Attainment: Evidence from Secondary Schools in England'

University of Cambridge- Rutger et al.

10 November 2021 (Journal)

The research investigates the relationship between "multilingual identity" and academic attainment. Results show that students who identify as “multilingual” had better academic performance than those who did not, as reflected in their GCSE results. The pattern is not only limited to language subjects but also extends to science subjects and mathematics. Furthermore, the research demonstrates that it is the self-identification as multilingual rather than language proficiency that improves academic performance. While the reason behind the pattern is not explored, researchers suggest that self-identified multilingual tend to have a “growth mindset” and a stronger sense of self-belief, leading to better academic achievements.

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'Six years of memory decline seen in anxious, depressed older people during pandemic'

KCL- Aarsland

9 November 2021 (Article)

Researchers discovered that among people aged over 50, those who were particularly uneasy about the Covid-19 pandemic would experience a decline in short-term memory (analogous to six years of natural ageing). Depression and anxiety are the main attributes of such a deterioration. The findings serve as a basis of the ways to best protect the brain and mental health.  

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'Large-scale genetic study reveals new clues for the shared origins of irritable bowel syndrome and mental health disorders'

University of Cambridge- Eijsbouts et al.

DOI:10.1038/s41588-021-00950-8

5 November 2021 (Article)

Researchers found an overlap of genetic make-up for the risk of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as mood and anxiety disorders (e.g. depression). Although these two conditions do not have a causal relationship, the shared genes might lead to physical changes in brain or nerve cells, resulting in syndromes in the gut and the brain. Additionally, the intake of antibiotics during childhood is also a predictor of increased risk of IBS and mood disorders. Future research on disordered brain-gut interactions is recommended. 

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'Scientists identify the cause of Alzheimer’s progression in the brain'

University of Cambridge- Meisl et al., 2021

DOI:10.1126/sciadv.abh1448

29 October 2021 (Article)

First time using the human data instead of animal models, researchers discovered that in Alzheimer’s disease, aggregates that cause brain cells to shrink and die already exist in multiple regions of the brain at the early stage. This is opposite to the previous thinking that they form at one single region and start spreading at the later stage. Therefore, it was concluded that constraining the "replication" of aggregates instead of their "propagation" is more effective to slow down the progression of the disease. 

Enjoying Lunch

'Eating disorders are just as likely to start in adulthood as childhood, report finds'

KCL- Davies et al., 2021

29 October 2021 (Article)

This report analysed two large sample data from the UK Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI UK) and Genetic Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) studies, 9000 participants in total. The current report found that over half of the people with life-time eating disorders first experience low weight or binge eating in adulthood and 39 percent experience their first symptom related to bulimia after the age of 18.

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'Brain monitoring suggests common link between electrical tremors and mental health disorders'

KCL- Gráinne McLoughlin et al.

DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2021.08.020

28 October 2021 (Article)

The researchers recently reviewed EEG studies that measured brief electrical tremors — the naturally occurring electrical vibrations in the brain, known as ‘theta activity’. Results revealed that the theta activity in the brains of people with conditions like anxiety, OCD, and ADHD when performing mistakes or experiencing challenging situations is different from that of those without disorders. This indicates in the behavioural level that anxious individuals may react slower to alter their cognitive behaviour when new information occurs, which may be a result of the long-term imbalanced theta activity in their brain that make them overly focused to react immediately to environmental stimuli.

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'New research casts doubt on claims that people have ‘rose-tinted glasses’'

University of Bath- Burton et al., 2021

DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104939

28 October 2021 (Article)

A new study examining the previous literature has detected some potential flaws in the methodology that provides evidence for the general 'optimistic bias' about the future, which was widely claimed to account for financial crises, people’s failure to look after their health, or inaction over climate change. The original paradigm, known as ‘the update method’, is typically done with emotion-arousing events and asks participants to estimate the chance of experience each of the life events and re-estimate it after seeing actual statistics. In the current study, researchers found that 'optimistic bias' was still present when using neutral events such as the chance that 'the next passing car is black', which raise doubts for the validity of this paradigm.

Quarantine

'Lockdown wellbeing: children who spent more time in nature fared best'

University of Cambridge- Friedman et al., 2021

DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10270

13 October 2021 (Article)

An increased connection with nature was found to be effective in buffering against the negative effects on children's behaviours and emotions as a result of Covid-19 lockdown, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds. However, compared to more affluent families, children from disadvantaged family backgrounds are less likely to spend time in nature. Highlighting the significance of the connection with nature on children's mental health. The finding could be important in redesigning the lockdown rules. 

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'Potential cognitive benefits of major Alzheimer’s risk gene'

UCL- Lu et al., 2021

DOI: 10.1038/s43587-021-00117-4

07 October 2021 (Article)

The research discovered that APOE4, the gene that is associated with heightened risk of Alzheimer’s disease, is also found to be linked with some cognitive benefits such as better visual working memory. In the study where 398 participants were asked to recall the identities and locations of given objects, APOE4 carriers demonstrated better recalling ability. This research provides insights into the role of genes in the development of the Alzheimer’s and a better understanding of these risk genes. 

Transgenic Animals

'Brain circuits that inhibit fear instinct identified'

UCL- Fratzl et al., 2021

DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2021.09.003

05 October 2021 (Article)

Scientists have identified a new inhibitory structure in the brain, namely the ventral lateral geniculate nucleus (vLGN). In an experiment where mice escaped in response to a predator-shaped shadow, it was indicated that when mice felt unthreatened, the activity of inhibitory neurons in the vLGN was high, which consequently contained their threat reactions. It was therefore concluded that vLGN could regulate animals' sensitivity to the perceived danger depending on their knowledge constructed on the previous experience. 

Siblings

'Sibling brain structure differences make some more susceptible to severe antisocial behaviour'

University of Bath- Fairchild et al., 2021

DOI: 10.1017/S0033291721003202

05 October 2021 (Article)

Researchers have long been interested in the question on why siblings sharing highly similar upbringing and genetic makeup might differ so significantly in terms of their behaviour: how do some people with a family history of conduct disorder (repetitive patterns of aggressive and antisocial behaviour) successfully abstain from it, not as their affected sibling? The current research surprisingly found through fMRI image comparison structural changes that are group-specific. That is, the structural changes in brain areas  responsible for empathy and cognitive control/ inhibiting behaviour are specific to the conduct disorder group while the non-affected siblings group were found with group-specific changes in brain regions involved in planning and decision making, providing a plausible explanation to the puzzle.