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Health
According to a new UBC study, adding natural elements to playgrounds like grass, bamboo and sand can change it into an imaginative playground for children leading to reduced depression signs. The study included 46 children between the ages of two and five and was conducted over six months in 2014 in two Vancouver daycare centers. New features such as grass, sand and water were added to the outdoor facilities of the daycares. Scientists then observed the children’s behaviour before and after the change and again two weeks following the transformation. “Both play spaces were quite plain and were really just open spaces, dotted with a play set or two,” said lead author and UBC landscape architecture professor Susan Herrington in a statemtn. “We transformed the play spaces using the seven C’s principles, which highlight the importance of concepts like character, context and change in designing great play areas.” The modified environment resulted in an increase in the children’s activity on the playgrounds. Herrington said many kids would just wander around without any particular interest or do the same activity over and over again. “After the redesign, they were much more energetic and creative, exploring their environment, touching things, inventing games and interacting with their peers a lot more.” The study also resulted in happier children with a decline in depressive behaviours. “Depressive symptoms like looking sad or not smiling much went down after the modifications. The videos showed kids much more engaged in play and engaged in positive ways with each other,” said co-researcher Mariana Brussoni, an associate professor in UBC’s school of population and public health and pediatrics. Brussoni further added, these changes made the kids less dependent on their teachers. When spending time in the new play spaces the interaction with the adults was decreased to 7% compared to 19% before the redesign. “Our study shows that you don’t even need a huge budget to add nature into a space—you can be creative with just a few inexpensive twists,” said Herrington.
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Health
A new study has shown the link between noradrenergic neurons and susceptibility to depression for the first time. The study was published by Bruno Giros’ team, a researcher at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and Professor of psychiatry at McGill University, in the journal ‘Nature Neuroscience’. “We know that a small cerebral structure, known as the ventral tegmental area, contains dopaminergic neurons that play a key role in vulnerability to depression,” said Bruno Giros, whose team is part of the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal research network. By mimicking stressful events in animal models, the researchers found out that an increase in dopaminergic activity increases cases of depression. The dopaminergic neuron is controlled by the noradrenergic neuron. “It is this control that steers the body’s response toward resilience or toward vulnerability to depression,” said Giros. Giros’ team showed, animals incapable of releasing noradrenaline, are more likely to develop depression following chronic stress. However, this is not the case if the situation is reversed ; Increasing noradrenaline production does not lead to higher resilience and less depression. The noradrenergic neurons are found in a Cerebral structure called the Locus Coeruleus. These neurons connect with each other via a neurotransmitter molecule called noradrenaline. It regulates emotions, sleep and mood disorders – and now, Giros believes, it is also involved in resilience and depression. Stressful life events like  job loss, accident and death of a loved one can cause  major depression in some but not in others. A determining factor is resilience, a biological mechanism that enables an individual to snap out from a traumatic or stressful event. However, researchers are still working on how resilience plays a role. “Beyond this discovery about the brain mechanisms involved in depression, our results help explain how adrenergic drugs may work and could be used to treat major depression,” said Giros.
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Science
A new study from the University of British Columbia has found light therapy to be effective in treating non-seasonal depression. “These results are very exciting because light therapy is inexpensive, easy to access and use and comes with few side effects,” says Dr. Raymond Lam in a statement, a UBC professor and psychiatrist at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. It is the first placebo-controlled trial that shows light therapy to treat depression not brought on by seasonal affective disorder – a type of depression associated with late autumn and winter caused by a lack of light. Lam and his colleagues followed 122 patients and evaluated whether light therapy improved their mood when it was used both with and without the commonly prescribed antidepressant fluoxetine. The research involved light therapy exposure with a fluorescent light box for 30 minutes soon after waking up every day for two months. A group of participants were given placebo pills and devices instead of real therapies. Researchers found those taking light therapy had improved mood and provided the most benefits taken alongside antidepressants. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability with one in 20 people suffering from the ailment worldwide. Medications alone are effective but only in about 60 per cent of cases, according to researchers. Lam says, “it’s important to find new treatments because our current therapies don’t work for everyone. Our findings should help to improve the lives of people with depression.”
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Technology
A study by the University of British Columbia says jealousy and self-importance drives Facebook users to portray their best selves through their posts. Researchers say this cycle of comparison with others leads to a decrease in metal well-being. “Social media participation has been linked to depression, anxiety and narcissistic behaviour, but the reasons haven’t been well-explained,” says Sauder School of Business Professor Izak Benbasat. “We found envy to be the missing link.” According to Benbasat, travel photos cause the most Facebook envy, pushing friends to posts their best pictures. He says the posts aren’t fueled by the need to compete, but rather the need to keep up appearances. Benbasat and his team of collaborators from the Sauder School of Business led the study. The team surveyed about 1,000 Facebook users from a German university then asked the students a series of questions about their Facebook habits – cross-referencing their responses with the feelings they reported when using the site. “Sharing pictures and stories about the highlights of your life – that’s so much of what Facebook is for, so you can’t take that away… but I think it’s important for people to know what impact it can have on their well-being,” says Benbasat.
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