Family accommodation needs to get better treatment

first_imgFamily accommodation, which makes up 50% of the total accommodation capacity and in which every second tourist in Croatia stays in August, has never been systematically encouraged in qualitative development. He wasn’t really encouraged at all. Family accommodation is accommodation in private houses, apartments and backyards that the owners have registered and offered to the legal tourist market. This private property was acquired through the lifelong renunciation of Croatian citizens and investments were not accompanied by stimulating credit funds, and even less were these investments directed towards incentive measures towards certain market niches.The first complete project of branding and targeting the market niches of family accommodation, which includes loans on the most favorable terms on the market, is the “Kvarner family” project in Kvarner. In a conversation with the Minister of Tourism Anton Kliman, we agreed on the creation of a similar model at the national level. The common position is that HBOR should be included in the project not only because this bank has taxpayers’ funds at its disposal, but also because branding family accommodation as an “originally Croatian household” would oblige users of favorable credit lines to use their facilities when equipping their facilities. Croatian products and services. This would strongly encourage the placement of domestic products towards a large potential market of almost 80.000 households with more than 500.000 beds.Photo: www.kvarnerfamily.hrMinister Anton Kliman announced the already agreed arrangement of HBOR for lending to individuals – citizens, providers of household catering services with a total fund of HRK 400 million with an interest rate of 4% and a repayment period of 8 years and a personal promissory note as collateral. This is a significant step forward in concretizing the incentives to invest in recognizable quality. What should accompany this initiative of Minister Kliman is additional co-financing of interest by interested counties, municipalities and cities so that the final interest rate reaches 2% and 1% for depopularized areas such as Slavonia, Gorski Kotar, Lika, smaller islands… and of course effective a network of HBOR representative offices that could quickly and efficiently process loan applications in any part of Croatia.It is crucial that this project is accompanied by the CNTB with a good, effective promotional campaign in which every household that has taken out a loan and started investing will have strong promotional support through digital marketing. Regarding Croatian products and services, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce should also participate in the project of creating a stock exchange of bidders that includes product groups for rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, floors, textiles, indoor furniture, garden furniture, pool equipment, horticulture, digital technology. services would give the household the status of “originally Croatian household”. Such a household would be the bearer of the brand of Croatian family accommodation in well-designed promotional campaigns of the CNTB. We hope that the excellent move of Minister Anton Kliman will develop into the desired marketing product that brings a complete solution and benefit to all project stakeholders.Nedo Pinezićlast_img read more

Open applications for the 10th Congress of Croatian Camping

first_imgWednesday, 19.10.’16Start in the afternoonGlamping – innovations and glamping offer of Slovenia as one of the top glamping countries in Europe – Maja Dimnik (GlamPro – Glamping projects and marketing)Characteristics of the Scandinavian emitting tourist (camping) market, with an emphasis on Denmark – Paul Šikić (CNTB Scandinavia, director)Business results of Croatian camps in 2016 – presentation of the results of “Benchmarking camps” – Sandra Janković (Faculty of Hotel and Tourism Management in Opatija)Possibilities for the development of a system of special markings (branding) and positioning of Croatian camps – Klemen Hren, Primož LongykaDinner at the hotel, evening socializing in Pub Potkova (tastings, music…)Thursday, Oct 20.10 16The pros and cons of Croatian camps in accordance with the criteria and inspection of the ADAC – Stefan Thurn (ADAC)How much are Croatian camps adapted to people with special needs and to whom – the results of visiting camps for the needs of V4A certification – Roberto Vitali (V4A – Village for all)The importance of agencies in the business and placement of camping products in Europe and the development of the camping market – Loek van der Loo (Vacanceselect)Complete conversion and development of the existing middle category camp into a new top product with 5 * – view from the architectural-planning point of view – Ana Slamar (Tisa – architectural studio)Preparation and implementation of the investment in the first water park in the Croatian camp – recommendations and mistakes to be avoided – Dejan Jakovljevic (Jadranka kampovi doo)Distribution of certificates to camps:Innovative camp of the year”Village for all – V4A””The best camp Adria 2016″ (Avtokampi.si)”OK mini Camps 2016″ (KUH)”Croatia’s Best Campsites 2016″ (KUH)Dinner at the hotel, continuation of socializing in Pub Portkova (DJ, dance points, Coctail show)Friday, October 21.10, 16KUH AssemblyBus trip to Čakovec (guided tour and visit to Zrinski Fortress), tour of the wine house / winery and at the end of the visit with a tasting of local products to the best restaurant on the continent Mala Hiža. As of today, applications are open for participation in this year’s 10th Congress of Croatian Camping, which is being held in Sveti Martin na Muri, from Wednesday 19.10. to Friday 21.10.2016. organized by the Croatian Camping Union ( KUH )In addition to the professional part, presentations and socializing, this year the congress will be a central place for insight into trends and tendencies in the mobile home sector, and in addition to mobile, a large number of manufacturers and representatives of various equipment for camps and others will present themselves. At the 10th Congress of Croatian Camping, 13 new models of mobile homes and 4 latest models of glamping tents will be presented, as well as all other equipment for camps and novelties. Also, at the congress, certificates will be distributed to camps in the categories: Innovative Camp of the Year, “Village for all – V4A, Best Camp Adria 2016, OK mini Camps 2016, Croatia’s Best Campsites 2016.To participate in the congress you must fill out and send the “Application Form for the CONGRESS”, and to participate in the congress you are charged a registration fee, details in the application form.CONGRESS APPLICATION FORMAPPLICATION FORM FOR ACCOMMODATIONProgramlast_img read more

The story behind the new visual identity of the Dubrovnik County Tourist Board

first_imgAt the beginning of the week, the new visual identity of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County Tourist Board was presented, and the best work in the Visual Identity Design Competition was a work called EMBLEM of the PROSPEKT team (Nikola Šubić, Martina Vasilj Matković, Mile Kušić). In a conversation with Mile Kušić from the company Prospekt, we bring you the story behind the new visual identity of the Dubrovnik County Tourist Board.As the main element of communication and certainly the main star of Dubrovnik-Neretva tourism is the city of Dubrovnik, which through the main proposed slogan Dubrovnik & Around (current slogan is Dubrovnik Riviera and islands) was successfully connected with the whole county, ie destinations in the cluster , Neretva, Mljet, Korčula and Lastovo) in order to make it easier for tourists to connect with the entire destination, and thus facilitate communication and recognizability of the entire region. “In considering the visual identity of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County Tourist Board, we took as a basis the basic features of the county, which largely overlap with the perception of tourists: Historical heritage – most recognizable through the walls, sun and sea (like it or not), indigenous “fruits of the earth” “, A famous maritime tradition and a long and indented coast / islands” Kušić points out and adds that all the mentioned elements are common to the entire county and its most recognizable part – the city of Dubrovnik, whose name is also in the name of the county.This creates a synergistic effect and at the same time resolves the current confusion in communication that has occurred due to the use of completely different identities, Kušić points out and adds “We use the word Dubrovnik as the name of the destination because of the importance, recognizability and influence of Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is also the seat of the county, it is in the name of the county. Dubrovnik has been added “& around”, thus suggesting that it is worth paying attention to other parts of the county around the city.”Through visual identity, six important and recognizable icon-graphemes are isolated with which other destinations in the county are connected.Sun – a high share of tourists for whom favorable climatic conditions are a very important factor when deciding to visit should not be neglectedWalls – the most recognizable motif of Dubrovnik postcards, but the often neglected Ston walls should also be pointed outShips and ships – The city of Dubrovnik was a historical naval superpower, and the ship is still an extremely important tourist product, not only at sea – Neretva ships are indigenous Neretva vessels to which the tourist spectacle Boat Marathon is dedicatedAgricultural products – the most recognizable products are citrus and grapes, represented in the entire county, at least in the city itself, so we have a fine intertwining of Dubrovnik and the surrounding agriculture.Islands – Elaphite Islands, Korcula, Mljet and Lastovo are tourist pearls that perfectly complement the offerWater – the sea is a conditio sine qua non of the entire tourist destination, but we should also point out the river Neretva, which is extremely important for agriculture in the countyEach of the six proposed “emblems” of the cluster is given a color in accordance with their basic distinctive characteristic – so red means cultural and historical heritage, green nature, blue sea. “The roof sign of the destination is used in gold, giving it significance and recognizability. The same color system, as well as icons (with a different stacking system) can be used for, for example, the signs of capital county projects, which provides even greater unification and recognizability. ” said Kušić and added that the proposed signs with their shape and appearance resemble an emblem, shield or coat of arms, which are often associated with kings and dignitaries, so this additionally gives the signs a sublime and historical note.And the city of Dubrovnik, as well as the entire Dubrovnik-Neretva County, has made a deep mark in European as well as world history. The slogan used in the proposed promotional materials is Fell free to… from which words can be exchanged, and is related to freedom. So, feel free to enjoy, explore explore, etc.… It is freedom that is extremely important for the meaning of Dubrovnik, so Libertas is the slogan of the city of Dubrovnik, which in Latin means freedom. Also, the word “libertas” was the slogan and symbol of the Republic of Dubrovnik, and freedom was considered one of the greatest values ​​of life. She was among the first in the world to ban slavery, deciding to ban it in 1418, while on the Lovrijenac fortress on a stone the Latin inscription is written: “Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro”, which in Croatian means “Freedom is not sold for all gold” ”.  “Freedom is one of the city’s greatest historical values, its slogan and symbol. The last part of the slogan is changeable, so we can use Feel free to… relax, enjoy, explore, discover, etc. (Feel free to enjoy, relax, explore, discover). concludes Kušić from the creative studio Prospekt from Rijeka.The slogan, as Kušić points out, is not limited to one communication, but is subject to its extensions to tell various tourist stories and experiences that the Dubrovnik-Neretva County is certainly full of. It is our autochthonous, unique and authentic stories that we have to tell and “sell” to tourists because that is the meaning of tourism – to discover new ways and cultures of living through identity, history, gastronomy, etc.… Let’s be what we are – Croats, because tourists want to know that, to taste and experience.last_img read more

How the brain learns to distinguish between what is important and what is not

first_imgTraffic lights, neon-lit advertisements, a jungle of road signs. When learning to drive, it is often very difficult to distinguish between important and irrelevant information. How the brain learns the importance of certain images over others is being investigated by Prof. Sonja Hofer at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel.In a recently published study in Neuron, the neuroscientist and her team show that learning the relevance of images considerably modifies neuronal networks in the brain. These changes might help our brain to process and classify the overload of stimuli in our environment more effectively.How we perceive our environment greatly depends on what we have previously seen and learnt. For example, expert drivers do not need to think twice about the meaning of different road signs and are experienced in assessing traffic situations. They can filter out relevant information from a flood of other irrelevant stimuli and thus react quickly. In contrast, beginners need much longer to process the new information. Prof. Sonja Hofer’s team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel and University College London addressed the question of how processing of sensory stimuli is optimized in the brain through learning. Pinterest Share on Twitter Email The brain learns to discriminate between imagesTo do this, Prof. Hofer’s team investigated the visual cortex of mice. This part of the brain is responsible for the processing and perception of visual stimuli. Mice ran through a virtual-reality environment where they encountered various images, one of which was paired with a reward. Within one week, the animals had learnt to discriminate between the images and to respond accordingly. This learning was reflected in the activity of nerve cells in the visual cortex whose responses were recorded and tracked over the course of learning. While the responses in the brain to the relevant visual stimuli were quite unspecific in beginner mice, many more neurons reacted specifically to the shown images after one week of training.Learning optimizes stimulus processing“From day to day, the response of the neurons to the images became increasingly distinguishable and reliable”, says Adil Khan, one of the two first authors.He speculates that such changes in the brain might also allow us to process important information from our environment more efficiently, and perhaps underlies our ability to react promptly to important visual stimuli. The scientists also demonstrated that diverse internal and external signals affect the processing of the visual stimuli.“We observed that the response of the nerve cells to the same visual stimuli became less accurate when the mice where engaged in another task, such as having to discriminate between different smells. The visual stimuli then lose their relevance and are no longer so effectively analyzed by the brain”, says Khan. “Remarkably, the expectation of a stimulus even before it appears, and the anticipation of a reward also altered the activity of specific brain cells. This means that from one moment to the next our brain might process the same stimulus quite differently depending on its importance and relevance.”Internal signals influence visual perceptionTraditionally it was thought that the visual cortex exclusively processes visual information. This study, however, corroborates that during learning also many other signals from various brain regions influence activity in this brain area. “This means that our previously learnt knowledge, our expectations and the context we are in can have a great impact on our visual perception of the environment”, explains Hofer.center_img LinkedIn Share on Facebook Sharelast_img read more

New biomarker identified in women with mental illness

first_imgLinkedIn Pinterest Share on Twitter Psychiatric disorders can be difficult to diagnose because clinicians must rely upon interpreted clues, such as a patient’s behaviors and feelings. For the first time, researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report identifying a biological marker: the over-production of specific genes that could be a diagnostic indicator of mental illness in female psychiatric patients.The study was published this week in the journal EBioMedicine.Researchers found that the gene XIST, which is responsible for inactivating one of the two copies of the X chromosome in cells that store genetic material, works overtime in female patients with mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia. Sharecenter_img Email Share on Facebook The study suggests that over-production of XIST and genes from the inactive X chromosome are common denominators in the development of psychiatric disorders in patients with rare chromosome disorders, such as Klinefelter syndrome and Triple X syndrome, and in the general population of female psychiatric patients.“There has been an utmost urgency to identify biomarkers for mental illness that could significantly impact research and drug development,” said Xianjin Zhou, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine and lead author.The study was conducted on 60 lymphoblastoid cell lines from female patients, most of whom had a family history of mental illness. Approximately 50 percent of the female patients exhibited abnormally higher levels of XIST and other genes related to the X chromosome.Zhou and his team said reversing the abnormal activity of the inactive X chromosome in patients suffering from mental illness may offer a potential new strategy for treating psychiatric disorders.“Our results indicate that a large subpopulation of female psychiatric patients from the general population may have abnormal function of the inactive X chromosome,” said Zhou. “These results are powerful in that early diagnosis of mental illness could possibly happen with a simple blood test, leading to better interventions, therapy and treatment options.”last_img read more

New role for insulin: Studies tie the hormone to brain’s ‘pleasure’ center

first_imgLinkedIn Share on Facebook Pinterest Share on Twitter Sharecenter_img Email Insulin, the hormone essential to all mammals for controlling blood sugar levels and a feeling of being full after eating, plays a much stronger role than previously known in regulating release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, new studies by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center show.“We found that when there’s more insulin in the brain, there will be more dopamine released, not less,” says study senior investigator and NYU Langone neuroscientist Margaret Rice, PhD. Her team’s new findings from laboratory and behavioral studies with rodents are set to appear in the journal Nature Communications online Oct. 27.Rice says the experiments she and her colleagues conducted not only reaffirm that insulin helps trigger the reuptake of dopamine when insulin levels rise, but also are the first to show that the net effect is a rise in dopamine levels. The results may also be the first to demonstrate that insulin’s role in the dopamine pathway may affect and explain food choices. In one set of experiments, Rice and her colleagues recorded a 20 percent to 55 percent increase in dopamine released in the striatal region of the rodent brain (where dopamine’s effects on the brain are felt and which governs the body’s response to getting a reward). The rise occurred along the same timeframe as the rise in insulin activity needed to process any food sugars the mice and rats ate. And this occurred despite the reabsorption, or reuptake, of dopamine that in other regions of the brain tells an animal that its appetite is satisfied.Image of a rodent brain cell, with insulin receptors (seen as many green dots) that when activated spur release of dopamine (In background in pink is neuron nucleus.)Rice and study co-principal investigator Kenneth Carr, PhD, also conducted separate experiments with rats in which they found that animals fed low-calorie diets had a 10-fold greater sensitivity to increasing insulin levels in the brain (meaning that it took only a tenth of a rise in insulin levels as seen in rats on a normal diet to spur dopamine release). By contrast, rats on high-calorie diets lost all striatal-brain insulin responsiveness. In addition, rats offered a choice between a drink reward that was paired with either an insulin antibody injection to block hormone signaling or a mock placebo injection always favored the drink-injection combination that led to intact insulin signaling (and more dopamine).“Our work establishes what we believe is a new role for insulin as part of the brain’s reward system and suggests that rodents, and presumably people, may choose to consume high-carb or low-fat meals that release more insulin – all to heighten dopamine release,” says Rice, a professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at NYU Langone and a member of NYU Langone’s Druckenmiller Neuroscience Institute.Rice says this finding is important because chronically elevated insulin levels and lowered insulin sensitivity in the brain are closely tied to obesity and type II diabetes, both very prevalent in the United States.Rice says the team plans further experiments on how insulin influences the mammalian brain’s control over food motivation and reward pathways, and whether changes in insulin sensitivity brought about by obesity can be reversed or even prevented.“If our future experiments prove successful,” says Rice, “it could confirm our hypothesis that when people refer to an insulin-glucose rush, they may really be referring to a dopamine reward rush. And there are healthy ways to get that by making smart food choices.”last_img read more

The best way to help homeless youth is hardly ever used

first_imgTeens without homes, many of whom have suffered at the hands of those entrusted with providing them care and kindness, often refuse to seek warmth and nourishment at shelters.But there’s new evidence that drop-in centers — safe havens with fewer rules and no older adults — could open doors to jobs, sobriety and housing that is safe and secure.The study confirmed what lead researcher Natasha Slesnick has seen in two decades of work with homeless youths: Drop-in centers tailored to their needs and age have greater appeal for the hardest-to-reach kids. Share on Facebook Pinterest Share LinkedIncenter_img Share on Twitter Slesnick, professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, now has data to prove that they’re particularly powerful hubs for moving young people away from homelessness and toward employment, housing and stability.“Many kids won’t go to shelters because they’re hiding on the street. They’re avoiding the service system because they’ve been abused and betrayed by everyone who is supposed to love them,” said Slesnick, who is also founder and executive director of Ohio State’s Star House, a drop-in center not far from campus that serves more than 800 young people a year.“They’re fearful of being preyed upon by older people at shelters, and the paperwork can be overwhelming.”For the study, published in the January 2016 issue of the journal Prevention Science, researchers set out into the woods, abandoned buildings, sandwich lines and libraries of Columbus, Ohio to find teens and young adults homeless and disconnected from services.The study included 79 youth, all of whom were assigned an advocate whose job it was to focus on the individual’s needs and goals and to help connect the person to the right services. The advocates tried to link half of the youth to a drop-in center and the other half to a crisis shelter.Eighty percent of those encouraged to visit the drop-in center showed up at its doors. Only 18 percent of those in the shelter group sought refuge there. In fact, 31 percent of those assigned to the “shelter” group ended up visiting the drop-in center.The drop-in model isn’t a replacement for shelters but an alternative that offers hope for the hardest-to-reach young homeless, Slesnick said.“Every city needs a drop-in center,” she said, adding that there are likely only about a couple dozen throughout the country.“This is an underserved marginalized population with few resources devoted to their problem. For most of them, a shelter is not going to solve the problem.”Drop-in centers aren’t designed to be residences. They don’t have beds. The one in Columbus is open around the clock, though, and provides food, hot showers, clothes and toothpaste and soap. Young people stop for a meal, to wash their clothes and to visit. There’s a room for art and couches in front of a big TV. There’s a gym for basketball and a room where expectant moms can have a medical checkup.Slesnick is hopeful this new evidence helps convince local, state and federal leaders that they should dedicate more money to drop-in centers rather than relying so heavily on shelters to help young people who are unlikely to show up at their doors.As a whole, the homeless kids and young adults, all of whom had been on the streets for at least three months prior to the study, were hungry for support. Whether or not they ever visited the drop-in center or the shelter, they willingly met with the men and women trying to help them.Those assigned to the drop-in group met their advocates an average of 17 times in six months. Those in the shelter group met an average of 12 times.“For some of them, having a nonjudgmental advocate in the study was the first time they’d experienced something like that. They ate it up,” Slesnick said.Both groups saw improvements in measures including alcohol and drug use and depression. But the drop-in group saw greater improvements in several areas and had more contact with individuals and agencies that provide help. Three months after the start of the study, members of the drop-in group reported almost 15 contacts in the last month, compared with 10 contacts for the shelter group.National estimates of the number of homeless young people vary widely, from 500,000 to 2 million. Part of that is because so many of them are disconnected from services that could help them and so getting a good count is impossible, Slesnick said.Homeless young people are at high risk for victimization and suicide. They often have mental health problems and abuse drugs and alcohol. But they can have full, productive lives if given the right opportunities and assistance, Slesnick said.“We need these kids to feel empowered. We need these kids off the streets,” she said.Next, Slesnick wants to study more than 700 homeless young people in Columbus, Texas and Florida to try to get a better handle on the role of drop-in centers in helping move people from the streets and into homes. Emaillast_img read more

The brain of male batterers functions differently than that of other criminals

first_imgShare on Facebook Pinterest Share on Twitter Email A pioneering study led by a research group at the University of Granada (Spain) compares, for the first time in the world, the brain functioning of aggressors against their partners or ex-partners to that of other criminals when they are exposed to images related to different types of violence.This research, whose findings have just been published in the prestigious journal of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, demonstrates the differences in brain functioning of batterers in response to images related to intimate partner violence (IPV). This study is one of the only three studies in the world to analyze the brain of batterers using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging.Specifically, the study carried out by UGR has revealed that batterers -in comparison to other criminals- show a greater activation in the anterior cingulate cortex and in the medial prefrontal cortex, and a smaller reaction in the superior prefrontal cortex in response to images of intimate partner violence as compared to neutral images.center_img Moreover, the direct comparison of images with different content of violence also supported a profile for brain functioning specific to batterers: there was involvement of the medial prefrontal cortex as well as a strong participation of the posterior cingulate cortex and the left angular gyrus in response to IPV images.These findings may explain some of the psychological alterations that batterers describe when they encounter their romantic partner, such as maladaptive coping strategies, problems with emotion regulation as manifested by obsessions about their partner, moods such as fear, anger or rage, fear of abandonment, and sudden affective instability in the form of anxiety.The professor of Personality, Evaluation, and Psychological Treatment at the University of Granada and principle coordinator of this research, Miguel Pérez García, has been researching for years the mental and cerebral functioning of batterers, as well as their recidivism profile. In his view, “the results of these studies could have important implications to better understanding violence against women, as well as the variables that are related to recidivism in batterers.”Neuropsychological sequelae of the victimsThe aforementioned studies make up part of a broad area of Neuropsychological research on Intimate Partner Violence. Within this area, the researcher at UGR, Natalia Hidalgo Ruzzante, leads a project on neuropsychological sequelae presented in female victims of IPV.“The women who have suffered intimate partner violence from their partner (or ex-partner) sustain a multitude of physical, psychological, neurological, and cognitive problems as a consequence of abuse. These negative effects can be caused by direct damage as a consequence of hits to the head; but also as indirect damage to the brain through cerebral alterations produced by psychological sequelae (most notably posttraumatic stress) and from the effect of cortisol in situations of chronic stress,” Hidalgo explains.The majority of existing research focuses on physical and psychological disorders, and there are very few studies that have evaluated how abuse can affect the brain of women who have suffered intimate partner violence. Nevertheless, the researcher at UGR indicates that it seems clear that these cognitive alterations bring about other associated difficulties in social and work functioning in the affected women.“An adequate neuropsychological evaluation could delineate the possible cognitive, emotional, and behavioral alterations caused by this brain damage. Currently, battered women are not routinely evaluated for the diagnosis of potential neuropsychological deterioration, and even less when the only precursor is having been a victim of psychological abuse (and not physical),” she explains.Currently, the efforts of this research group at UGR are focused on the development of batteries for cognitive evaluation and specific rehabilitation programs for neuropsychological sequelae in female victims of violence. Share LinkedInlast_img read more

Poverty marks a gene, predicting depression-related brain function

first_imgPinterest Share on Facebook Share on Twitter LinkedIn Emailcenter_img Share A long line of research links poverty and depression. Now, a study by Duke University scientists shows how biology might underlie the depression experienced by high-risk adolescents whose families are socio-economically disadvantaged.The study, published May 24, 2016 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, combined genetics, brain imaging and behavioral data gathered as adolescents were followed for more than three years as part of a larger study.The results are part of a growing body of work that may lead to biological predictors that could guide individualized depression-prevention strategies. Adolescents growing up in households with lower socioeconomic status were shown to accumulate greater quantities of a chemical tag on a depression-linked gene over the course of two years. These “epigenetic” tags work by altering the activity of genes. The more chemical tags an individual had near a gene called SLC6A4, the more responsive was their amygdala — a brain area that coordinates the body’s reactions to threat — to photographs of fearful faces as they underwent functional MRI brain scans. Participants with a more active amygdala were more likely to later report symptoms of depression.“This is some of the first research to demonstrating that low socioeconomic status can lead to changes in the way genes are expressed, and it maps this out through brain development to the future experience of depression symptoms,” said the study’s first author Johnna Swartz, a Duke postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Ahmad Hariri, a Duke professor of psychology and neuroscience.Adolescence is rarely an easy time for anyone. But growing up in a family with low socioeconomic status or SES — a metric that incorporates parents’ income and education levels — can add chronic stressors such as family discord and chaos, and environmental risks such as poor nutrition and smoking.“These small daily hassles of scraping by are evident in changes that build up and affect children’s development,” Swartz said.The study included 132 non-Hispanic Caucasian adolescents in the Teen Alcohol Outcomes Study (TAOS) who were between 11 and 15 years old at the outset of the study and came from households that ranged from low to high SES. About half of the participants had a family history of depression.“The biggest risk factor we have currently for depression is a family history of the disorder,” said study co-author Douglas Williamson, principal investigator of TAOS and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke. “Our new work reveals one of the mechanisms by which such familial risk may be manifested or expressed in a particular group of vulnerable individuals during adolescence.”The group’s previous work, published last year in the journal Neuron, had shown that fMRI scan activity of the amygdala could signal who is more likely to experience depression and anxiety in response to stress several years later. That study included healthy college-aged participants of Hariri’s ongoing Duke Neurogenetics Study (DNS), which aims to link genes, brain activity, and other biological markers to a risk for mental illness.This study asked whether higher activity in the same brain area could predict depression in the younger, at-risk TAOS participants. Indeed, about one year later, these individuals (now between 14 and 19 years of age) were more likely to report symptoms of depression, especially if they had a family history of the disorder.Swartz said the new study examined a range of socioeconomic status and did not focus specifically on families affected by extreme poverty or neglect. She said the findings suggest that even modestly lower socioeconomic status is associated with biological differences that elevate adolescents’ risk for depression.Most of the team’s work so far has focused on epigenetic chemical tags near the SLC6A4 gene because it helps control the brain’s levels of serotonin, a neurochemical involved in clinical depression and other mood disorders. The more marks present just upstream of this gene, the less likely it is to be active.In 2014, Williamson and Hariri first showed that the presence of marks near the SLC6A4 gene can predict the way a person’s amygdala responds to threat. That study included both Williamson’s TAOS and Hariri’s DNS participants, but had looked at the chemical tags at a single point in time.Looking at the changes in these markers over an extended time is a more powerful way to understand an individual’s risk for depression, said Hariri, who is also a member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences.The team is now searching the genome for new markers that would predict depression. Ultimately, a panel of markers used in combination will lead to more accurate predictions, Swartz said.They also hope to expand the age ranges of the study to include younger individuals and to continue following the TAOS participants into young adulthood.“As they enter into young adulthood they are going to be experiencing more problems with depression or anxiety — or maybe substance abuse,” Hariri said. “The extent to which our measures of their genomes and brains earlier in their lives continue to predict their relative health is something that’s very important to know and very exciting for us to study.”last_img read more

Testosterone level in men during partner’s pregnancy may predict relationship dedication: study

first_imgLinkedIn Share Share on Facebook Pinterest Share on Twittercenter_img Email Changes in paternal testosterone across pregnancy, and hormonal linkage with the pregnant partner, may underlie fathers’ dedication to the partner relationship across the transition to parenthood, according to a study published online this July in Hormones and Behavior.Many men show shifts in behavior from being mating-oriented to parenting-oriented during the transition to parenthood. From an evolutionary perspective this is advantageous but the biological mechanisms behind this are not well understood.Testosterone, an androgenic steroid hormone, may play a role in men’s preparation for fatherhood. High levels of testosterone have been associated with competition and aggression, whereas low levels of testosterone have been associated with nurturance and particularly the care of offspring. Furthermore, lower levels of testosterone have been found in fathers who are in a relationship and fathers who are more involved in their children’s care, as compared to men without children. Research has also shown that lower salivary testosterone is related to higher relationship satisfaction and commitment, lower interest in sex outside the marriage, and a lower likelihood of divorce. Therefore, it appears that a father’s decreases in testosterone levels around the transition to parenthood may reflect a shift away from pursuing new mating opportunities in favor of investment in offspring and the partner relationship.The study, led by Darby Saxbe of the University of Southern California, followed 27 couples expecting their first child across their pregnancy and the first few months after birth. Parents provided repeated samples of testosterone across pregnancy to explore whether fathers’ change in testosterone, and the correlations with a mothers’ testosterone, were associated with levels of investment after the birth of their child. Thus, participants rated their investment, commitment, and satisfaction with their partner a few months after their child’s birth.The results revealed that fathers showed significant declines in testosterone as the pregnancy progressed, as well as significant positive correlations with their partners’ testosterone level at each time-point. Moreover, the changes seen over the pregnancy and the degree of synchrony with mothers predicted the fathers’ investment, commitment, and satisfaction in the couple relationship. Interestingly, testosterone levels before the birth of the child predicted the relationship outcomes after the birth, even after adjusting for fathers’ scores of investment early on in the pregnancy.The researchers concluded that, “The direction of our effects suggests that hormonal change and synchrony predict relationship investment, not the other way around; that is, relationship investment at the first prenatal assessment was not significantly associated with testosterone change or coordination with mothers.”last_img read more