A study published online in the journal JAMA Network Open found that MRI scans performed on healthy newborns. At the same time, they slept indicated that babies facing social disadvantages such as poverty tended to be born with smaller brains than babies whose mothers had higher household incomes.
Poverty, crime linked to differences in newborns’ brains
MRI scans of full-term newborns born to mothers living in poverty revealed smaller volumes across the entire brain — including the cortical grey matter, subcortical grey matter and white matter — than found in the brains of babies whose mothers had higher household incomes.
The brain scans, conducted only a few days to weeks after birth, also showed more miniature folding of the brain among infants born to mothers living in poverty. Fewer and shallower folds typically signify brain immaturity. The healthy human brain folds as it grows and develops, providing the cerebral cortex with a more extensive functional surface area.
A second study of data from the same sample of 399 mothers and their babies — this one published online in the journal Biological Psychiatry — reports that pregnant mothers from neighbourhoods with high crime rates gave birth to infants whose brains functioned differently during their first weeks of life than babies born to mothers living in safer neighbourhoods.
Functional MRI scans of babies whose mothers were exposed to crime displayed weaker connections between brain structures that process emotions and structures that help regulate and control those emotions. Maternal stress is believed to be one of the reasons for the weaker connections in the babies’ brains.
“These studies demonstrate that a mother’s experiences during pregnancy can have a major impact on her infant’s brain development,” said Christopher D. Smyser, MD, one of the principal investigators. “Like that old song about how the ‘knee bone is connected to the shin bone,’ there’s a saying about the brain that ‘areas that fire together wire together.’ We’re analysing how brain regions develop and form early functional networks because how those structures develop and work together may impact long-term development and behaviour.”
Babies in the study were born from 2017 through 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Smyser, a professor of neurology, paediatrics and radiology, said that babies are fed when they arrive for scans because they tend to fall asleep after eating to scan newborns during the first few weeks of life successfully. They are then snugly swaddled into blankets and a device that helps keep them comfortable and still. The brain scans take place while they sleep.
In the study involving the effects of poverty, the researchers focused on 280 mothers and their newborns. First author Regina L. Triplett, MD, a postdoctoral fellow in neurology, had expected to find that maternal poverty — referred to in the paper as a social disadvantage — could affect the babies’ developing brains. But she also expected to see the effects of psychosocial stress, which includes measures of adverse life experiences and anxiety and depression.
affected the brain across many of its structures, but there were no significant effects related to psychosocial stress,” Triplett said. “Our concern is that as babies begin life with these smaller brain structures, their brains may not develop as healthy as the brains of babies whose mothers lived in higher-income households.”
In the second study, which implicated living in high-crime neighbourhoods as a factor in weaker functional connections in the brains of newborns, first author Rebecca G. Brady, a graduate student in the university’s Medical Scientist Training Program, found that unlike the effects of poverty, the results of exposure to crime were focused on particular areas of the babies’ brains.
“Instead of a brain-wide effect, living in a high-crime area during pregnancy seems to have more specific effects on the emotion-processing regions of babies’ brains,” Brady said. “We found that this weakening of the functional connections between emotion-processing structures in the babies’ brains was robust when we controlled for other types of adversity, such as poverty. It appears that stresses linked to crime had more specific effects on brain function.”
Reducing poverty and lowering crime rates are well-established goals in public policy and health. And the researchers believe protecting expectant mothers from crime and helping them out of poverty will do more than improve brain growth and connections in their babies. But if social programs that aim to help people reach their full potential are to succeed, the researchers said the policies must focus on assisting people even before they are born.
“Several research projects around the country are now providing money for living expenses to pregnant mothers. Some cities have determined that raising pregnant mothers out of poverty is good public policy,” Smyser said. “The evidence we’re gathering from these studies certainly would support that idea.”
Read from: https://www.technology.org/2022/04/13/poverty-crime-change-newborns-brains/
How to get a good night’s sleep?
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule
The first step to getting a good night’s sleep is to establish a consistent sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine
Create a bedtime routine that relaxes you and prepares your mind and body for sleep. This may include taking a warm bath, reading a book, practicing meditation or deep breathing exercises, or listening to calming music. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a quiet, relaxing activity that helps you wind down from the day’s stresses.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake
Caffeine and alcohol can disrupt your sleep, so it’s best to avoid them altogether, especially close to bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake and alert, while alcohol can disrupt your natural sleep cycle, leading to fragmented and less restful sleep.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment
Your sleep environment plays a significant role in the quality of your sleep. Make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark. Use curtains or blinds to block out light, invest in comfortable pillows and bedding, and consider using a white noise machine to drown out any outside noise.
- Avoid screens before bedtime
The blue light emitted by electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops can suppress melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep. Avoid using electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime, and consider using blue light filters or special glasses that block blue light if you must use them.
- Get regular exercise
Regular exercise can improve the quality of your sleep, but it’s best to avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling.
- Manage stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Consider practicing relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to help manage stress and anxiety. You may also find it helpful to keep a journal or talk to a therapist to work through any underlying emotional issues.
- Avoid eating heavy meals close to bedtime
Eating heavy or spicy meals close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep and cause discomfort. It’s best to eat a light, balanced meal at least two to three hours before bedtime.
In conclusion, getting a good night’s sleep is essential for your overall health and well-being. By establishing a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, creating a comfortable sleep environment, avoiding screens before bedtime, getting regular exercise, managing stress and anxiety, and avoiding heavy meals close to bedtime, you can improve the quality of your sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and energized. If you continue to struggle with sleep despite trying these tips, consider talking to your healthcare provider to rule out any underlying sleep disorders or medical conditions.
What are some tips for staying healthy during the winter?
- Eat a balanced diet
Eating a healthy diet is always important, but it’s especially important during the winter. Eating a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help you get the nutrients your body needs to fight off illness. In addition, foods that are high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, can help boost your immune system.
- Stay hydrated
During the winter months, it can be easy to forget to drink enough water. However, staying hydrated is important for maintaining good health. Drinking water can help keep your body hydrated and flush out toxins that can make you sick. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
- Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for staying healthy. During the winter months, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough rest to help your body fight off illness. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Exercise regularly
Regular exercise can help boost your immune system, improve your mood, and increase your energy levels. During the winter months, it can be tempting to skip your workout due to the cold weather. However, even a short walk or workout can help you stay healthy.
- Wash your hands regularly
Washing your hands regularly is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. During the winter months, when cold and flu viruses are more prevalent, it’s especially important to wash your hands frequently.
- Stay warm
Staying warm is important for maintaining good health during the winter months. Dress in layers and wear warm clothing when you’re outside. If you’re cold at home, turn up the heat or use a space heater to keep warm.
- Get a flu shot
Getting a flu shot is one of the best ways to prevent getting the flu. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of six months, and it’s especially important for those who are at high risk of developing complications from the flu.
- Manage stress
Stress can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness. During the winter months, it’s important to take steps to manage your stress levels. Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
- Stay connected
Staying connected with family and friends can help you stay healthy during the winter months. Social isolation can increase the risk of depression and other health problems. Make an effort to stay connected with loved ones, even if it’s just a phone call or video chat.
- Take care of your mental health
The winter months can be challenging for many people, particularly those who struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you’re feeling down, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about your symptoms.
In conclusion, staying healthy during the winter months requires a combination of good nutrition, regular exercise, adequate rest, and stress management. By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of getting sick and enjoy the winter season to the fullest.
Do sleeping patterns relate to mental health?
Sleeping patterns play a crucial role in our overall health and well-being, including our mental health. A good night’s sleep is essential for maintaining physical and mental health, as well as for improving our mood, productivity, and cognitive function. However, disrupted sleeping patterns, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, can have negative effects on our mental health, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress.
Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can negatively impact mental health by altering the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. These neurotransmitters play a crucial role in regulating our mood, emotions, and behavior. For example, a lack of sleep can lower the levels of serotonin, which is responsible for regulating mood, and increase the levels of cortisol, which is associated with stress. This can result in feelings of anxiety, depression, and irritability.
Moreover, disrupted sleeping patterns can interfere with the normal functioning of the brain, leading to decreased cognitive function and poor memory recall. This can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks and make decisions, leading to decreased confidence and self-esteem. The resulting stress and anxiety can further exacerbate the problems, creating a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.
In addition to the impact on mental health, disrupted sleeping patterns can also contribute to physical health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and decreased immunity. These physical health problems can further exacerbate the negative effects on mental health, creating a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to improve sleeping patterns and protect mental health. Establishing a consistent sleep routine is essential for maintaining good sleep hygiene. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, regardless of the day of the week. Creating a relaxing bedtime routine, such as reading a book or listening to soothing music, can also help promote a good night’s sleep.
Additionally, creating a sleep-friendly environment can also help improve sleep quality. This includes keeping the bedroom dark, quiet, and cool, as well as limiting exposure to screens, such as televisions and smartphones, before bedtime.
Finally, it is essential to address any underlying mental health problems that may be contributing to disrupted sleeping patterns. For example, depression and anxiety are common causes of insomnia and can often be treated with therapy or medication. Similarly, sleep apnea can be treated with lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and sleeping on your side, or with the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
In conclusion, sleeping patterns are a crucial aspect of our mental health and well-being. Disrupted sleeping patterns, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, can have negative effects on our mental health, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. However, by establishing a consistent sleep routine, creating a sleep-friendly environment, and addressing underlying mental health problems, we can improve our sleep quality and protect our mental health.
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