Researchers have found that college roommates of students who demonstrate vulnerability to depression are more likely to develop that vulnerability themselves over time. The research, conducted by psychologists Gerald Haeffel and Jennifer Hames of the University of Notre Dame, was published in the April issue of Clinical Psychological Science. Haeffel and Hames examined “cognitive vulnerability,” which they call “a potent risk factor for depression.” Those with cognitive vulnerability tend to interpret stressful life events as the result of factors over which they have no control; they see these events as a reflection of their own deficiencies. Cognitive vulnerability is normally quite stable in adulthood; however, the researchers wanted to examine whether it might be “contagious” during periods of major life transitions—like starting college. The research involved 103 randomly assigned roommate pairs who had started college as freshmen. When they arrived on campus, the participants completed an online questionnaire that included measures of cognitive vulnerability and depressive symptoms; they completed the same survey twice more, at 3-month and 6-month intervals, when they also answered questions about stressful life events. The results showed that freshmen who were assigned to roommates with high levels of cognitive vulnerability were likely to “catch” their roommates’ vulnerability to depression. Perhaps even more significant, when the vulnerable mindset “rubbed off” on these students, it affected their rates of future depressive symptoms. Students whose cognitive vulnerability increased over the first 3 months of college had nearly twice the level of depressive symptoms at 6 months than those whose vulnerability didn’t change. On a more positive note, the study also found that a healthy mindset was also contagious. “Those assigned to a roommate with a more positive thinking style developed a more positive style themselves whereas those assigned to a roommate with a negative style became more negative,” Haeffel said in a recent interview with Time.com. The research does not suggest factors that make one roommate’s style more likely to influence the other. “Our findings suggest that it may be possible to use an individual’s social environment as part of the intervention process, either as a supplement to existing cognitive interventions or possibly as a stand-alone intervention,” the authors say in press release from the Association for Psychological Science, the publisher of the journal in which the study appears. “Surrounding a person with others who exhibit an adaptive cognitive style should help to facilitate cognitive change in therapy.”
Think Google is simply a tool for information searches? It’s becoming an increasingly thought-provoking instrument for researchers, especially when search patterns are analyzed. A team of researchers led by John Ayers at San Diego State University examined Google search data from 2006 to 2010 and found an intriguing pattern linking mental illness queries and seasons. After combing through search data for mental-health terms like schizophrenia, bulimia, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and others, they found that all mental health queries followed seasonal patterns, with peaks in the winter and troughs in the summer. When comparing search data in the United States to search data in Australia, where the seasons are reversed, the seasonal data held up – both Americans and Australians searched for information on these terms more during their respective winters than summers. In fact, mental health queries in the U.S. were found to be 14 percent higher in the winter and 11 percent higher in Australia during its winter. Queries about specific disorders also had their own seasonality – queries about eating disorders, schizophrenia, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder were higher in winter, while searches for anxiety seem least affected by seasons, varying just 7 percent in the U.S. and 15 percent in Australia between summer and winter months. Although the researchers emphasize that Google searches are just searches for information and do not necessarily reflect a diagnosis, this may shed important light onto how the prevalence of mental illnesses change during seasons. Furthermore, while most studies rely on participants to answer truthfully, Web searches do not have that same hurdle – they may have the advantage of reflecting patterns, providing real-time monitoring of mental health problems, and surveying population trends. For more information about this study, see the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Chronic infection—already known to be associated with heart disease—has been linked to cognitive impairment, according to a recent study by Dr. Mira Katan and colleagues from the department of neurology at Columbia University.  The researchers tested 1,625 subjects, with an average age of 69, using the Mini-mental State Examination (MMSE); they also tested each member of the group for their infectious burden (IB), that is, their degree of exposure to five common viruses and bacteria.  The researchers conclude that “A measure of IB associated with stroke risk and atherosclerosis was independently associated with cognitive performance in this multiethnic cohort. Past infections may contribute to cognitive impairment” (Neurology, March 26, 2013). The link between IB and cognitive impairment was stronger among women, those with lower levels of education, those without health insurance or Medicare, and those who did not exercise.  The reasons for the association are less clear, according the Dr. Katan.  “Another mechanism might be that these pathogens are neurotoxic, directly affecting the nerves,” she said in March 29 New York Times interview.  “We’ve found a common pattern but we cannot prove causality.” Although further study is needed, the results could lead to identifying individuals who are at risk of cognitive impairment—and taking action to lower that risk.
mobileWith smart phones becoming ubiquitous, many researchers are finding that mobile apps are becoming an important part of research. But citing a mobile app can be tricky – after all, it does not fit into the guidelines for traditional software and it is not the same as a printed product. Here are a few things you should know when citing a mobile app:
  • Instead of an author, and app has a rights holder. The rights holder may be an individual, but it may also be a group or a company.
  • Use the publication date of the version you used, even if previous or updated versions are available.
  • If you are only using an entry, article, reference, or portion of the app, that can be noted just as you would in a print reference. That information simply goes at the beginning of the reference.
  • List how you accessed the app – whether you downloaded it from the Apple Store, Google Play, or another Web site.
  • Don’t put a period at the end of the Web address.
Here are some examples: Rightsholder, A. B. (year). Title of App (Version 1) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from http://webaddress.com Article Title. (year). In Title of App (Version 1) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from http://webaddress.com
PAR is pleased to announce the release of the Vocabulary Assessment Scales™–Expressive (VAS™-E) and Vocabulary Assessment Scales™–Receptive (VAS™-R). Together, these measures present full-color photographs to evaluate the breadth of an individual’s vocabulary and oral language development throughout the lifespan. • Choose between paper or digital stimuli. The VAS stimulus books are available digitally, for use on a tablet, or on paper, for traditional administration. • Experience greater ecological validity. Full-color photographs provide the highest degree of realism possible. • Obtain an enhanced skill assessment. Composite and discrepancy scores enhance the user’s ability to interpret expressive and receptive scores. • Monitor effectiveness of interventions. Reliable change scores enable the user to measure growth over time and in response to targeted interventions; equivalent, co-normed forms reduce the occurrence of practice effects that can result from repeated administrations. • Assess throughout the lifespan. Offering both age- and grade-based norms, the VAS-E and VAS-R are suitable for evaluating individuals ages 2.5 to 95 years in clinical, school, occupational, and industrial settings. To learn more about the VAS or to order it today, visit www.parinc.com or call 1.800.331.8378.