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Animals help kids to recover from trauma

Neerosh Mudaly, a researcher from Monash University, is trying to show how animals can act as therapists and help children to bounce back from trauma. The group is using guinea pigs as the ‘animal therapist’.

“The children see the vulnerability of the smaller animal, how scared it is... They learn how to make them feel safe, they cuddle up to them and they see the parallels with their own experience. It’s quite amazing,” said  Mudaly.

According to Mudaly, the brains of traumatised children are gripped by fear and do not develop normally. She points out that this ‘hyper-vigilance’ makes other therapies ineffective for these children. “New theories are exploring the idea that activity-based, non-verbal programmes are more effective than using language.”

Mudaly’s two-year research will assess empathy, cognition and social interaction, to see how the programme changes various trauma symptoms.

Women of Chinese heritage at risk of gestational diabetes

A Kaiser Permanente study in Hawaii has revealed that more than 10 per cent of women of Chinese and Korean heritage may be at risk for developing diabetes during pregnancy.

The study also found that Korean-American and Chinese-American women’s gestational diabetes risk is one-third higher than average-and more than double that of Caucasian and African-American women.

Untreated gestational diabetes mellitus can lead to serious pregnancy and birthing complications, including early delivery and C-sections. It can also increase the child’s risk of developing obesity later in life.

Previous studies have shown that GDM is more prevalent among Asian women and Pacific Islanders. But this study separates those ethnic groups into sub-categories to find out who is at higher risk.

Extend youthfulness to keep Alzheimer’s at bay

Taking steps to remain healthy and young may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study. The researchers conducted a study on mice to reach the conclusion.

Andrew Dillin, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, said: “There’s something about being youthful that protects us from Alzheimer’s”.

“People say that if you live long enough, you get Alzheimer’s. But if that were true, mice that live longer should get the disease at the same rate. That’s not what we found.”

The study observed that mice carrying human genes, which initiate Alzheimer’s, were protected by turning down a pathway that is well known for its effects on aging.

The cognitive, inflammatory and neural effects of Alzheimer’s were reduced by the so-called insulin/IGF signaling pathway.

However, they were still riddled with amyloid plaques, packed into larger clusters than they would otherwise have been.

Pregnancy depression not normal, say experts

Most people in Australia think depression is a normal part and parcel of motherhood, researchers have pointed out.

Experts at the country’s depression initiative Beyondblue quizzed 733 men and women and found that more than half believe it was usual for women to suffer depression during pregnancy. The survey further discovered that one quarter of respondents thought postnatal depression did not require treatment and would disappear on its own.

Beyondblue deputy chief executive and psychologist Nicole Highet revealed that the fact that most people regard depression as a normal part of pregnancy was worrying.

She said: “Maybe people are confusing the baby blues, which is quite normal and it does pass on its own, with depression, which is certainly not normal and it’s something that needs to be picked up as soon as possible”.

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