February 21st, 2014
08:38 AM ET
Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.
Changing schools linked to psychotic symptoms
When a child switches schools, it may have more dire consequences for him or her than one might think.
Researchers at the Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom examined data from almost 14,000 children born between the years 1991 and 1992. They found increased signs of psychosis among children who switched schools three or more times in early childhood. These symptoms included hallucinations and interrupting thoughts.
Psychiatrist and lead study author Dr. Swaran Singh told TIME.com that the children may feel marginalized and experience low self-esteem when they try to integrate themselves in a new social environment, and that bullying may also come into play.
“Repeated experiences of being defeated in social situations leads to changes in the brain and in the dopaminergic system,” Singh said.
He added: "Something about chronic marginalization, and chronic exclusion, is neurophysiologically damaging."
More reasons why sitting is bad
You might not want to sit down for this: We've seen several recent studies showing the harms to health of sitting, and the latest shows that it's associated with disability in older people.
Researchers examined a national health survey of Americans, focusing on information about 2,286 adults aged 60 and older.
The study found that each additional hour that participants sat on a daily basis raised the risk of becoming physically disabled by about 50%, NPR reported. How much exercise they got did not seem to affect the risk.
So what's so bad about lounging around all day?
"When a person sits for an extended period of time, your muscles burn less fat and your blood tends to flow more sluggishly," Dorothy Dunlop, a public health and medicine researcher who led the study, told NPR. "And on top of that, when you slump in your chair, then your back and your stomach muscle goes unused."
The scientists did not prove that sitting causes disability, however, but Dunlop said the association is strong.
Financial markets may be affected by stress hormones
Could the major credit crisis of 2007 to 2009 have something to do with stress?
Researchers looked at London traders and found that their cortisol levels were elevated 68% during a period of volatility in markets over the course of eight days.
Then they simulated those conditions by deliberately raising cortisol levels by 68% in other study participants, and sustaining that level for eight days. Hydrocortisone pills were used to alter cortisol levels. A control group of participants took placebos.
Participants played lottery-style games that offered cash rewards. Researchers found that cortisol appeared to have a significant impact on the participants' risk-taking behaviors. Specifically, those with sustained elevated cortisol over time showed more aversion to risk than those taking placebo.
"It is frightening to realize that no one in the financial world - not the traders, not the risk managers, not the central bankers - knows that these subterranean shifts in risk appetite are taking place," study co-author John Coates wrote in a statement.
Study authors wrote that in real life, stressed-out traders may have shied away from risk-taking "just when the economy needed it most: when markets are crashing and need traders and investors to buy distressed assets."
Antidepressants for Alzheimer's agitation? Beware side effects
Agitation is a common problem among Alzheimer's patients and presents challenges for their caregivers. Researchers looked to the antidepressant citalopram, marketed as Celexa, to see if it could help.
The study was a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial that with 186 patients who have probable Alzheimer's disease and symptoms of agitation.
Researchers found significant improvements among patients who took the drug compared to those who took a placebo. They also found that caregivers reported less distress while taking care of patients on citalopram.
But here's the catch: The drug is associated with adverse side effects. Patients who took the drug tended to show a slight worsening in cognitive function, as well as cardiac effects as measured by electrocardiagram.
At the given dose of 30 mg, "citalopram showed mild cognitive and concerning cardiac adverse effects and cannot be generally recommended as an alternative treatment option at that dose," researchers wrote.
Brain-exercise app may improve vision
Technology may be able to make your eyesight sharper without the use of glasses. Researchers have developed an app they say exercises the brain in ways that can improve vision.
Scientists tested out the app, called UltimEyes, on 19 players on the University of California, Riverside, baseball team. After trying it out for 25-minute intervals, 30 times, some players became better than the normal 20/20 vision. Amazingly, seven of them showed an eyesight of 20/7.5, being able to see at 20 feet what people with normal vision could see at 7.5 feet or closer.
The app is a workout for the visual cortex, the brain area that controls vision. The results may seem too good to be true, but Peggy Series, a neuroscientist at the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study, told Popular Mechanics that the effects are real.
"These results are, in fact, very similar to what's already been proven in the lab," Series says. "It's very exciting. The fact that the app is improving the players' visual acuity is not as surprising to me as that the improvement might actually help in playing baseball."
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.