1. Study suggests one in three cases of dementia preventable

    August 8, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Southern California – Health Sciences press release:

    Managing lifestyle factors such as hearing loss, smoking, hypertension and depression could prevent one-third of the world’s dementia cases, according to a report by the first Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care. Presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2017 and published in The Lancet, the report also highlights the beneficial effects of nonpharmacologic interventions such as social contact and exercise for people with dementia.

    “There’s been a great deal of focus on developing medicines to prevent dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease,” says commission member and AAIC presenter Lon Schneider, MD, professor of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “But we can’t lose sight of the real major advances we’ve already made in treating dementia, including preventive approaches.”

    The commission brought together 24 international experts to systematically review existing research and provide evidence-based recommendations for treating and preventing dementia. About 47 million people have dementia worldwide and that number is expected to climb as high as 66 million by 2030 and 115 million by 2050.

    Reducing dementia risk, beginning in childhood

    The commission’s report identifies nine risk factors in early, mid- and late life that increase the likelihood of developing dementia. About 35 percent of dementia — one in three cases — is attributable to these risk factors, the report says.

    By increasing education in early life and addressing hearing loss, hypertension and obesity in midlife, the incidence of dementia could be reduced by as much as 20 percent, combined.

    In late life, stopping smoking, treating depression, increasing physical activity, increasing social contact and managing diabetes could reduce the incidence of dementia by another 15 percent.

    “The potential magnitude of the effect on dementia of reducing these risk factors is larger than we could ever imagine the effect that current, experimental medications could have,” Schneider says. “Mitigating risk factors provides us a powerful way to reduce the global burden of dementia.”

    A nonpharmacologic approach to treating dementia

    The commission also examined the effect of nonpharmacologic interventions for people with dementia and concluded that they had an important role in treatment, especially when trying to address agitation and aggression.

    “Antipsychotic drugs are commonly used to treat agitation and aggression, but there is substantial concern about these drugs because of an increased risk of death, cardiovascular adverse events and infections, not to mention excessive sedation,” Schneider says.

    The evidence showed that psychological, social and environmental interventions such as social contact and activities were superior to antipsychotic medications for treating dementia-related agitation and aggression.

    The commission also found that nonpharmacologic interventions like group cognitive stimulation therapy and exercise conferred some benefit in cognition as well.

    The commission’s full report provides detailed recommendations in the areas of prevention, treating cognitive symptoms, individualizing dementia care, caring for caregivers, planning for the future following a dementia diagnosis, managing neuropsychiatric symptoms and considering the end of life.


  2. Healthy lifestyle may help older adults preserve their independence

    July 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Wiley press release:

    In a study of men with an average age of 71 years, lifestyle factors such as never smoking, maintaining a healthy diet, and not being obese were associated with survival and high functionality over the next 16 years.

    The study included 1104 men who completed a questionnaire. High functionality was defined as preserved ability in personal activities of daily living and cognitive function.

    Additional studies are needed to investigate whether lifestyle changes after the age of 70 years may also lead to preserved independence.

    The findings are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.


  3. Study suggests Pokémon Go may actually promote healthier lifestyle

    by Ashley

    From the Kent State University press release:

    Today marks the one year anniversary of Pokémon GO’s worldwide release that sent crowds hiking through parks, meandering into streets and walking for miles in search of Pokémon, those cute little digital characters that appear in real locations on your smartphone.

    Capturing the little monsters isn’t just fun for the players, it might be good for their health. Too often we sit at a desk all day, spend countless hours in the car, and with a smartphone glued to our hands it is too easy to spend our free time watching videos, playing games and browsing the internet. Such sedentary behaviors cause us to sit more and exercise less.

    However, Kent State University researchers found that playing a popular physically-interactive, smartphone based game, like Pokémon GO, may actually promote exercise.

    Jacob Barkley, Ph.D., Andrew Lepp, Ph.D., and Ellen Glickman, Ph.D., from Kent State’s College of Education, Health and Human Services assessed the ability of the popular, physically-interactive, smartphone based video game Pokémon GO to increase walking and decrease sedentary behavior, like sitting. Over 350 college students reported their physical activity and sedentary behavior the week before they downloaded Pokémon GO, the week immediately after downloading the game, and again several weeks later.

    Results show that, relative to the week before downloading Pokémon GO, students doubled their daily walking behavior (102 percent increase) and reduced sedentary behavior by 25 percent during the first week after downloading. When comparing behavior several weeks after downloading Pokémon GO, to the week before downloading, walking and sedentary behavior was still 68 percent greater and 18 percent lower, respectively, even though frequency of game play decreased by 58 percent.

    “While the largest increases in walking and decreases in sitting occurred during the first week after downloading, when the game was new to the user, those positive effects largely persisted weeks later,” Barkley said. “It is possible that games like Pokémon GO may help people initiate a positive health behavior change, such as more daily walking and less sitting.”

    The researchers suggest that while many smartphone functions may promote sedentary activity, they are hopeful that playing physically-interactive, smartphone based video games like Pokémon GO may help promote walking and reduce sitting in college students.

    The study is published in the Games for Health Journal.


  4. Article speculates on the beginnings of music

    July 6, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    How did music begin? Did our early ancestors first start by beating things together to create rhythm, or use their voices to sing? What types of instruments did they use? Has music always been important in human society, and if so, why? These are some of the questions explored in a recent Hypothesis and Theory article published in Frontiers in Sociology. The answers reveal that the story of music is, in many ways, the story of humans.

    So, what is music? This is difficult to answer, as everyone has their own idea. “Sound that conveys emotion,” is what Jeremy Montagu, of the University of Oxford and author of the article, describes as his. A mother humming or crooning to calm her baby would probably count as music, using this definition, and this simple music probably predated speech.

    But where do we draw the line between music and speech? You might think that rhythm, pattern and controlling pitch are important in music, but these things can also apply when someone recites a sonnet or speaks with heightened emotion. Montagu concludes that “each of us in our own way can say ‘Yes, this is music’, and ‘No, that is speech’.”

    So, when did our ancestors begin making music? If we take singing, then controlling pitch is important. Scientists have studied the fossilized skulls and jaws of early apes, to see if they were able to vocalize and control pitch. About a million years ago, the common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans had the vocal anatomy to “sing” like us, but it’s impossible to know if they did.

    Another important component of music is rhythm. Our early ancestors may have created rhythmic music by clapping their hands. This may be linked to the earliest musical instruments, when somebody realized that smacking stones or sticks together doesn’t hurt your hands as much. Many of these instruments are likely to have been made from soft materials like wood or reeds, and so haven’t survived. What have survived are bone pipes. Some of the earliest ever found are made from swan and vulture wing bones and are between 39,000 and 43,000 years old. Other ancient instruments have been found in surprising places. For example, there is evidence that people struck stalactites or “rock gongs” in caves dating from 12,000 years ago, with the caves themselves acting as resonators for the sound.

    So, we know that music is old, and may have been with us from when humans first evolved. But why did it arise and why has it persisted? There are many possible functions for music. One is dancing. It is unknown if the first dancers created a musical accompaniment, or if music led to people moving rhythmically. Another obvious reason for music is entertainment, which can be personal or communal. Music can also be used for communication, often over large distances, using instruments such as drums or horns. Yet another reason for music is ritual, and virtually every religion uses music.

    However, the major reason that music arose and persists may be that it brings people together. “Music leads to bonding, such as bonding between mother and child or bonding between groups,” explains Montagu. “Music keeps workers happy when doing repetitive and otherwise boring work, and helps everyone to move together, increasing the force of their work. Dancing or singing together before a hunt or warfare binds participants into a cohesive group.” He concludes: “It has even been suggested that music, in causing such bonding, created not only the family but society itself, bringing individuals together who might otherwise have led solitary lives.”


  5. Unearned fun tastes just as sweet

    July 4, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Association for Psychological Science press release:

    We may be inclined to think that a fun experience — say, watching a movie or indulging in a tasty treat — will be all the more enjoyable if we save it until we’ve finished our work or chores, but new research shows that this intuition may be misguided. The findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggest that leisure experiences tend to be pleasurable regardless of when we experience them.

    “Our research suggests that people may over-worry about waiting for a ‘right time’ to enjoy themselves, continually postponing fun rather than having it,” says Ed O’Brien of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “We find that people intuitively care a lot about saving leisure until work is finished, but it turns out that this doesn’t always do much for us. It’s easy to forget that fun activities are, after all, fun activities. Getting a massage will likely feel good regardless of what else is going on.”

    O’Brien and co-author Ellen Roney speculated that we may be disposed to save leisure for later because we believe that we’ll feel too guilty or distracted to fully enjoy it until work is out of the way. Because we have difficulty accurately predicting how we’ll feel in the future, the researchers hypothesized that we’re likely to overlook how absorbing and immersive leisure activities can be.

    Surveying members of a university community, students in an MBA program, and online research participants, O’Brien and Roney found evidence in support of their initial hypothesis: People consistently reported that pleasurable experiences would be less enjoyable if they happened before an effortful or negative experience as opposed to after it.

    To investigate whether these findings would hold up in an experimental setting, the researchers presented 181 museumgoers with descriptions and materials for two activities: the Magic Maker task and the Fixed Labor task. Some of the visitors completed both tasks in the order determined by a random card draw — after each task, they reported their reactions, rating how much they liked or disliked it, how much pleasure or displeasure it brought them, and how positive or negative it was.

    Other visitors simply imagined going through the two tasks and predicted how they would feel after each one. Their predictions tended to assert that the fun Magic Maker task would be less enjoyable if completed before the more arduous Fixed Labor task.

    But this was not borne out by the visitors who actually experienced them: Those who engaged in the Magic Maker task before the Fixed Labor task found it just as enjoyable as did those who completed the tasks in the reverse order.

    In another study, O’Brien and Roney invited 259 student participants, who were in the midst of taking midterms, to come to the lab for a spa-like experience. Some of the students spent time in a quiet room with a massage chair, foot bath, candles, and calming music, while others imagined what the experience would be like.

    Again, the students who predicted their feelings thought the spa experience would be less enjoyable if they had it before completing their midterms compared with after and they overestimated how much their looming midterms would distract them from the experience. In reality, while students who actually had the spa experience were more distracted by midterms before exams were over relative to after, this did not seem to dampen their ability to enjoy the moment of relaxation.

    Additional experimental findings suggest a strategy that could improve the accuracy of people’s predictions. O’Brien and Roney found that students were instructed to specifically reflect on the moment-to-moment sensations involved in laughing at funny videos or eating tasty treats were more accurate in predicting how enjoyable those experiences were likely to be.

    Ultimately, the usefulness of the debiasing strategy depends on your overarching goal — some tasks may be so important that putting them off really does detract from our ability to enjoy leisure time. In some cases, exploiting the intuition that rewards are more enjoyable after work is done could help us delay gratification and plow through day-to-day drudgery.

    But O’Brien and Roney note that it’s worth keeping in mind that there is almost always more work to do:

    Engaging in leisure comes with a host of benefits that people may miss out on. In many cases, we might be laboring towards an ultimate payoff that we could have enjoyed just as much at the start.”


  6. Study suggests making art activates brain’s reward pathway

    June 23, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Drexel University press release:

    Your brain’s reward pathways become active during art-making activities like doodling, according to a new Drexel University study.

    Girija Kaimal, EdD, assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, led a team that used fNIRS (functional near-infrared spectroscopy) technology to measure blood flow in the areas of the brain related to rewards while study participants completed a variety of art-making projects.

    “This shows that there might be inherent pleasure in doing art activities independent of the end results. Sometimes, we tend to be very critical of what we do because we have internalized, societal judgements of what is good or bad art and, therefore, who is skilled and who is not,” said Kaimal of the study that was published The Arts in Psychotherapy. “We might be reducing or neglecting a simple potential source of rewards perceived by the brain. And this biologocial proof could potentially challenge some of our assumptions about ourselves.”

    For the study, co-authored by Drexel faculty including Jennifer Nasser, PhD, and Hasan Ayaz, PhD, 26 participants wore fNIRS headbands while they completed three different art activities (each with rest periods between). For three minutes each, the participants colored in a mandala, doodled within or around a circle marked on a paper, and had a free-drawing session.

    During all three activities, there was a measured increase in bloodflow in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, compared to rest periods where bloodflow decreased to normal rates.

    The prefrontal cortex is related to regulating our thoughts, feelings and actions. It is also related to emotional and motivational systems and part of the wiring for our brain’s reward circuit. So seeing increased bloodflow in these areas likely means a person is experiencing feels related to being rewarded.

    There were some distinctions between the activities in the data collected.

    Doodling in or around the circle had the highest average measured bloodflow increase in the reward pathway compared to free-drawing (the next highest) and coloring. However, the difference between each form of art-making was not statistically significant, according to analysis.

    “There were some emergent differences but we did not have a large-enough sample in this initial study to draw any definitive conclusions,” Kaimal said.

    It was noted and tracked which participants in the study considered themselves artists so that their results could be compared to non-artists. In that way, Kaimal and her team hoped to understand whether past experience played a factor in triggering feelings of reward.

    Doodling seemed to initiate the most brain activity in artists, but free-drawing was observed to be about the same for artists and non-artists. Interestingly, the set coloring activity actually resulted in negative brain activity in artists.

    “I think artists might have felt very constrained by the pre-drawn shapes and the limited choice of media,” Kaimal explained. “They might also have felt some frustration that they could not complete the image in the short time.”

    Again, however, these results regarding artists versus non-artists proved statistically insignificant, which might actually track with Kaimal’s previous research that found experience-level did not have a bearing on the stress-reduction benefits people had while making art.

    Overall, though, the finding that any form of art-making resulted in the significant activation of feelings of reward are compelling, especially for art therapists who see art as a valuable tool for mental health.

    In fact, in surveys administered to the participants after the activities were complete, respondents indicated that they felt more like they had “good ideas” and could “solve problems” than before the activities. Participants even said they felt the three-minute time spans for art-making weren’t long enough.

    “There are several implications of this study’s findings,” Kaimal said. “They indicate an inherent potential for evoking positive emotions through art-making — and doodling especially. Doodling is something we all have experience with and might re-imagine as a democratizing, skill independent, judgment-free pleasurable activity.”

    Additionally, Kaimal felt that the findings of increased self-opinion were intriguing.

    “There might be inherent aspects to visual self-expression that evoke both pleasure and a sense of creative agency in ourselves,” she said.


  7. Study suggests reading may make us kinder

    June 4, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Kingston University press release:

    A Kingston University London postgraduate research student has produced a study that examines the effects of reading and watching television on social behaviour — concluding that literature lovers have the edge over their remote control-loving counterparts when it comes to being nicer people.

    Rose Turner’s study featured 123 adults of various ages participating in an anonymous online survey. They were asked to select their preferences for books, television and plays, alongside being tested on their interpersonal skills, which included how much they considered others’ feelings and their desire to help those around them. The results revealed that readers had greater awareness and empathy for other people’s feelings, while those who preferred watching television came across as less friendly and less understanding of others’ views.

    Following a presentation at The British Psychological Society summarising her study, Rose’s research has hit the headlines around the globe, with people fascinated by the psychological dimensions of reading.

    “The interest in the study has been a very pleasant surprise and it has been great to see that it has generated such a buzz,” she said. “Reading is a universal pastime and we regularly hear about parents being encouraged to read to their children from a young age to help introduce them to language and develop their vocabulary. This study demonstrates that the different ways that people engage with fiction can impact their emotional intelligence and empathic behaviours,” she explained.

    When quizzed over why readers are more likely to develop better social skills than those who consume other forms of fictional media such as television or films, Rose explained that reading is an individual experience that makes people think deeper about characters. “When we read we go by what is simply written on the page and we have to fill in the gaps as we go along, giving us a chance to develop empathic skills as we try to understand what a character is going through. Whereas when we watch something, we are provided with a lot of that information already,” she said.

    Along with completing her PhD in psychology at Kingston University London, Rose is an actress with a number of theatre credits to her name and also works in the field of occupational psychology. “I run group exercises in social care settings, schools and prisons that involve people using role-play techniques to develop their skills. I have seen first-hand how stories and the notion of becoming another character can have a positive impact on a person’s wellbeing. It’s not just a source of escapism but also a chance to imagine how somebody else sees the world,” she said.

    Rose’s decision to incorporate her work experience into her academic research has been praised by her PhD supervisor, Professor Frédéric Vallée-Tourangeau from the School of Social and Behavioural Sciences. “Rose’s background in drama and acting, as well as her experience in occupational settings provide her with a unique set of skills and insights that help her formulate original research questions that make her PhD work so innovative,” he said. “When the science of psychology helps ordinary people beyond the scientific community better understand their lives, the contributions are that much more important,” he emphasised.

    While her research is yet to be peer reviewed and fully published, the early interest in the study continues, with Rose set to present her work at the American Psychological Society later this summer. She will also be showcasing her academic expertise by taking part in an online competition to explain the psychological science of relationships to schoolchildren.

    “My role as an academic is to share my findings in an interesting way that members of the public can relate to. To have gathered this much interest in my thesis already is really encouraging and I look forward to exploring more aspects of the relationship between fictional worlds and our real-world psychological processes in the future,” she added.


  8. Study suggests people walking to work or an errand more likely to stroll into dangerous areas

    June 3, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Drexel University press release:

    People taking leisurely strolls tend to choose safer walking routes than those heading to work or on an errand, a new study found.

    Led by D. Alex Quistberg, Ph.D., an assistant research professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University, the study used GPS, accelerometers and travel logs from a 2008-2009 survey in King County, Washington — which includes Seattle — to measure the path and purpose of 537 pedestrians. That data was then compared to maps on the probability of pedestrian collision risk, and the study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

    Quistberg and his team found that pedestrians on recreational walks were 8 percent less likely to be in areas where car collision risks were higher than those on utilitarian walks (walking somewhere with a purpose).

    “There’s likely a mix of things happening here,” Quistberg said. “On recreational walks, people likely want a more relaxing path than someone on a utilitarian walk.”

    The study also found that people who took longer walks, both in distance and time, were less likely to stray into dangerous areas (where car-collision risk is high). That, too, was likely tied to recreational walks vs. walks with a purpose. The study also took demographic data into account. This yielded the finding that people who lived in single-family homes, owned homes and/or owned a car all were less likely to walk in more dangerous areas.

    People who participated in the survey who had children were slightly less likely — around 2 percent — to walk in areas with high collision risk.

    “This could be due to people with children living in single-family homes, which are usually in neighborhoods that have a low risk of pedestrians collisions because of low traffic and slow speeds,” Quistberg explained. “It is also possible that people with children at home are walking more cautiously, perhaps with their children.”

    Recently, Dornsife School of Public Health Dean Ana Diez Roux, M.D., Ph.D., signed on to a letter supported by former president Jimmy Carter that appealed for protection of the walking paths of children, especially those headed to school. And although results from Quistberg’s study analyze adult pedestrians in Washington state, he believes they reveal information that could serve to improve walkability universally.

    “Improving road safety for pedestrians will support interest in walking for recreation as well as those who integrate a healthy walk into their commute,” Quistberg said.


  9. Mindfulness takes practice

    June 2, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Aarhus University press release:

    The typical student on a standard mindfulness course says they practice for 30 minutes at home every day, and it actually makes a difference, a new study from Aarhus University in Denmark, finds. This is the case, even though teachers ask for more. But can we rely on what people say?

    Mindfulness meditation practice is set at 45 minutes a day at home, as well as weekly group sessions with the teacher. And the 45 minutes is every day, six days a week for the eight weeks that the course lasts.

    These are the guidelines for students taking part in the standard Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses. Not all students practice for 45 minutes a day. An average course student practices 30 minutes daily at home, but the good news is that nevertheless, this practice is related to positive benefit. This can be measured as reduced stress, pain, better well-being and so on.

    These are the main findings of the study “Home practice in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of participants’ mindfulness practice and its associations with outcomes,” an international collaboration between the Universities of Aarhus, Oxford and Bristol. The study has recently been published in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy, and according to associate professor Christine Parsons from the Interacting Mind Center at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University, it is new and important knowledge:

    “This is the clearest evidence we have that mindfulness-home practice can make a difference. This is a big source of debate because there are many components at play in a MBSR or MBCT course. The support of a teacher might bring about benefit, practicing mindfulness on the actual course, or being in a group with similar other people,” Christine Parsons says.

    According to the study, the effect of doing home practice is small, but statistically significant in the 28 scientific studies included in the analysis. In all studies, the MBCT or MBSR courses were eight weeks long, and the participants kept diaries of their practice at home. The diaries were used by researchers to examine the benefits of practice. Unfortunately, there is always uncertainty linked to a self-report diary, which Christine Parsons is trying to minimize.

    Can we rely on students to tell their own teacher about their home practice? Do student fill in their diaries faithfully? We know that people have difficulty reporting on their food or alcohol consumption or even physical activity. Should mindfulness practice be any different?

    Similarly, Christine Parsons is concerned about the difference between quantity of mindfulness practice and the of practice. Anyone who has tried to meditate knows that practice can be difficult. For example, it is easy to spend time thinking about a conflict at work or writing a long mental shopping list. Mindfulness practice is about cultivating awareness of the present moment, without judging or evaluating, not just spending time on a yoga mat.

    “We need to understand how people truly engage with their home practice. There are many problems with self-report as our only assessment method. I have therefore received money from Trygfonden to develop and test a number of other measurement methods that will clarify how mindfulness students behave outside the classroom. How they practice and what works — and how it works,” Christine Parsons says.

    She worked at Oxford University for the past six years, but she has moved her research to the Interacting Minds Center at Aarhus, where she will remain as long as the grant of 2.3 millioner kroner pays for her stay.

    Christine Parsons in collaboration with engineers from Aarhus University, led by associate professor Kasper Løvborg Jensen and the Danish Center for Mindfulness, is developing an app that records how long participants listen to the guided meditations, which are part of the home practice in MBCT or MBSR.

    The information will be sent via the mobile phone app to a server that registers and compares the incoming data with information from a ‘fitness’ wristband. This enables the research team to see what happens to, for example, the student’s heartbeat when he or she is practicing mindfulness.

    “It’s all little pieces of the big jigsaw puzzle — how students actually behave outside the classroom. How they practice, what it means, and what actually works,” says Christine Parsons, without wanting to undermine the importance of the recently published result.

    “This study forms the basis of our new work, and now we know, that practicing at home has an impact. The question is whether we can use new technology to measure and support participants doing their home practice. And can we support behavior changes in the long run? For example, if you receive a smartphone reminder to practice,” Christine Parsons says before she — again — praises the unique opportunities for interdisciplinary research at the Interacting Minds Center.

    “It’s invaluable to sit down with an engineer who poses completely different questions than I can imagine with my psychology background. It opens for a lot of new opportunities. Bringing together mindfulness teachers, engineers and designers allows us to really think about what we can do to best support our students,” says Christine Parsons.


  10. How listening to music in a group influences depression

    by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    Listening to music together with others has many social benefits, including creating and strengthening interpersonal bonds. It has previously been shown that enjoying music in a group setting has an impact on social relationships, and that synchronizing with other group members to a beat influences how people behave to individuals both within and outside of the group. Similarly, the sharing of emotions has many social benefits as well: it helps us create and sustain relationships with others and to cement social bonds within a group, and it intensifies the potential for emotional responses. A question that still remains is whether sharing emotional and musical experiences with others might be a particularly powerful form of social bonding, and what the outcome of such an interaction might be.

    In this study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, the researchers wanted to investigate the self-reported effects on mood that comes with listening to sad music in group settings, and how mood is influenced by rumination (a maladaptive focus on negative thoughts), depression, and coping style. To do so, they recruited 697 participants who completed an online survey about “their ways of using music, types of musical engagement and the effect of music listening.” The participants also completed a number of additional questionnaires, which helped the researchers determine factors such as: the presence of symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress; general tendencies towards depression; coping styles, i.e. tendencies towards rumination or reflection (i.e. healthier tendencies to self-reflection); musical engagement as a measurement of wellbeing; as well as questionnaires addressing a variety of aspects of music listening, both alone and in a group. The results reveal two distinct behavioral patterns related to group music listening:

    1. Listening to sad music and talking about sad things tended to make people feel more depressed after listening to music. This kind of group rumination was more common in younger people, and likely reflects relative importance of both music and social relationships to younger people.

    2. Listening to inspiring music in a group and engaging in discussions about music and life is a more positive interaction that makes people feel good.

    These results provide some clues as to how people with depression use music, and why. “Behaviors relating to music use fall into distinct patterns, reflecting either healthy or unhealthy thought processes,” says Dr Sandra Garrido (corresponding author). “These results reveal important information about how people with depression use music.” The results shine a light on how music can facilitate the sharing of negative emotions, and show that the outcome is related to the coping styles and thinking patterns used in each setting, meaning that people with generally maladaptive coping styles are more likely to experience negative outcomes from group rumination of music.

    The results also show that young people may be especially vulnerable to the impacts of group rumination with music. “While young people with tendencies to depression who are a part of social groups may be perceived as receiving valuable social support, our results here suggest that the positive impacts of such group interactions depend on the types of processes that are taking place in the group,” explains Dr Garrido. “Susceptible individuals with a predilection for rumination may be most likely to suffer negative outcomes from group rumination, with social feedback deepening and exacerbating negative thoughts and feelings. However, group interactions that provide social support or opportunities for processing of emotions in a constructive way have a much higher likelihood of being positive.”

    These findings partially help clarifying under what conditions social interaction around music provide social benefits, and when it might instead amplify negative emotions. This opens up for further research to create a more detailed picture of how group interaction dynamics influence the outcome.