Tag Archives: Université de Montréal

Nighttime Sleep Boosts Infant Skills

At ages 1 and 1-1/2, children who get most of their sleep at night (as opposed to during the day) do better in a variety of skill areas than children who don’t sleep as much at night.

That’s the finding of a new longitudinal study conducted by researchers at the University of Montreal and the University of Minnesota. The research appears in the November/December 2010 issue of the journal Child Development.

The study, of 60 Canadian children at ages 1, 1-1/2, and 2, looked at the effects of infants‘ sleep on executive functioning. Among children, executive functioning includes the ability to control impulses, remember things, and show mental flexibility. Executive functioning develops rapidly between ages 1 and 6, but little is known about why certain children are better than others at acquiring these skills.

“We found that infants’ sleep is associated with cognitive functions that depend on brain structures that develop rapidly in the first two years of life,” explains Annie Bernier, professor of psychology at the University of Montreal, who led the study. “This may imply that good nighttime sleep in infancy sets in motion a cascade of neural effects that has implications for later executive skills.”

When the infants were 1 year old and 1-1/2 years old, their mothers filled out three-day sleep diaries that included hour-by-hour patterns, daytime naps, and nighttime wakings. When the children were 1-1/2 and 2, the researchers measured how the children did on the skills involved with executive functioning.

Children who got most of their sleep during the night did better on the tasks, especially those involving impulse control. The link between sleep and the skills remained, even after the researchers took into consideration such factors as parents’ education and income and the children’s general cognitive skills. The number of times infants woke at night and the total time spent sleeping were not found to relate to the infants’ executive functioning skills.

“These findings add to previous research with school-age children, which has shown that sleep plays a role in the development of higher-order cognitive functions that involve the brain’s prefrontal cortex,” according to Bernier.

Source : Elements4Health

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Meditate Your Pain Away

Zen meditation – a centuries-old practice that helps people gain mental, physical and emotional balance – can keep pain at bay

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Universite de Montreal researchers.

According to a Psychosomatic Medicine study, Zen meditators have lower pain sensitivity both in and out of a meditative state compared to non-meditators. Along with Pierre Rainville, a professor and researcher at the Université de Montréal, Joshua A. Grant, a doctoral student in the Department of Physiology co-authored the paper.

The main aim of the study was to examine whether trained meditators perceived pain differently than non-meditators. “While previous studies have shown that teaching chronic pain patients to meditate is beneficial, very few studies have looked at pain processing in healthy, highly trained meditators. This study was a first step in determining how or why meditation might influence pain perception,” says Grant.

To reach the conclusion, the scientists recruited 13 Zen meditators with a minimum of 1,000 hours of practice to undergo a pain test and contrasted their reaction with 13 non-meditators. Subjects included 10 women and 16 men between the ages of 22 to 56.

The administered pain test was simple: A thermal heat source, a computer controlled heating plate, was pressed against the calves of subjects intermittently at varying temperatures. Heat levels began at 43 degrees Celsius and went to a maximum of 53 degrees Celsius depending on each participant’s sensitivity. While quite a few of the meditators tolerated the maximum temperature, all control subjects were well below 53 degrees Celsius.

Grant and Rainville noticed a marked difference in how their two test groups reacted to pain testing – Zen meditators had much lower pain sensitivity (even without meditating) compared to non-meditators. During the meditation-like conditions it appeared meditators further reduced their pain partly through slower breathing: 12 breaths per minute versus an average of 15 breaths for non-meditators.

“Slower breathing certainly coincided with reduced pain and may influence pain by keeping the body in a relaxed state. While previous studies have found that the emotional aspects of pain are influenced by meditation, we found that the sensation itself, as well as the emotional response, is different in meditators,” Grant said.

The ultimate result was that Zen meditators experienced an 18 per cent reduction in pain intensity.

Source:The Times Of India