‘The young are heated by nature as drunken men by wine.”
Aristotle made that observation 2,300 years ago, and since then, not much has changed about the way the adolescent brain behaves. But these days, researchers are beginning to understand exactly why a teenager’s brain is so tempestuous, and what biological factors may make teens’ brains vulnerable to mood disorders, substance abuse, and suicide.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens 15 to 19 years old, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentage of high school students who reported seriously considering suicide increased from 14 percent in 2009 to 16 percent in 2011. Locally, the city of Newton is reeling from the suicide of Roee Grutman, 17, a high school junior, in February, the third suicide in a single school year. The towns of Needham and New Bedford have experienced similar spates of teen suicides in recent years.
Misconceptions about teen suicide abound, says Dr. Barry N. Feldman, director of psychiatric programs in public safety at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and a suicide prevention expert who has worked with many Massachusetts high schools.
Neither bullying, pressure to succeed in sports or academics, nor minority sexual orientation can cause suicide, he says, but are among a number of possible risk factors. “If you focus too much on just bullying or sexual orientation, you take your eye off the underlying vulnerability a kid may have,” Feldman says.
Suicide is typically caused by a constellation of risk factors and underlying vulnerabilities. “It’s an attempt to solve a problem of intense pain with impaired problem-solving skills,” he says.
Researchers have long known that the basic problem with the teenage brain is the “asymmetric” or unbalanced way the brain develops, said Dr. Timothy Wilens, a child psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital specializing in adolescents, addictions, and attention deficit disorder.
The hippocampus and amygdala, which Wilens calls the “sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll” part of the brain, feels and stores emotions and is associated with impulses. It matures well ahead of the section of the brain that regulates those emotions and impulses, the prefrontal cortex.
Throughout the teenage years and up until about age 25, this executive section of the brain, also responsible for planning and decision, lags behind, Wilens says.
Until the front part of the brain catches up, if kids get sad, “they really experience sadness un-tethered.” He adds. “It’s why first love really does break the heart.”
It’s during this period of brain development that kids often act out based on their moods, get involved in substance abuse, and when they may be at a heightened risk to commit suicide, Wilens says. This is also when adolescents have a higher susceptibility to psychiatric disorders including depression, drug addiction, and schizophrenia.
Dr. Mai Uchida, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Mass. General, is leading two joint studies at the MGH Biederman Lab and the Gabrieli Lab at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology that are searching for biomarkers to identify the underlying vulnerability in teens. The studies are funded by The Tommy Fuss Fund, which memorializes a Belmont Hill teen who committed suicide in 2006.
Just as hypertension and high cholesterol are biomarkers for heart attack, mood disorders are indicators of kids at risk for suicide, Uchida said.
In a healthy teen, even though brain structure is unbalanced, the developing prefrontal cortex still should be communicating and working in concert with the brain section that feels and stores emotion, according to Uchida.
In one of the studies, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to compare the brains of 38 children between the ages of 8 and 14 who had a parent with a depressive disorder with a control group of 25 children with no genetic predisposition.
Looking at the brains while the children were in a resting state the researchers saw less synchronized activation between the amygdala and the medial prefrontal cortex in the kids who had a genetic predisposition for depressive disorder than in the control group.
The fact that these two brain regions are not activating together could be a potential biomarker, indicating vulnerability for potential mental or mood disorders.
In the second study — in which 62 subjects between ages 18 and 24 were given pictures of people crying and asked to think about a positive way to interpret the picture — the subjects who could not spin a positive narrative also showed less connectivity between the brain regions.
“These deficits could represent a unique biological vulnerability that puts youth at risk for depression and suicide,” Uchida said.
Uchida and her team are currently readying these two studies for publication. She says there is a lot more work to do, but she is hopeful the results might eventually lead to early-intervention screening.
In a study published in December, researchers at the Douglas Institute Research Centre affiliated with McGill University identified the gene known as DCC as having a possible role during the maturation of the prefrontal cortex and in healthy brain connectivity.
Higher function or expression of DCC appears to be associated with a greater risk of psychiatric disorders, depression, and suicide, according to Cecilia Flores, a professor of psychiatry at McGill and lead author of the study.
“We are very excited to discover the function of this gene,” she said. Experiments in mice also showed that DCC gene function could be altered by both positive and negative experiences, and influences behaviors later in a rodent’s adult life. If the results translate to humans, Flores said, it offers hope that early therapy and support during the critical time in adolescent brain development could have long-term positive impact.
Wilens says that one of the most useful early interventions for adolescents who might have depression, mood, or attention deficit disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy, a non-pharmaceutical approach that can help teach kids how thoughts and thought patterns influence behaviors.
These are areas in which kids are lacking because of the imbalance of brain development, and could assist them in making better connections between what they are feeling and what they are thinking.
“It helps put it all together and has a component that gets you to stop doing something that may harm you,” Wilens said.
Feldman encourages parents and school systems to create protective “buffers” — a caring relationship with an adult, whether that is a parent, guardian, teacher, or someone in the community. UMass Medical is currently collaborating with the Department of Public Health and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to train school personnel to develop comprehensive programs that include suicide intervention and prevention.
And parents and students are urged to take the warning signs of a troubled and potentially suicidal teen seriously. “Don’t casually dismiss signs as a cry for help,” Feldman says. Teens at risk for suicide should be taken to a hospital emergency room or somewhere where they can get immediate mental health services. “Don’t make an appointment for a doctor down the road.”
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Norton is a solid choice, thanks to its excellent detection rate and polished, touchscreen-friendly interface.
Norton Internet Security 2014 ($80 for one year of protection on up to three PCs) looks great—and it offers excellent protection against all threats. Internet Security 2014 also provides mobile security, comprehensive parental controls, and system insights, so advanced users can track their PCs’ performance. But Symantec’s suite isn’t perfect: Its menus, settings, and features are geared a little more toward advanced users than toward security newbies.
In our protection tests, Norton Internet Security 2014 was excellent, on a par with Eset Smart Security 7, F-Secure Internet Security 2014, Kaspersky Internet Security 2014, and Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2014. Norton successfully defended our test systems against all zero-day malware attacks and all zoo malware assaults. Norton’s algorithms didn’t block or erroneously warn against any safe websites, nor did it flag any legitimate software as dangerous.
In AV-Test’s performance test, Norton received a mark of 8, tied with Eset Smart Security 7 for the highest mark among the ten suites in in our roundup, and an indication that you can expect to see a significant performance hit—slower startup and shutdown times and lag when opening and installing programs—when the software is running.
Norton Internet Security 2014's interface is easy to navigate.
Installing Norton is a breeze, unless you have other security suites on your system (including trial versions). You must uninstall other antivirus programs before you can proceed with your Norton installation. Fortunately, Norton lets you uninstall incompatible programs from within its installer. The uninstalling process may require a restart, but a straight Norton installation does not.
Norton’s interface blends perfectly with Windows 8, with large buttons and toggles instead of tiny checkboxes. The main screen presents you with four large squares, for status (colored bright green if you’re protected, and red if you’re not), scanning, updating the malware library, and access to advanced settings such as network protection and parental controls. Along the top of the window are text links to other settings and services.
The settings menu is clearly designed for relatively advanced users. When you click the little question-mark boxes next to certain items, you jump to explanations on Symantec’s main support site, but Inline explanations—like those used in Kaspersky’s security suite—would have provided a more seamless experience.
Norton Internet Security offers excellent protection, albeit at some cost to PC performance. Its polished, touchscreen-friendly interface is a plus, but it isn’t especially accessible to novices.
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For the tech industry, 2014 will mean out with the old and in with the new.
The shifting technology landscape, which is favoring cloud computing and Big Data analytics, has fostered a new set of influential tech companies and forced old-guard tech giants to rethink their businesses.
The big trends of 2014 will build on the paradigm-changing technologies of recent years, including cloud, mobile and social.
What follows are five big trends to watch in the tech industry in 2014.
Greater corporate use of cloud computing services will drag down revenue growth for information technology hardware and software suppliers in 2014, Barclays said in its year-ahead outlook.
"We believe the deflationary impact from the cloud ($1 spent on cloud infrastructure actually results in several dollars coming out of other IT end markets) should prevent IT spending from growing meaningfully in 2014 and 2015," Barclays said. "We believe global IT spending will remain challenged in the lower-single-digit growth range."
The cloud computing shift is boosting the fortunes of cloud service companies such asAmazon.com (AMZN) at the expense of traditional tech hardware and service outfits like Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), IBM (IBM) and Oracle (ORCL).
Companies and other enterprises increasingly are paying for computing resources as a service over the Internet rather than buying their on-premise IT hardware, including servers and data storage gear. The desire to save money and boost efficiency is behind the corporate adoption of cloud services.
Meanwhile, pricing battles are going to get more intense this year in the infrastructure-as-a-service market, industry officials say.
Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) are going to compete aggressively with Amazon Web Services for market share.
"Not only is this a battle for market dominance; it reflects the nature of cloud computing: a capital-intensive industry in which maintaining high utilization is critical," Bernard Golden, CEO of consulting firm Hyper Stratus, wrote last month in CIO magazine. In 2014, "the cloud computing market will look a lot like the airline industry — great for customers, but perilous for providers."
Price battles could turn into price wars in the cloud infrastructure market, according to Derrick Wlodarz, owner of technology consulting and service company Fire Logic of Park Ridge, Ill.
"The past few years have been nothing but posturing by the big boys," he wrote on Beta News last month.
Electric meters, sensors, surveillance cameras, cars and other devices will be connected to the Internet and automatically do things on behalf of humans, Perkins said: "This Internet of things also means the cloud is more important than ever. The cloud provides the central hub for all of these devices, as well as context about the user that can be tapped into and shared to make the product or service better."
From phishing scams to stolen credit cards to crashing websites, crooks are out in full force on the popular Cyber Monday online shopping day, trying to get a big score of their own.
Online fraud on Cyber Monday is estimated to cost as much as $8,000 per minute, according to a recent survey by the Ponemon Institute and RSA, the security division of EMC (NYSE: EMC ) .
Here are three of the most common dangers shoppers and retailers face.
Phishing -- an email, text message, or social media message that looks like it's from a friend or trusted business but is instead a scam -- is a favorite method of crooks. According to USA Today, the thieves expect as many as 1 in 10 of us to fall for the fake message and click the links inside.
On Cyber Monday, these messages may offer special prices if you enter your payment information on the page you're directed to. Sometimes just clicking the link is enough to trigger an attack -- which happened recently with phishing emails that resembled delivery confirmations from UPS (NYSE: UPS ) and FedEx (NYSE: FDX ) .
So-called "fraud alerts" that appear to be from your card issuer are also popular this time of year, and we're more susceptible to them since we tend to be charging more -- American Express (NYSE: AXP ) cardholders were recently targeted.
What to do: Be very suspicious of links in emails unless you're positive they are legit. If you aren't sure, call the company directly (type its URL directly into your browser to find customer service contact info) to verify the information.
It's surprisingly easy to pass off a fraudulent website off as one from a popular retailer. You may come across these fake sites through phishing scams or while searching the Web for deals. (Hint: Don't search terms like "Cyber Monday deals," which are rife with scams.)
The easiest way to avoid these is to go directly to your favorite retailers' sites through your browser, and not through email or search results. If that's not possible -- say you're looking for a hard-to-find item and don't know which sellers to try -- then take a very close look at the link before you click.
PC magazine's Security Watch blog recommends typing links in unsolicited emails or messages into getlinkinfo.org, which will show you where the link actually goes. If it shows a long list of redirects, or any URL on the list looks suspect, you'll know it's probably fake.
What to do: Watch for the "s" -- when entering any kind of payment, the URL should start with "https" and display a padlock icon.
Fake apps are popping up more often -- even on legitimate app stores, such as Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG ) Google Play store. No matter how vigilant Google is at removing malicious apps, more crop up, so be on the lookout for anything at all that doesn't match up.
Help Net Security Managing Editor Zeljka Zorz recommends checking the name of the app developer to make sure it matches. "If it's not the same as that of the company that creates the product, it's a fake and probably malicious," Zorz writes.
What to do: Never download an app from anywhere other than your device's app store. Even then, as Android users have seen, that's no guarantee of safety. Be sure to read any available reviews and check out the developer's site as well, to make sure everything looks kosher.
There are a lot of great deals out there on Cyber Monday -- and a lot of bad guys, too. A little vigilance can make sure your shopping score doesn't come with a scam.
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The Death of the PC
The days of paying for costly software upgrades are numbered. The PC will soon be obsolete. And BusinessWeek reports 70% of Americans are already using the technology that will replace it. Merrill Lynch calls it "a $160 billion tsunami." Computing giants including IBM, Yahoo!, and Amazon are racing to be the first to cash in on this PC-killing revolution. Yet, a small group of little-known companies have a huge head start. Get the full details on these companies, and the technology that is destroying the PC, in a free video from The Motley Fool. Enter your email address below to view this stunning video.
The Next Industry To Crumble...
Imagine owning Amazon.com (up over an insane 4,000% since 2001) when Internet sales rendered big-box retailers obsolete...
Or Apple (up over a mindboggling 6,000% since 2004) when smartphones made landlines irrelevant.
Now an industry 99% of us use daily is set to implode... And 3 established companies are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this game-changing economic shift. That's why I urge you to click below to find out which industry is going the way of the dinosaur... and how YOU can take advantage.