Chapter 11. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
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By Stephani Sutherland Scientists have long known that once we nod off, certain memories grow stronger. One recent theory suggests that forgetting, too, is an essential function of sleep [see “Sleep's Secret Repairs,” by Jason Castro; Scientific American Mind, May/June 2012]. Researchers now suspect that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may emerge from flaws in sleep's forgetting process. Two studies presented at the 2012 meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans indicate that sleep might offer a window of opportunity for weakening memories and providing relief from lingering reminders of trauma. Neuroscientists believe that during sleep, a memory-elimination routine cleans out obsolete information by physically weakening synapses, the junctions between communicating neurons. Gina Poe, a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan, found in mice that for synapses to lose strength, levels of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline must drop. Noradrenaline levels typically fall during REM sleep in rodents and humans, but in people with PTSD the amount stays high throughout sleep. Normalizing noradrenaline with pharmaceuticals, Poe says, “could absolutely be a key target to actually cure PTSD through normal sleep.” In a separate experiment, researcher Asya Rolls of Stanford University hijacked memory remodeling in sleeping mice to make a traumatic association less scary. Rolls and her colleagues conditioned mice to fear the scent of jasmine flowers by pairing the smell with a foot shock. When the mice slept, they released a puff of jasmine. Under normal circumstances, the smell would reactivate and bolster the memory, a process that requires newly made structural proteins. The researchers gave some mice a drug that prevented the manufacture of these building blocks in a key fear-memory area. When these mice woke up, they no longer responded to the odor with fearful behavior, indicating that the memory had been successfully disrupted. The findings might someday translate to a new kind of sleep-based therapy in people whose traumatic experiences are tied to specific sounds and smells—such as the noise of a bomb going off—that can be presented to their sleeping brain. © 2013 Scientific American
By DENISE GRADY SAN FRANCISCO — Scientists are trained to be skeptics, and Elizabeth H. Blackburn considers herself one of the biggest. Show her the data, and be ready to defend it. But even though she relishes the give and take, Dr. Blackburn admits to impatience at times with the questions some scientists have raised about one of her ventures. “It’s just such a no-brainer, and yet people have such difficulty understanding it,” she said. At issue is a lab test that measures telomeres, stretches of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes and help keep cells from aging too soon. Unusually short telomeres may be a sign of illness, and Dr. Blackburn, who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine for her work on telomeres (TEEL-o-meers), thinks measuring them could give doctors and patients a chance to intervene early and maybe even prevent disease. A company she helped found expects to begin offering tests to the public later this year. Other researchers have raised doubts about the usefulness of the measurement, which does not diagnose a specific disease. But Dr. Blackburn, 64, a professor of biology and physiology at the University of California, San Francisco, says she has been convinced by a decade of data from her own team and others, linking short telomeres to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases, and to chronic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder. With studies that explore the connections among emotional stress, health and telomeres, she has delved into questions that she would have shied away from earlier in her career, as a woman trying to establish herself in science. But now, she has enough confidence and autonomy to follow the leads that intrigue her. The scope of her research has expanded tremendously, from a tight focus on molecular biology to broader questions about the implications of her work for health and public policy. © 2013 The New York Times Company
Steve Connor Fear may be felt in the heart as well as the head, according to a study that has found a link between the cycles of a beating heart and the likelihood of someone taking fright. Tests on healthy volunteers found that they were more likely to feel a sense of fear at the moment when their hearts are contracting and pumping blood around their bodies, compared with the point when the heartbeat is relaxed. Scientists say the results suggest that the heart is able to influence how the brain responds to a fearful event, depending on which point it is at in its regular cycle of contraction and relaxation. Sarah Garfinkel, a researcher at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, said: “We demonstrate for the first time that the way in which we process fear is different dependent on when we see fearful images in relation to our heart.” The study, to be presented today at the British Neuroscience Association Festival in London, tested the fear response of 20 healthy volunteers as they were shown images of fearful faces while connected to heart monitors. “Our results show that if we see a fearful face during systole – when the heart is pumping – then we judge this fearful face as more intense than if we see the very same fearful face during diastole – when the heart is relaxed,” Dr Garfinkel said. “From previous research, we know that if we present images very fast then we have trouble detecting them, but if an image is particularly emotional then it can ‘pop’ out and be seen. © independent.co.uk
Link ID: 17999 - Posted: 04.08.2013
By ANAHAD O'CONNOR Doctors have plenty of good reasons to persuade people with sleep apnea to get it treated. The widespread disorder causes disruptions in breathing at night, which can ruin sleep and raise the likelihood of problems like obesity and fatigue. The standard treatment for the condition, a mask worn at night that delivers continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, significantly improves apnea, even though many people don’t like to wear it. But the mask may do more than restore normal breathing at night. Some research suggests it reduces inflammation, benefiting overall health. Many studies have looked at the link between sleep apnea and high levels of inflammatory markers. To get a clearer picture of the connection, a team of researchers recently carried out a meta-analysis that pooled data from two dozen trials involving over 1,000 patients. It was published last month. The data suggested that treating apnea with CPAP significantly reduces levels of two proteins associated with inflammation: tumor necrosis factor and C-reactive protein, or CRP. Sleep apnea is a risk factor for several severe chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It’s not clear whether apnea helps drive the development of these disorders or vice versa. But reducing inflammation may be one way in which treatment with CPAP reverses some of the long-term consequences of the sleep disorder. THE BOTTOM LINE: Treating sleep apnea with positive airway pressure helps to lower systemic inflammation, which might prevent some of the other problems associated with the disorder. Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company
By Scicurious Much as we all like to think we’re modest, most of us really aren’t. We might try to be humble and say “we’re just some guy, you know?“, but most often, we actually think we’re better than average. Maybe we think we’re smarter, or better looking, or nicer, or maybe even all of the above. And it turns out that thinking we’re above average (even though, statistically, only half of us CAN be above average) is actually good for us. People who suffer from depression usually show a symptom called “depressive realism”. They actually see themselves MORE REALISTICALLY than other people do. And seeing yourself in the harsh light of reality…well it’s pretty depressing (you don’t really want to know how average you are in a sea of over 6 billion people. You don’t). Thinking that you are better than you actually are is sometimes called the Dunning-Kruger effect (though that usually refers specifically to how competent you think you are…when really you’re not), but in psychology it’s called the Superiority Illusion: the belief that you are better than average in any particular metric. But where does the superiority illusion come from? How do our brains give us this optimism bias? The authors of this study wanted to look at how our brain might give us the idea that we are better than the other guy. They were particularly interested in the connection between two areas of the brain, the frontal cortex, and the striatum. The frontal cortex does a lot of higher processing (things like sense of self), while the striatum is involved in things like feelings of reward. The connection between these two areas is called the fronto-striatal circuit. And the strength of that connection may mean something for how you think of yourself. While people who think well of themselves have relatively low connectivity in this circuit, people with depression have higher levels of connectivity. The two areas are MORE connected. © 2013 Scientific American
Link ID: 17976 - Posted: 04.02.2013
By DAVID W. DUNLAP Words of comfort, encouragement and empathy had been available to Nancy Lanza and her son, Adam, within a pair of books that were found by the police during a search of their home in Newtown, Conn., after Mr. Lanza’s murderous rampage on Dec. 14. “It’s the most widely read book about Asperger’s out there,” said Mr. Robison of his memoir. It is all but impossible to know if mother or son were helped by the books, “Look Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger’s” and “Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant,” or whether either opened, or even had use for, them. While those familiar with Mr. Lanza and his family have said he had an autism variant known as Asperger’s syndrome, investigators have not confirmed the diagnosis. “Look Me in the Eye” (2007), by John Elder Robison, and “Born on a Blue Day” (2006), by Daniel Tammet, are both memoirs that chronicle the painful chasm of misunderstanding that separates people with Asperger’s from the world around them. Both accounts turn hopeful as their writers grow comfortable in their own skins and more successful in communicating with others. That is why Mr. Robison, 55, said it might be expected that his book would have been found among the Lanzas’ belongings. “It’s the most widely read book about Asperger’s out there,” Mr. Robison said by telephone from his home in Amherst, Mass. “Hundreds, if not thousands, of parents have come to me in the years since that book was published to say, ‘Your stories have given me a window into the mind of my son or daughter.’ It’s not a surprise to see that book in the home of any family touched by autism.” The discovery is not entirely welcome, however, if it reinforces an imagined link between autism and violent crime — a link for which experts say there is no evidence. Americans have struggled for three and a half months to understand why Mr. Lanza killed first his mother, then 20 first graders and 6 educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, before taking his own life. © 2013 The New York Times Company
by Lizzie Wade Believe it or not, the gelada monkeys (Theropithecus gelada) on the right may be sharing a good laugh—and possibly the emotions that go along with it. Previously, only humans and orangutans had been shown to quickly and involuntarily mimic the facial expressions of their companions, an ability that seems to be linked to empathy. After spending months observing every playful interaction among the gelada population at Germany's NaturZoo, scientists are ready to add another, more distantly related species to that list. Geladas of all ages were more likely to mimic the play faces of their companions within 1 second of seeing them than they were to respond with a different kind of expression, according to a paper published by the team this week in Scientific Reports. What's more, the fastest and most frequent mimicry responses occurred between mothers and their infant offspring, like the pair pictured on the left. More research is required to determine if geladas are sharing emotional states in addition to facial expressions, but the team suggests that studying the quantity and quality of these mother-child interactions could provide a way forward. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science
Pregnant women who experienced financial, emotional, or other personal stress in the year before their delivery had an increased chance of having a stillbirth, say researchers who conducted a National Institutes of Health network study. Stillbirth is the death of a fetus at 20 or more weeks of pregnancy. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2006, there was one stillbirth for every 167 births External Web Site Policy. The researchers asked more than 2,000 women a series of questions, including whether they had lost a job or had a loved one in the hospital in the year before they gave birth. Whether or not the pregnancy ended in stillbirth, most women reported having experienced at least one stressful life event in the previous year. The researchers found that 83 percent of women who had a stillbirth and 75 percent of women who had a live birth reported a stressful life event. Almost 1 in 5 women with stillbirths and 1 in 10 women with livebirths in this study reported recently experiencing 5 or more stressful life events. This study measured the occurrence of a list of significant life events, and did not include the woman’s assessment of how stressful the event was to her. Women reporting a greater number of stressful events were more likely to have a stillbirth. Two stressful events increased a woman’s odds of stillbirth by about 40 percent, the researchers’ analysis showed. A woman experiencing five or more stressful events was nearly 2.5 times more likely to have a stillbirth than a woman who had experienced none. Women who reported three or four significant life event factors (financial, emotional, traumatic or partner-related) remained at increased risk for stillbirth after accounting for other stillbirth risk factors, such as sociodemographic characteristics and prior pregnancy history.
Link ID: 17962 - Posted: 03.28.2013
by Traci Watson You say you want to be alone? Think again. Researchers have found that older people with fewer human contacts are more likely to die—even if they're happy in their solitude—than are people with richer social lives. The study adds to the debate over whether loneliness, social isolation, or some combination of the two leads to higher mortality. Social isolation is an objective condition in which people have little interaction with others. Loneliness, on the other hand, is an emotional state felt by people who are dissatisfied with their social connections. "Someone who's socially isolated is likely to be lonely, and vice versa, but that's not completely the case," says epidemiologist and lead author Andrew Steptoe of University College London. To tease apart the effects of being alone versus just feeling lonely, Steptoe and his colleagues examined data from 6500 Britons aged 50 and up who had filled out questionnaires assessing their levels of loneliness. The researchers also tabulated the subjects' contacts with friends, family, religious groups, and other organizations to gauge their social connections. Then they counted how many subjects died over a 7-year period. The most socially isolated subjects had a 26% greater risk of dying, even when sex, age, and other factors linked to survival were accounted for, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They then tweaked their model to determine whether the connection to death was due to the fact that isolated people are often lonely. It wasn't. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science
Regina Nuzzo In a twist that evokes the dystopian science fiction of writer Philip K. Dick, neuroscientists have found a way to predict whether convicted felons are likely to commit crimes again from looking at their brain scans. Convicts showing low activity in a brain region associated with decision-making and action are more likely to be arrested again, and sooner. Kent Kiehl, a neuroscientist at the non-profit Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and his collaborators studied a group of 96 male prisoners just before their release. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the prisoners’ brains during computer tasks in which subjects had to make quick decisions and inhibit impulsive reactions. The scans focused on activity in a section of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a small region in the front of the brain involved in motor control and executive functioning. The researchers then followed the ex-convicts for four years to see how they fared. Among the subjects of the study, men who had lower ACC activity during the quick-decision tasks were more likely to be arrested again after getting out of prison, even after the researchers accounted for other risk factors such as age, drug and alcohol abuse and psychopathic traits. Men who were in the lower half of the ACC activity ranking had a 2.6-fold higher rate of rearrest for all crimes and a 4.3-fold higher rate for nonviolent crimes. The results are published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group
Philip Ball No one with even a passing interest in scientific trends will have failed to notice that the brain is the next big thing. It has been said for at least a decade, but now it’s getting serious — with, for example, the recent award by the European Commission of €500 million (US$646 million) to the Human Brain Project to build a new “infrastructure for future neuroscience” and a $1-billion initiative endorsed by President Obama. Having failed to ‘find ourselves’ in our genome, we’re starting a search in the grey matter. It’s a reasonable objective, but only if we have a clear idea of what we hope and expect to find. Some neuroscientists have grand visions, such as that adduced by Semir Zeki of University College London: “It is only by understanding the neural laws that dictate human activity in all spheres — in law, morality, religion and even economics and politics, no less than in art — that we can ever hope to achieve a more proper understanding of the nature of man.” Zeki heads the UCL Institute of Neuroesthetics. This is one of many fields that attaches ‘neuro’ to some human trait with the implication that the techniques of neuroscience, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, will explain it. We have neurotheology, neuroethics, neurocriminology and so on. Meanwhile, in popular media, a rash of books and articles proclaim (in a profoundly ugly trope) that “this is your brain on drugs/music/religion/sport”. It seems unlikely that studies of the brain will ever be able to wholly explain how we respond to art. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group
Joshua P. Johansen Anxiety does not arise from a single neural circuit. An interplay between neighbouring, yet opposing, circuits produces anxiety, and outputs from these circuits regulate specific anxiety responses. We all know anxiety. We might have experienced it while waiting to hear about a promotion at work, or on our way to see the doctor because she wants to talk about test results in person. A diffuse uneasiness, sometimes accompanied by perspiration and subtle changes in breathing, anxiety ebbs and flows depending on life's circumstances, and can even occur for no apparent reason. The condition can be healthy and adaptive, but research in the United States1 shows that, for roughly one-third of people, anxiety is a debilitating disorder at some point in their lives. Nevertheless, answers to important questions — such as how different neuronal populations represent anxiety, and how the various components of the anxious state are constructed and represented in neural circuits — remain elusive. In two papers published on Nature's website today, Jennings et al.2 and Kim et al.3 address these questions using optogenetics to manipulate distinct neuronal subpopulations in mice and so dissect out the contribution of intermixed but functionally distinct cell groups. Both teams analysed a large, diffuse brain region called the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). Previous studies4, 5, 6, 7 have found that lesions of the BNST reduce anxiety and fear of specific environments. Other work has discovered8, 9 distinct subregions and subpopulations of BNST neurons, and has found that the region has connections with several other brain areas that are involved in motivated behaviour and stress responses. However, the functions of the various BNST subpopulations and subregions, as well as the significance of these connections, have remained unclear. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group,
by Peter Aldhous Women abused in childhood are more likely to have children with autism, a new epidemiological study suggests. The finding adds a disturbing new dimension to the heated debate over the condition's underlying causes. Andrea Roberts of the Harvard School of Public Health suspected that there might be a link between childhood abuse and having an autistic child: women abused early in life are more likely to smoke, suffer from gestational diabetes and have premature babies – all factors that may affect fetal brain development. To investigate, Roberts and her colleagues turned to the Nurses' Health Study II, which includes almost 55,000 women who had indicated if they had a child with autism spectrum disorder and also answered a questionnaire about their experience of abuse as a child. This allowed the researchers to develop a scale rating all the women for the intensity of abuse in their childhood. There was a clear link between the "dose" of abuse received and the risk of having an autistic child. "The associations get stronger as the level of abuse increases," Roberts says. After accounting for demographic factors such as age and socioeconomic status, the 2 per cent of women who reported the most serious childhood abuse – who were frequently hit and also sexually abused – were about 3.5 times as likely to have a child with autism as those who reported no abuse at all. "I think it's a really interesting, innovative and well-conducted study," says Hannah Gardener at the University of Miami in Florida. "There aren't a lot of risk factors with that magnitude." © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
By Bruce Bower Malnutrition in the first year life, even when followed by a good diet and restored physical health, predisposes people to a troubled personality at age 40, new research suggests. The study of 77 formerly malnourished people represents the first evidence linking malnutrition shortly after birth to adult personality traits. The traits in some cases may foretell psychiatric problems, says a team led by psychiatrist Janina Galler of Harvard Medical School in Boston and psychologist Paul Costa of Duke University Medical Center in Durham. Compared with peers who were well-fed throughout their lives, formerly malnourished men and women reported markedly more anxiety, vulnerability to stress, hostility, mistrust of others, anger and depression, Galler’s team reports March 12 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Survivors of early malnutrition also cited relatively little intellectual curiosity, social warmth, cooperativeness and willingness to try new experiences and to work hard at achieving goals. Previous studies of people exposed prenatally to famine have reported increased rates of certain personality disorders and schizophrenia. Another investigation found that malnutrition at age 3 predisposed youngsters on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius to delinquent and aggressive behavior at ages 8, 11 and 17. As is true in the new study, distrust of others, anxiety and depression often accompany high levels of anger, says psychologist Adrian Raine of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who directed the Mauritius research. “Poor nutrition early in life seems to predispose individuals to a suspicious personality, which may then fuel a hostile attitude toward others,” Raine proposes. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013
by Sara Reardon When she returned from serving in the Gulf conflict in 1991, US Air Force nurse Denise Nichols experienced sudden aches, fatigue and cognitive problems, but had no idea 'what was causing them. They grew worse: even helping her daughter with multiplication tables became difficult, she says, and eventually she had to quit her job. Nichols wasn't alone. About a third of Gulf war veterans – possibly as many as 250,000 – returned with a similar set of symptoms. Now an imaging study has found that these veterans have what appear to be unique structural changes in the wiring of their brains. This fits with the scientific consensus that Gulf War syndrome (GWS) is a physical condition rather than a psychosomatic one, and should be treated with painkilling drugs instead of counselling. The military in various countries has in the past consistently denied that there is a physical basis to GWS. Although the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) now officially accepts that the disorder is physical, the issue has been mired in controversy. Earlier this month, Steven Coughlin, a former senior epidemiologist at the VA, testified to a Congressional panel that the VA had suppressed and manipulated research data so as to suggest that the disorder was psychosomatic. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
US researchers have found a link between working night shifts and the risk of ovarian cancer. A study of more than 3,000 women suggested that working overnight increased the risk of early-stage cancer by 49% compared with doing normal office hours. One possible explanation was disruption of the sleep hormone melatonin, the researchers said. But experts warned more work was needed and there might be other explanations. It does however follow an earlier association made between shift work and breast cancer. The International Agency for Cancer Research has previously identified working shift patterns that disrupt the body's natural "clock" as a probable cause of cancer. In the latest investigation, researchers looked at 1,101 women with advanced ovarian cancer, 389 with borderline or early disease and 1,832 women without the condition. Overall, a quarter with advanced cancer said they had worked night shifts, compared with a third of those with borderline disease and one in five of the control group. Analysis of the data showed a 24% increased risk of advanced cancer and 49% increased risk of early-stage disease for night workers compared with those who worked during the day. But the results were only significant for women over the age of 50, the researchers reported in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. And the risk did not seem to increase for those who had worked night shifts for the longest. BBC © 2013
By Scicurious I think we can all say that we prefer praise. I’d much rather be told that I was peerless and perspicacious than that I was a pathetic peripatetic. But whether we get praise or censure, as social humans we receive a lot of social feedback. People are always telling us, either directly or indirectly, how we are ‘doing’ socially, and how we are perceived. But getting that information, and what you do with it, are very different things indeed. And while we all like to think that we see our own good and bad points for what they are and take in criticism as well as praise….well, it turns out we’re a little biased in our own favor. When most studies want to look at things like social feedback or social processing, they often do fMRI studies with “games” that you play with other “people” (who aren’t real people, just a computer, but you don’t know that). But this has several disadvantages. First, you can’t rate people on various personality traits, you only know if you get socially accepted or rejected. And secondly, you can’t really get good social feedback from a computer. So to look at social feedback, the authors of this study had people meet each other in PERSON. On the first day, a group of five people who had never met before met in the lab to play an hour or so of Monopoly (hopefully if you’re only in the first hour you avoid a lot of the social rancor that I associate with my family’s Monopoly games). © 2013 Scientific American,
Link ID: 17903 - Posted: 03.15.2013
By Jon Lieff Traditionally, we have understood the immune system and the nervous system as two distinct and unrelated entities. The former fights disease by responding to pathogens and stimulating inflammation and other responses. The latter directs sensation, movement, cognition and the functions of the internal organs. For some, therefore, the recent discovery that left-sided brain lesions correlate with an increased rate of hospital infections is difficult to understand. However, other recent research into the extremely close relationship between these two systems makes this finding comprehensible. A study, published in the March 2013 issue of Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, looked at more than 2,000 hospital patients with brain lesions from either stroke or traumatic brain injury. They looked at how many of these brain-injured patients contracted infections within 2 to 3 days of admission. Of those patients who developed infections, 60% had left-sided lesions. The authors concluded that an unknown left-sided brain/immune network might influence infections. But why would the left side of the brain affect immunity? The nervous and immune systems are quite different in their speed and mode of action. The two major immune systems, innate and adaptive, are both wireless—they communicate through cell-to-cell contact, secreted signals, and antigen-antibody reactions. The innate system is the first responder, followed by the slower adaptive response. The nervous system, on the other hand, is wired for much more rapid communication throughout the body. It turns out that the two work surprisingly closely together. © 2013 Scientific American
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS For most people, exercise elevates mood. Repeated studies with humans and animals have shown that regular workouts can increase stress resistance, decrease anxiety, lessen symptoms of depression and generally leave people cheerful. But what if someone sincerely dislikes exercise and works out only under a kind of emotional duress, deeming that he or she must do so, perhaps because a doctor or worried spouse has ordered it? In that case, which is hardly uncommon, does the stress of being, in effect, forced to exercise reduce or cancel out the otherwise sturdy emotional benefits of physical activity? That issue has been of considerable interest to exercise scientists for some time, particularly those who work with animals, since in some experiments, animals are required to exercise at intensities or for durations that they don’t control. Such intense exercise greatly increases their stress, as measured by certain behaviors and by physiological markers like increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. But no study had directly compared the emotional effects of forced and voluntary exercise on anxiety and emotional resilience. So scientists at the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Colorado at Boulder recently decided to conduct one. They began by gathering a group of healthy adult male rats of a type that generally enjoys running. Then they gave some of the animals access to unlocked running wheels and let them exercise whenever and for as long as they liked. The exercise was fully under the animals’ control. Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company
Link ID: 17899 - Posted: 03.13.2013
By NICHOLAS BAKALAR Some studies have suggested that the risk factors for violence by people with mental illness are the same as those in the general population. But a new study finds that anger, coupled with psychotic delusions, may be the most significant factor in violence committed by people with mental illness. British researchers, writing online last week in JAMA Psychiatry, studied 458 patients ages 18 to 64 who had had a first episode of psychosis. Most patients were nonviolent, 26.4 percent were involved in minor violence, and 11.8 percent in violent acts using weapons or resulting in injury. Those who were violent were more likely to be younger men and to use illicit drugs, but they did not differ from the nonviolent in social class, unemployment or alcohol use. The researchers found no difference between violent and nonviolent patients with regard to feelings of elation, fear or anxiety. People with depression were less violent. But after adjusting for other health and socioeconomic variables, the researchers found that delusions accompanied by anger were present far more often among the violent patients. “If patients are not angry, the delusions themselves don’t cause a problem,” said the lead author, Dr. Jeremy W. Coid, a professor of psychiatry at Queen Mary University of London. “An area for future research is, ‘What do you need to do to make your patient safe again? Do you treat the delusions, the anger or both?’ ” Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company