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Ian Sample Science editor A man who was paralysed from the neck down in an accident more than a decade ago has written sentences using a computer system that turns imagined handwriting into words. It is the first time scientists have created sentences from brain activity linked to handwriting and paves the way for more sophisticated devices to help paralysed people communicate faster and more clearly. The man, known as T5, who is in his 60s and lost practically all movement below his neck after a spinal cord injury in 2007, was able to write 18 words a minute when connected to the system. On individual letters, his “mindwriting” was more than 94% accurate. Frank Willett, a research scientist on the project at Stanford University in California, said the approach opened the door to decoding other imagined actions, such as 10-finger touch typing and attempted speech for patients who had permanently lost their voices. “Instead of detecting letters, the algorithm would be detecting syllables, or rather phonemes, the fundamental unit of speech,” he said. Amy Orsborn, an expert in neural engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not involved in the work, called it “a remarkable advance” in the field. Scientists have developed numerous software packages and devices to help paralysed people communicate, ranging from speech recognition programs to the muscle-driven cursor system created for the late Cambridge cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who used a screen on which a cursor automatically moved over the letters of the alphabet. To select one, and to build up words, he simply tensed his cheek. © 2021 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Brain imaging; Robotics
Link ID: 27822 - Posted: 05.15.2021

By Gina Kolata Obesity has stalked Marleen Greenleaf, 58, all of her life. Like most people with obesity, she tried diet after diet. But the weight always came back. With that, she has suffered a lifetime of scorn and stigma. Jeering comments from strangers when she walked down the street. Family members who told her, when she trained for a half-marathon, “I don’t think it’s good for you.” Then, in 2018, Ms. Greenleaf, an administrator at a charter school in Washington, D.C., participated in a clinical trial for semaglutide, which is a new type of obesity drug, known as incretins. Over the course of the 68-week study, Ms. Greenleaf slowly lost 40 pounds. Until then, she had always believed that she could control her weight if she really tried. “I thought I just needed more motivation,” she said. But when she took semaglutide, she said that “immediately, the urge to eat just dissipated.” Incretins appear to elicit significant weight loss in most patients, enough to make a real medical and aesthetic difference. But experts hope that the drugs also do something else: change how society feels about people with obesity, and how people with obesity feel about themselves. If these new drugs allow obesity to be treated like a chronic disease — with medications that must be taken for a lifetime — the thought is that doctors, patients and the public might understand that obesity is truly a medical condition. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 27821 - Posted: 05.15.2021

Rebecca Brooker & Tristin Nyman Even before the pandemic, there was plenty for expectant mothers to worry about. Pregnant women must withstand a barrage of arguably well-intentioned, but often hyperbolic, warnings about their health and what’s to come, including concerns about everything from what to eat, to what to wear, to how to feel. Health professionals know that mothers-to-be experience predictable increases in anxiety levels before infants are born. Maternal mental health has been steadily deteriorating in the U.S., particularly among poor and minority women. The calls to “be afraid, be very afraid” are, of course, countered by the equally strong cautions for pregnant women to not worry too much, lest it lead to long-term negative outcomes for them and their infants. Such warnings are not entirely off base. Maternal stress hormones cross the placenta and affect the vulnerable fetus. Fetal exposure to the stress hormone cortisol has been linked to an array of negative outcomes, including miscarriage and preterm birth, and irritable temperament for the child and increased risk of emotional problems during childhood. One thing researchers know is that anxious mothers tend to have anxious children. This common, albeit not prescriptive, phenomenon is likely due to numerous factors, both pre- and postpartum. In our laboratory, we focus on what happens when women start their pregnancies already worried or anxious and what clues we can uncover about how to help them and their children. Our research suggests that worry during pregnancy can have long-term impacts on how mothers’ brains communicate – but also that there might be some simple steps that can help rein in the effects. © 2010–2021, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 27820 - Posted: 05.15.2021

By Sofia Moutinho There’s no 9-to-5 for female northern elephant seals. After the winter breeding season, the animals spend more than 19 hours—and up to 24 hours—per day hunting in the northern Pacific Ocean, killing up to 2000 small fish daily to survive, according to a new study of these elusive animals. The work, made possible by cameras and devices attached to the seals’ heads, could also help scientists monitor other deep-ocean life. “This study is fascinating,” says Jeremy Goldbogen, a marine biologist at Stanford University who was not part of the research. “The advanced technology provides unprecedented levels of detail on where and when the elephant seals forage in a deep, dark ocean.” Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) are mysterious animals. They appear onshore, on some Pacific Coast beaches, only twice a year: in late December or early January to mate or give birth, and about 2 months later to shed their fur. They spend the rest of their time, almost 10 months, fishing. Males, which can weigh up to 2 tons—about the weight of a small truck—hunt big fish close to the coast. Females, which are only about one-third of the size, hunt smaller fish in a deep-sea region known as the twilight zone. To get food from the zone, which reaches depths of 1500 meters, the females must hold their breath for up to 1.5 hours. “The physiological challenges that these animals face to meet their daily energetic demand is an extraordinary feat,” Goldbogen says. To find out how the females survive on the small fish—some of which are just 2 centimeters long—Japanese and U.S. researchers attached infrared video cameras with depth sensors to the heads of 48 female elephant seals. They also attached GPS trackers and a special device that could count every time a seal opened its mouth. (The researchers called their device the Kami Kami Logger, after the Japanese sound for biting, similar to the English “chomp chomp.”) © 2021 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 27819 - Posted: 05.15.2021

Linda Geddes It’s a common enough scenario: you walk into your local supermarket to buy some milk, but by the time you get to the till, the milk bottle has turned into a talking fish. Then you remember you’ve got your GCSE maths exam in the morning, but you haven’t attended a maths lesson for nearly three decades. Dreams can be bafflingly bizarre, but according to a new theory of why we dream, that’s the whole point. By injecting some random weirdness into our humdrum existence, dreams leave us better equipped to cope with the unexpected. The question of why we dream has long divided scientists. Dreams’ subjective nature, and the lack of any means of recording them, makes it fiendishly difficult to prove why they occur, or even how they differ between individuals. “While various hypotheses have been put forward, many of these are contradicted by the sparse, hallucinatory, and narrative nature of dreams, a nature that seems to lack any particular function,” said Erik Hoel, a research assistant professor of neuroscience at Tufts University in Massachusetts, US. Inspired by recent insights into how machine “neural networks” learn, Hoel has proposed an alternative theory: the overfitted brain hypothesis. © 2021 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 27818 - Posted: 05.15.2021

By Andrew Jacobs It’s been a long, strange trip in the four decades since Rick Doblin, a pioneering psychedelics researcher, dropped his first hit of acid in college and decided to dedicate his life to the healing powers of mind-altering compounds. Even as antidrug campaigns led to the criminalization of Ecstasy, LSD and magic mushrooms, and drove most researchers from the field, Dr. Doblin continued his quixotic crusade with financial help from his parents. Dr. Doblin’s quest to win mainstream acceptance of psychedelics took a significant leap forward on Monday when the journal Nature Medicine published the results of his lab’s study on MDMA, the club drug popularly known as Ecstasy and Molly. The study, the first Phase 3 clinical trial conducted with psychedelic-assisted therapy, found that MDMA paired with counseling brought marked relief to patients with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. The results, coming weeks after a New England Journal of Medicine study that highlighted the benefits of treating depression with psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, have excited scientists, psychotherapists and entrepreneurs in the rapidly expanding field of psychedelic medicine. They say it is only a matter of time before the Food and Drug Administration grants approval for psychoactive compounds to be used therapeutically — for MDMA as soon as 2023, followed by psilocybin a year or two later. After decades of demonization and criminalization, psychedelic drugs are on the cusp of entering mainstream psychiatry, with profound implications for a field that in recent decades has seen few pharmacological advancements for the treatment of mental disorders and addiction. The need for new therapeutics has gained greater urgency amid a national epidemic of opioid abuse and suicides. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 27817 - Posted: 05.12.2021

By Daniela Kaufer, Alon Friedman It was the middle of the night in Jerusalem, and we were watching mice swim. The year was 1994, and the two of us were crouching over a pool of cold water in a laboratory at the Hebrew University. The room was chilly, our hunched backs ached, and we had been repeating this routine over many nights, so we were tired and uncomfortable. So were the mice. Mice really dislike swimming, especially in cold water—but we wanted to stress them out. We humans were on the night shift because both of us had other things to do during the day. Kaufer was working on a doctorate in molecular neurobiology, and Friedman was an Israel Defense Forces physician and was often on call. What brought us together with the mice every evening was an attempt to understand a medical mystery: Gulf War syndrome. After the conflict ended in 1991, there were an increasing number of reports of soldiers from the U.S.-led coalition who were afflicted with chronic fatigue, muscle pain, sleep problems and cognitive deterioration, and those soldiers were hospitalized at higher rates than nondeployed veterans. Some doctors suspected that pyridostigmine, a drug that had been given to soldiers to protect them from chemical weapons, could cause these ailments if it made it into their brains. There was a big problem with this theory, however: pyridostigmine in the bloodstream was not supposed to reach the brain. Blood vessels that course through this vital organ have walls made of specialized cells, packed very closely and with abilities to control what can get in and out. They form a shield that keeps toxins, pathogens such as bacteria, and most drugs safely within the vessels. This structure is called the blood-brain barrier, or BBB for short, and the drug should not have been able to pass through it. © 2021 Scientific American

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 27816 - Posted: 05.12.2021

Rob Stein Carlene Knight would love to do things that most people take for granted, such as read books, drive a car, ride a bike, gaze at animals in a zoo and watch movies. She also longs to see expressions on people's faces. "To be able to see my granddaughter especially — my granddaughter's face," said Knight, 54, who lives outside Portland, Ore. "It would be huge." Michael Kalberer yearns to be able to read a computer screen so he could get back to work as a social worker. He also hopes to one day watch his nieces and nephews play soccer instead of just listening to them, and move around in the world without help. But that's not all. "Maybe be able to — as romantically poetic as this sounds — see a sunset again, see a smile on somebody's face again. It's the little things that I miss," said Kalberer, 43, who lives on Long Island in New York. Kalberer and Knight are two of the first patients treated in a landmark study designed to try to restore vision to patients such as them, who suffer from a rare genetic disease. The study involves the revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR, which allows scientists to make precise changes in DNA. Doctors think CRISPR could help patients fighting many diseases. It's already showing promise for blood disorders such as sickle cell disease and is being tested for several forms of cancer. But in those experiments, doctors take cells out of the body, edit them in the lab and then infuse the genetically edited cells back into patients. © 2021 npr

Keyword: Vision; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 27815 - Posted: 05.12.2021

By Nikk Ogasa Most Uber drivers need a smartphone to get to their destinations. But sharks, it seems, need nothing more than their own bodies—and Earth’s magnetic field. A new study suggests some sharks can read Earth’s field like a map and use it to navigate the open seas. The result adds sharks to the long list of animals—including birds, sea turtles, and lobsters—that navigate with a mysterious magnetic sense. “It’s great that they’ve finally done this magnetic field study on sharks,” says Michael Winklhofer, a biophysicist at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg in Germany, who was not involved in the study. In 2005, scientists reported that a great white shark swam from South Africa to Australia and back again in nearly a straight line—a feat that led some scientists to propose the animals relied on a magnetic sense to steer themselves. And since at least the 1970s, researchers have suspected that the elasmobranchs—a group of fish containing sharks, rays, skates, and sawfish—can detect magnetic fields. But no one had shown that sharks use the fields to locate themselves or navigate, partly because the animals aren’t so easy to work with, Winklhofer says. “It’s one thing if you have a small lobster, or a baby sea turtle, but when you work with sharks, you have to upscale everything.” Bryan Keller, an ecologist at Florida State University, and his colleagues decided to do just that. The researchers lined a bedroom-size cage with copper wire and placed a small swimming pool in the center of the cage. By running an electrical current through the wiring, they could generate a custom magnetic field in the center of the pool. The team then collected 20 juvenile bonnethead sharks—a species known to migrate hundreds of kilometers—from a shoal off the Florida coast. They placed the sharks into the pool, one at a time, and let them swim freely under three different magnetic fields, applied in random succession. One field mimicked Earth’s natural field at the spot where the sharks were collected, whereas the others mimicked the fields at locations 600 kilometers north and 600 kilometers south of their homes. © 2021 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Migration
Link ID: 27814 - Posted: 05.12.2021

By Lisa Sanders, M.D. “I can’t move my legs,” the 26-year-old man told his younger brother, who towered above him as he lay sprawled on the floor. He’d been on his computer for hours, he explained, and when he tried to stand up, he couldn’t. His legs looked normal, felt normal, yet they wouldn’t move. At first, he figured his legs must have fallen asleep. He pulled himself up, leaning on his desk, and slowly straightened until he was standing. He could feel the weight on his feet and knees. He let go of the desk and commanded his legs to move. Instead, they buckled, and he landed on the floor with a thud. His brother awkwardly pulled him onto the bed. Then they waited. Surely this weird paralysis would disappear just as suddenly as it came. An hour passed, then two. I’m calling an ambulance, the younger brother announced finally. Reluctantly, the elder agreed. He was embarrassed to be this helpless but worried enough to want help. When the E.M.T.s arrived, they were as confused as the brothers. The medics asked what the young man had been up to. Nothing bad, he assured them. For the past few weeks he had been getting back into shape. He changed his diet, cut out the junk and was drinking a protein concoction that was supposed to help him build muscle. And he was working out hard every day. He’d lost more than 20 pounds, he added proudly. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Movement Disorders; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 27813 - Posted: 05.12.2021

By Charles Q. Choi With the help of headsets and backpacks on mice, scientists are using light to switch nerve cells on and off in the rodents’ brains to probe the animals’ social behavior, a new study shows. These remote control experiments are revealing new insights on the neural circuitry underlying social interactions, supporting previous work suggesting minds in sync are more cooperative, researchers report online May 10 in Nature Neuroscience. The new devices rely on optogenetics, a technique in which researchers use bursts of light to activate or suppress the brain nerve cells, or neurons, often using tailored viruses to genetically modify cells so they respond to illumination (SN: 1/15/10). Scientists have used optogenetics to probe neural circuits in mice and other lab animals to yield insights on how they might work in humans (SN: 10/22/19). Optogenetic devices often feed light to neurons via fiber-optic cables, but such tethers can interfere with natural behaviors and social interactions. While scientists recently developed implantable wireless optogenetic devices, these depend on relatively simple remote controls or limited sets of preprogrammed instructions. These new fully implantable optogenetic arrays for mice and rats can enable more sophisticated research. Specifically, the researchers can adjust each device’s programming during the course of experiments, “so you can target what an animal does in a much more complex way,” says Genia Kozorovitskiy, a neurobiologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2021.

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 27812 - Posted: 05.12.2021

Diana Kwon Two pharmaceutical companies have halted clinical trials of gene-targeting therapies for Huntington’s disease (HD), following the drugs’ disappointing performance. Researchers had hoped that the treatments — known as antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) — would be a game changer for HD, an incurable genetic condition that affects cognition, behaviour and movement. But back-to-back announcements from Roche, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, and Wave Life Sciences, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have dealt a crushing blow to those affected by the disease. “I was really shocked, really tearful,” says Marion, a woman in London with HD, who was part of one of the trials. “We didn’t see it coming at all. I felt really frightened and worried about my future.” Marion requested that her last name be withheld to protect her privacy. In mid-March, Roche announced that it was halting a phase III study of its ASO drug, tominersen. A week later, Wave Life Sciences said that it would discontinue the development of two of its HD ASOs that were in phase I/II clinical trials. “The Roche trial in particular left the community quite devastated,” says Cath Stanley, chief executive of the Huntington’s Disease Association, a UK advocacy group supporting people with the disease. “There has been so much positive noise around it, both from researchers and clinicians and from the drug company themselves. I think the community was really swept up by that hope.” © 2021 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Huntingtons
Link ID: 27811 - Posted: 05.08.2021

By Jackie Rocheleau Placebos can make us feel better. Mild electric zaps to the brain can make that effect even stronger, scientists report online May 3 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The finding raises the possibility of enhancing the power of expectations to improve treatments. This is the first study to boost placebo and blunt pain-inducing nocebo effects by altering brain activity, says Jian Kong, a pain researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital in Charlestown. The placebo effect arises when someone feels better after taking an inactive substance, like a sugar pill, because they expect the substance to help. The nocebo effect is the placebo’s evil twin: A person feels worse after taking an inactive substance that they expect to have unpleasant effects. To play with people’s expectations, Kong’s team primed 81 participants for painful heat. The heat was delivered by a thermal stimulator to the forearm while participants lay in a functional MRI scanner. Each person received three creams, each to a different spot on their arms. One cream, participants were told, was a numbing lidocaine cream, one was a regular cream and one was a pain-increasing capsaicin cream. But in fact, all the creams were the same inert lotion, dyed different colors. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2021

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 27810 - Posted: 05.08.2021

By Natalie Angier Julia, her friends and family agreed, had style. When, out of the blue, the 18-year-old chimpanzee began inserting long, stiff blades of grass into one or both ears and then went about her day with her new statement accessories clearly visible to the world, the other chimpanzees at the Chimfunshi wildlife sanctuary in Zambia were dazzled. Pretty soon, they were trying it, too: first her son, then her two closest female friends, then a male friend, out to eight of the 10 chimps in the group, all of them struggling, in front of Julia the Influencer — and hidden video cameras — to get the grass-in-the-ear routine just right. “It was quite funny to see,” said Edwin van Leeuwen of the University of Antwerp, who studies animal culture. “They tried again and again without success. They shivered through their whole bodies.” Dr. van Leeuwen tried it himself and understood why. “It’s not a pleasant feeling, poking a piece of grass far enough into the ear to stay there,” he said. But once the chimpanzees had mastered the technique, they repeated it often, proudly, almost ritualistically, fiddling with the inserted blades to make sure others were suitably impressed. Julia died more than two years ago, yet her grassy-ear routine — a tradition that arose spontaneously, spread through social networks and skirts uncomfortably close to a human meme or fad — lives on among her followers in the sanctuary. The behavior is just one of many surprising examples of animal culture that researchers have lately divulged, as a vivid summary makes clear in a recent issue of Science. Culture was once considered the patented property of human beings: We have the art, science, music and online shopping; animals have the instinct, imprinting and hard-wired responses. But that dismissive attitude toward nonhuman minds turns out to be more deeply misguided with every new finding of animal wit or whimsy: Culture, as many biologists now understand it, is much bigger than we are. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Evolution
Link ID: 27809 - Posted: 05.08.2021

by Laura Dattaro Many genes linked to autism, schizophrenia and developmental delay share the same functions: They regulate the expression of other genes and support communication between neurons, according to an unpublished study. Researchers presented the findings virtually today at the 2021 International Society for Autism Research annual meeting. (Links to abstracts may work only for registered conference attendees.) Hundreds of genes with diverse functions are linked to autism, but how each contributes to the condition is unclear. In the new work, researchers analyzed the functions of 102 autism-linked genes that previous studies identified by comparing the genetic sequences of thousands of people with autism and those with other conditions, along with their family members and controls. “The genes identified give us an unprecedented opportunity to follow the biology, follow the genetics, to ask the question, where does this converge on function?” said lead investigator Stephan Sanders while presenting the work. Sanders is associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Other researchers are studying convergence in 3D brain models called organoids and looking for neuroanatomical similarities and differences across different animal models of autism, including mice and frogs. “Distinguishing causal functions from non-causal functions of these genes is a massive challenge,” Sanders says, and finding points of convergence could help. “The ultimate goal is to identify why disrupting these genes leads to autism.” © 2021 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Autism; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 27808 - Posted: 05.08.2021

Joanne Silberner Scientists once compared the abilities of humans versus canines in tracking a trail of chocolate essential oil laid down in an open field. Though the humans weren't nearly as proficient as the dogs, they did get better with practice. Vladimir Godnik/Getty Images/fStop About 25 years ago, after a particularly bad cold, I suddenly lost my sense of smell — I could no longer sense the difference between sweaty tennis shoes and a fragrant rose. Since then, my olfactory discernment comes and goes, and most of the time it's just gone. I always figured there wasn't much I could do about that, and it hasn't been terrible. My taste buds still work, and I adore fine chocolate. But when COVID-19 hit, the inability to detect odors and fragrances became a diagnostic symptom that upset a lot of COVID-19 sufferers, many of whom also lost their sense of taste. That got me thinking — what does it really mean to have a disordered sense of smell? Does it matter that with my eyes closed I can't tell if I'm in an overripe gym or a perfume store? And is there hope that I'll ever again be able to smell a wet dog or freesia or a gas leak or a raw onion? Scientists explain that when you put your nose in the way of steam rising from a hot cup of coffee, molecules called odorants rise up and land high up in your nose. And when you take a swig of that same joe, as the liquid goes down your throat, some molecules rise upward and hit that sweet spot. Nerve cells there have receptors that recognize specific molecules, and those nerve cells extend directly into the brain. "That's how you tell you're smelling coffee as opposed to pizza," says Pamela Dalton of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, who studies how we perceive good smells and bad. When the coffee "odorants" connect with their nerve cells, she says, your brain knows that you've just enjoyed your morning brew. © 2021 npr

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 27807 - Posted: 05.08.2021

By Paul E. Greenberg Since the early 1990s, I, together with my colleagues, have been studying the economic burden of adults with major depressive disorders (MDD). Over that time, we have tracked shifts in the prevalence of this disease; in the makeup of those suffering from it; and in the nature of treatment both for the disease itself and for the host of comorbidities, such as pain and anxiety disorders, that accompany it. We have then used these data as the basis for calculating the incremental economic burden of adults with MDD—that is, the additional costs traceable to those suffering from the disease in terms of both medical treatment and workplace productivity impacts. Our most recent study was just published in a special issue of PharmacoEconomics (which I also co-edited) that presents new research on the economics of MDD. By focusing on one year during the Great Recession (2010) and another after a long macroeconomic expansion (2018), our analysis provides a helpful profile of the changing economic effects of this widespread and pernicious illness. We report our latest estimates showing that the incremental economic burden of adults with MDD was $326 billion in 2018, 38 percent higher than in 2010. But our work goes deeper than simply providing an economic calculator. This research offers a multifaceted lens through which we can gain a better understanding of how the myriad effects of the illness manifest themselves. Importantly, we find that only 11 percent of the overall burden of illness was attributable to the direct medical costs of treating MDD itself, while the costs of treating comorbid medical conditions made up 24 percent. Another 4 percent was due to suicide-related costs, while fully 61 percent of the total burden in 2018 resulted from a combination of elevated workplace absenteeism and presenteeism (that is, reduced productivity as a result of working while sick). This striking imbalance between medical expenditures to treat either MDD or its comorbidities on the one hand and workplace-related costs on the other is one aspect of the story that has changed dramatically since 2010, when medical costs were equivalent to workplace costs. © 2021 Scientific American,

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 27806 - Posted: 05.08.2021

By Christina Caron Finding a therapist can be a tough and time-consuming process involving multiple phone calls, waiting lists and insurance hurdles. But what if you were able to walk into your corner drugstore for a bottle of shampoo and also had the option of scheduling a walk-in session for mental health treatment? That’s the future that CVS, the largest retail pharmacy in the United States, is envisioning. Since January the company has added licensed clinical social workers trained in cognitive behavioral therapy to 13 locations in the Houston, Philadelphia and Tampa metro areas. The providers will offer mental health assessments, referrals and counseling either in person or via telehealth, a CVS spokeswoman said, and this spring the company plans to expand to 34 locations in those same regions. The social workers are available during the day, and also on evenings and weekends in the company’s MinuteClinics, which provide a variety of nonemergency health care services either via walk-in or by appointment. The hours are more flexible than what therapists might normally offer, and the social workers partner with the clinic’s nurse practitioners and pharmacists to give prescriptions when needed, said Dr. Daniel Knecht, the vice president of clinical product at CVS Health. CVS is just one of a growing number of retailers who are recognizing the unmet need for mental health providers and hoping to fill the gap. On Thursday, Walmart announced it is acquiring MeMD, which offers online medical and mental health care. Walmart currently provides counseling via Walmart Health, a health center located in a separate building alongside Walmart Supercenters. In Georgia, Walmart Health offers in-person mental health counseling and in Arkansas customers can receive online counseling. Later this year, counseling services will become available at Walmart Health locations in Illinois and Florida, a spokeswoman said. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 27805 - Posted: 05.08.2021

By Rachel Nuwer In an important step toward medical approval, MDMA, the illegal drug popularly known as Ecstasy or Molly, was shown to bring relief to those suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder when paired with talk therapy. Of the 90 people who took part in the new study, which is expected to be published later this month in Nature Medicine, those who received MDMA during therapy experienced a significantly greater reduction in the severity of their symptoms compared with those who received therapy and an inactive placebo. Two months after treatment, 67 percent of participants in the MDMA group no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD, compared with 32 percent in the placebo group. MDMA produced no serious adverse side effects. Some participants temporarily experienced mild symptoms like nausea and loss of appetite. “This is about as excited as I can get about a clinical trial,” said Gul Dolen, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research. “There is nothing like this in clinical trial results for a neuropsychiatric disease.” Before MDMA-assisted therapy can be approved for therapeutic use, the Food and Drug Administration needs a second positive Phase 3 trial, which is currently underway with 100 participants. Approval could come as early as 2023. Mental health experts say that this research — the first Phase 3 trial conducted on psychedelic-assisted therapy — could pave the way for further studies on MDMA’s potential to help address other difficult-to-treat mental health conditions, including substance abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, eating disorders, depression, end-of-life anxiety and social anxiety in autistic adults. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 27804 - Posted: 05.05.2021

By Nicholas Bakalar Type 2 diabetes is a chronic, progressive illness that can have devastating complications, including hearing loss, blindness, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and vascular damage so severe as to require limb amputation. Now a new study underscores the toll that diabetes may take on the brain. It found that Type 2 diabetes is linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia later in life, and the younger the age at which diabetes is diagnosed, the greater the risk. The findings are especially concerning given the prevalence of diabetes among American adults and rising rates of diabetes in younger people. Once referred to as “adult-onset diabetes” to distinguish it from the immune-related “juvenile-onset” Type 1 disease that begins in childhood, Type 2 diabetes is seen in younger and younger people, largely tied to rising rates of obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 34 million American adults have Type 2 diabetes, including more than a quarter of those 65 and over. About 17.5 percent of those aged 45 to 64 have Type 2 disease, as do 4 percent of 18- to 44-year-olds. “This is an important study from a public health perspective,” said the director of the Yale Diabetes Center, Dr. Silvio Inzucchi, who was not involved in the research. “The complications of diabetes are numerous, but the brain effects are not well studied. Type 2 diabetes is now being diagnosed in children, and at the same time there’s an aging population.” © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Alzheimers; Obesity
Link ID: 27803 - Posted: 05.05.2021