Chapter 12. Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or subscribe to our mailing list, to receive news updates. Learn more.

Links 1 - 20 of 2615

By Catherine Offord When Floris Klumpers zapped people with electricity while working toward his PhD in the late 2000s, he expected his volunteers’ amygdalae—key emotion centers in the brain—to light up in anticipation of a shock. “There was this idea that the amygdala is the most important structure in emotion processing—especially in fear processing,” says Klumpers, then at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “We were quite surprised, using fMRI studies, to not find amygdala activity when people were anticipating an adverse event.” Klumpers assumed he’d made a mistake, but after replicating the finding in further experimental work, he began thinking about the different stages of animals’ fear responses. First, there’s anticipation, during which an individual becomes alert and plans reactions to possible danger. Then there’s confrontation, when it has to act to avoid imminent danger. Perhaps, Klumpers reasoned, the brain’s fear-processing regions treat these two phases differently. To investigate, Klumpers, now a neuroscientist at Radboud University Medical Center, and colleagues recently collected data from more than 150 volunteers, who received mild electrical shocks to their fingers as they viewed a computer. “We have a simple cue on the screen that can predict the occurrence of an electrical stimulation,” Klumpers says. In one set of experiments, for example, a yellow square meant a shock was likely, while a blue square signaled no shock for the time being. Meanwhile, the researchers monitored participants’ heart rates and imaged their brains using fMRI. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Emotions; Stress
Link ID: 24532 - Posted: 01.16.2018

By Adam Bear, Rebecca Fortgang and Michael Bronstein Have you ever felt as though you predicted exactly when the light was going to turn green or sensed that the doorbell was about to ring? Imagine the possibility that these moments of clairvoyance occur simply because of a glitch in your mind’s time logs. What happened first — your thought about the doorbell or its actual ringing? It may have felt as if the thought came first, but when two events (ringing of doorbell, thought about doorbell) occur close together, we can mistake their order. This leads to the sense that we accurately predicted the future when, in fact, all we did is notice the past. In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we found that this tendency to mix up the timing of thoughts and events may be more than a simple mental hiccup. We supposed that if some people are prone to mixing up the order of their thoughts and perceptions in this way, they could develop a host of odd beliefs. Most obviously, they might come to believe they are clairvoyant or psychic — having abilities to predict such things as whether it is going to rain. Further, these individuals might confabulate — unconsciously make up — explanations for why they have these special abilities, inferring that they are particularly important (even godlike) or are tapping into magical forces that transcend the physical world. Such beliefs are hallmarks of psychosis, seen in mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but they are not uncommon in less-extreme forms in the general population. Would even ordinary people who mistime their thoughts and perceptions be more likely to hold ­delusion-like ideas? © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Attention; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 24527 - Posted: 01.15.2018

Johann Hari In the 1970s, a truth was accidentally discovered about depression – one that was quickly swept aside, because its implications were too inconvenient, and too explosive. American psychiatrists had produced a book that would lay out, in detail, all the symptoms of different mental illnesses, so they could be identified and treated in the same way across the United States. It was called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. In the latest edition, they laid out nine symptoms that a patient has to show to be diagnosed with depression – like, for example, decreased interest in pleasure or persistent low mood. For a doctor to conclude you were depressed, you had to show five of these symptoms over several weeks. The manual was sent out to doctors across the US and they began to use it to diagnose people. However, after a while they came back to the authors and pointed out something that was bothering them. If they followed this guide, they had to diagnose every grieving person who came to them as depressed and start giving them medical treatment. If you lose someone, it turns out that these symptoms will come to you automatically. So, the doctors wanted to know, are we supposed to start drugging all the bereaved people in America? The authors conferred, and they decided that there would be a special clause added to the list of symptoms of depression. None of this applies, they said, if you have lost somebody you love in the past year. In that situation, all these symptoms are natural, and not a disorder. It was called “the grief exception”, and it seemed to resolve the problem. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24508 - Posted: 01.09.2018

Dean Burnett I do not know Johann Hari. We’ve never crossed paths, he’s done me no wrong that I’m aware of, I have no axe to grind with him or his work. And, in fairness, writing about mental health and how it’s treated or perceived is always a risk. It’s a major and often-debilitating issue facing a huge swathe of the population, and with many unpleasant and unhelpful stigmas attached. In recent years there have been signs that the tide is perhaps turning the right way, but a lot of work remains to be done. However, if you’re going to allow an extract from your book to be published as a standalone article for mainstream media with a title as provocative as “Is everything you know about depression wrong?”, you’d best make sure you have impeccable credentials and standards to back it up. Let’s address the elephant in the room: Johann Hari does not have a flawless reputation. He has been absent from the spotlight for many years following a plagiarism scandal, compounded by less-than-dignified behaviour towards his critics. Admittedly, he has since shown remorse and contrition over the whole affair, but even a cursory glance online reveals he’s a long way from universal forgiveness. Logically, someone with a reputation for making false claims should be the last person making high-profile, controversial, sweeping statements about something as sensitive as mental health. And yet, here we are. It’s 2018 after all. But let’s take the whole thing at face value and assume Hari has written this article with 100% good intentions and practices. Do his arguments and claims hold water? © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24507 - Posted: 01.09.2018

Singing could help mothers recover from post-natal depression more quickly, a study suggests. Researchers found that women who took part in group singing sessions with their babies experienced a much faster improvement in their symptoms than those who did not. The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, looked at 134 mothers with post-natal depression. Early recovery is seen to be crucial to limit effects on mother and baby. Post-natal depression is estimated to affect one in eight new mothers. Previous studies have indicated singing can help improve the mental health of older people and those with dementia, but this is the first controlled study of its effect on post-natal depression. The women were placed into three groups: one took part in group singing another took part in in creative play sessions a third group received their usual care, which could include family support, antidepressants or mindfulness The singing workshops saw the mothers learning lullabies and songs from around the world with their babies and creating new songs together about motherhood. And those with moderate to severe symptoms of post-natal depression reported a much faster improvement than mothers in the usual care and play groups. All the groups improved over the 10 weeks, but in the first six weeks the singing group had already reported an average 35% decrease in depressive symptoms. Principal investigator Dr Rosie Perkins said the study, although small, was significant because it was important to tackle the symptoms as quickly as possible. "Post-natal depression is debilitating for mothers and their families, yet our research indicates that for some women something as accessible as singing with their baby could help to speed up recovery at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives," she said. Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt, from University College London, said singing was another useful therapy to offer women. © 2018 BBC

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24506 - Posted: 01.09.2018

By Alfonso Serrano Elvis Alonzo began smoking cannabis as a last resort. Three years as a Marine Corps officer and 13 years with the Glendale Police Department in Arizona—where he was exposed to murders, suicides and people dying in his arms—had left him emotionally crippled. Toward the end of his police service, doctors diagnosed Alonzo with post-traumatic stress disorder and prescribed various medications to temper his nightmares and flashbacks. The drugs “turned me into a zombie,” he says. “I was so out of it that I couldn’t even drive, so they (the police department) had to medically retire me.” Alonzo stopped showering. His wife left him, and he nearly lost his house. Then a friend suggested he try marijuana to relieve his symptoms. “It’s been a godsend,” he says. “It curbs my anxiety, and it makes me sleep fantastic for at least four hours. It needs to be studied.” Thousands of military veterans have echoed Alonzo’s claim for years. They have pressured federal and state legislators to legalize medicinal cannabis and ease rules on research into the plant’s apparent therapeutic properties, arguing that it could help reduce suicide rates among former soldiers. Backed by overwhelming public support for broader legalization, their demands are starting to resonate in statehouses across the country. This past November, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo chose Veterans Day to make PTSD a qualifying condition for the state’s tightly controlled medical marijuana program. New York joined seven other states this year—and 27 overall—that include PTSD in their lists of conditions that qualify for medical cannabis. © 2018 Scientific America

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 24491 - Posted: 01.05.2018

By Meredith Wadman Chya* (pronounced SHY-a), who is not quite 10 years old, recently spent an unusual day at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Part of the time she was in a "cool" brain scanner while playing video games designed to test her memory and other brain-related skills. At other points, she answered lots of questions about her life and health on an iPad. A slender Baltimore third grader who likes drawing, hip hop, and playing with her pet Chihuahua, Chya is one of more than 6800 children now enrolled in an unprecedented examination of teenage brain development. The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study—or ABCD Study—will complete its 2-year enrollment period in September, and this month will release a trove of data from 4500 early participants into a freely accessible, anonymized database. Ultimately, the study aims to follow 10,000 children for a decade as they grow from 9- and 10-year-olds into young adults. Supported by the first chunk of $300 million pledged by several institutes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, teams at 21 sites around the United States are regularly using MRI machines to record the structure and activity of these young brains. They're also collecting reams of psychological, cognitive, and environmental data about each child, along with biological specimens such as their DNA. In addition to providing the first standardized benchmarks of healthy adolescent brain development, this information should allow scientists to probe how substance use, sports injuries, screen time, sleep habits, and other influences may affect—or be affected by—a maturing brain. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 24488 - Posted: 01.04.2018

Amy Maxmen Name a remedy, and chances are that Elizabeth Allen has tried it: acupuncture, antibiotics, antivirals, Chinese herbs, cognitive behavioural therapy and at least two dozen more. She hates dabbling in so many treatments, but does so because she longs for the healthy days of her past. The 34-year-old lawyer was a competitive swimmer at an Ivy-league university when she first fell ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, 14 years ago. Her meticulous records demonstrate that this elusive malady is much worse than ordinary exhaustion. “Last year, I went to 117 doctor appointments and I paid $18,000 in out-of-pocket expenses,” she says. Dumbfounded that physicians knew so little about chronic fatigue syndrome — also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME/CFS — Allen resolved several years ago to take part in any study that would have her. In 2017, she got her chance: she entered a study assessing how women with ME/CFS respond to synthetic hormones. After decades of pleading, people with the condition have finally caught the attention of mainstream science — and dozens of exploratory studies are now under way. Scientists entering the field are using the powerful tools of modern molecular biology to search for any genes, proteins, cells and possible infectious agents involved. They hope the work will yield a laboratory test to diagnose ME/CFS — which might have several different causes and manifestations — and they want to identify molecular pathways to target with drugs. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Depression; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24487 - Posted: 01.04.2018

Samantha Raphelson Jennifer Brea was a PhD candidate at Harvard University when flu-like symptoms and a high fever brought her down for more than five years. After her condition stumped several doctors, the 28-year-old filmed herself on her iPhone, including an episode when she was unable to move or speak. She showed the footage to her doctor, and in 2012 – a year and a half after her initial fever – she was diagnosed with a condition called myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome. Even though an estimated 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans suffer from ME/CFS, the disease is largely misunderstood and many sufferers have not been diagnosed. The annual federal research budget for the disease is $4 million to $6 million, which is slim compared to, for example, the nearly $109 million allocated annually to multiple sclerosis research. That's part of the problem, Brea says. "It's a disease that is twice as common as multiple sclerosis and on average can be even more debilitating, and yet we get almost no research funding and no access to medical care," she says. Brea tells Here & Now's Robin Young that her new documentary, Unrest, seeks to lift the veil on this invisible illness. The Sundance-award-winning film, which began with that initial iPhone footage, premieres on PBS next Monday. ME/CFS follows an infection that leaves 75 percent of those affected unable to work and 25 percent homebound or bedridden. The disease is characterized by severe physical and mental fatigue, sleep problems and cognitive dysfunction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Depression; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24481 - Posted: 01.03.2018

/ By Drew Smith For decades, no industry has been a more reliable moneymaker than pharmaceuticals. Immune to recession, drug companies regularly score 15 percent profit margins year after year. There is no danger of market saturation and, in the U.S., little prospect of government restraint of prices. Nearly all regulatory submissions win approval, and turnaround times are steadily decreasing. If you are an investor, what’s not to like? But all dominant and expanding industries are fueled by resources of one type or another. Some of these are tangible and obvious, like gold deposits. Their exploitation follows a familiar arc. There is an initial rush to simply pick nuggets up off the ground. When the nuggets have been picked, miners must search for pebbles, then sand, then dust. There are still fortunes to be made, but more and more capital investment is needed to separate the gold from the dross. If you are a drug company, drug targets are your resource. Our conception of disease has progressed through many understandings — as demonic possession, humoral imbalance, blockage of chi, disordering of machinery — and has now landed on the notion that it is either an invasion by microscopic creatures or bad behavior by large protein molecules. Health is restored by poisoning the invaders or correcting the proteins. Drugs are the agents that accomplish these goals. To a first approximation, drugs are small molecules that bind to specific large molecules. This is the one-disease, one-protein, one-drug paradigm, and it is the essential value proposition of the pharmaceutical industry. Companies identify protein targets and make drugs that alter target behavior. They are very, very good at this. So good that the supply of new drugs largely depends on the supply of new drug targets. Copyright 2018 Undark

Keyword: Depression; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 24480 - Posted: 01.03.2018

Girls who go through puberty early could be more likely to experience depression and behaviour problems that last into their 20s compared to peers who start menstruation later, a U.S. study suggests. Researchers studied data on nearly 7,800 women who had their first menstrual cycle at an average age of 12. The women were interviewed four times, starting around age 16 and continuing until about age 28. Girls who went through puberty earlier than most were more likely to become depressed, and their symptoms were also more severe in adolescence, the study found. The younger the age at the first period, the stronger the association between early puberty and mental health problems; It was stronger for girls who started menstruation at age 8 than at age 10, for example. With earlier puberty, girls were also more likely to have behaviour issues that led to things like stealing, lying, breaking into buildings and selling drugs. The link lasted into young adulthood. Interestingly, the magnitude of the association between puberty and these psychological difficulties remains stable, meaning that puberty is as strongly associated with depressive symptoms and antisocial behaviour during adulthood as it is during adolescence, said lead study author Jane Mendle, a researcher at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. ©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Depression; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24463 - Posted: 12.28.2017

Haroon Siddique Researchers are developing an internet-based tool they hope will predict the effectiveness of antidepressants for individual patients, ending the current prescription lottery. Patients with depression often try many different drugs before settling on one that works, but a study aims to help clinicians make an informed choice as to which is likely to work best for a particular person. Dr Claire Gillan, at Trinity College Dublin, likened deciding which antidepressant to prescribe to a “flip of a coin” at present. But she hopes to create an algorithm that will take away the need for trial and error, potentially transforming treatment for millions of people. Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate - sent direct to you Read more “There’s an awful lot of time and money wasted in people going through a 12-week treatment that doesn’t work, then another 12-week treatment that doesn’t work ad nauseam,” she said. “There will never be a point where algorithms are making these decisions in isolation; side effects have to be taken into account, for example. But this is a process of identifying treatment the clinician can use when debating a bunch of drugs – when they have no idea which will work through no fault of their own – for a particular patient.” © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24458 - Posted: 12.26.2017

By Kasra Zarei Depression and antidepressant use are at all-time highs in the year 2017, but for about a third of those affected, depression still doesn’t get better with medication—and for these patients, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which uses powerful magnets to stimulate brain cells noninvasively, can be a viable option. To be clear, TMS isn’t new; it was first approved by the FDA in 2008. What’s new is that the evidence for its safety and effectiveness has only gotten stronger. TMS is now generally covered by insurance companies for treatment-resistant depression, and new studies have shown that combining it with traditional treatments like psychotherapy can lead to significantly higher response rates. Some scientists also now believe TMS can be a dominant therapy compared to antidepressants, based on its lower cost, higher net monetary benefit and better quality of life outcomes produced. Although there are still many questions about TMS left unanswered, it is a treatment with a strong presence in fighting depression and much promise as personalized TMS grows closer to becoming a reality. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, making it the leading cause of disability worldwide. As many as 30 percent of people with depression are resistant to medication, and show suicide thoughts and attempts, and an overall poor quality of life. With traditional treatment options ineffective, these patients need a solution. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24447 - Posted: 12.21.2017

By PERRI KLASS, M.D. What does the child who can’t say goodbye to a parent without breaking down have in common with the child who is cripplingly terrified of dogs and the one who gets a bad stomach ache reliably on Monday morning? Anxieties and worries of all kinds are common in children, necessarily part of healthy development, but also, when they interfere with the child’s functioning, the most common pediatric mental health problems. From separation anxiety to social anxiety to school avoidance to phobias to generalized anxiety disorder, many children’s lives are at some point touched by anxiety that gets out of hand. “I often tell parents, anxiety and fears are totally a normal and healthy part of growing up,” said Dr. Sabrina Fernandez, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, who has written about strategies for primary care doctors to use in dealing with anxiety disorders. “I worry that it’s becoming something more when it interferes with the child’s ability to do their two jobs: to learn in school and to make friends.” Children whose lives are being seriously derailed by their anxieties often get psychotherapy or medication, or both. And a meta-analysis published in November in JAMA looked at the two best-studied treatments for anxiety disorders, cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotropic medication. The technique of a meta-analysis allows scientists to pull in a whole range of different studies, weight the results according to the size and rigor of the research, and then consider the wider array of data gleaned from multiple investigations. “We included panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, generalized anxiety disorder and separation anxiety,” said the lead author, Zhen Wang, an associate professor of health services research at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science (they did not include children with post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder). The study looked at the effectiveness of treatments in reducing the symptoms of anxiety, and at ending the anxiety disorder state. And they also looked at any reports of adverse events associated with the treatments, from sleep disturbances to suicide. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Stress
Link ID: 24416 - Posted: 12.11.2017

By Lydia Denworth A macaque monkey sat in front of a computer. A yellow square—the target—appeared in the periphery on the left side of the screen. After a few seconds delay, a second target appeared on the right. The question was: Which target would the monkey look at first? So far so routine as neuroscience experiments go, but the next step was unusual. By non-invasively directing bursts of inaudible acoustic energy at a specific visual area of the brain, a team of scientists steered the animal’s responses. If they focused on the left side of the brain, the monkey looked to the right more often. If they focused on the right side, the monkey looked to the left more often. The results of the experiment, which were presented last week at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting, marked the first time that focused ultrasound was safely and effectively used in a nonhuman primate to alter brain activity rather than destroy tissue. A second study, in sheep, had similar results. “The finding paves the way to noninvasive stimulation of specific brain regions in humans,” says Jan Kubanek, a neural engineer at Stanford University School of Medicine and lead author of the macaque study. The technology might ultimately be used to diagnose or treat neurological diseases and disorders like Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, addiction and depression. Other scientists are optimistic. “The idea that, with a very carefully designed dose, you could actually deliver [focused ultrasound] and stimulate the brain in the place you want and modulate a circuit rather than damage it, is a really important proof of principle,” said Helen Mayberg, MD, of Emory University School of Medicine, who was not involved with the study. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Parkinsons; Depression
Link ID: 24384 - Posted: 12.01.2017

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR The daughters of women exposed to childhood trauma are at increased risk for serious psychiatric disorders, a new study concludes. Researchers studied 46,877 Finnish children who were evacuated to Sweden during World War II, between 1940 and 1944. They tracked the health of their 93,391 male and female offspring born from 1950 to 2010. The study, in JAMA Psychiatry, found that female children of mothers who had been evacuated to Sweden were twice as likely to be hospitalized for a psychiatric illness as their female cousins who had not been evacuated, and more than four times as likely to have depression or bipolar disorder. But there was no effect among male children, and no effect among children of either sex born to fathers who had been evacuated. The most obvious explanation would be that girls inherited their mental illness from their mothers, but the researchers controlled for parental psychiatric disorder and the finding still held. The lead author, Torsten Santavirta, an associate professor of economics at Uppsala University, said that it is possible that traumatic events cause changes in gene expression that can then be inherited, but the researchers did not have access to genetic information. “The most important takeaway is that childhood trauma can be passed on to offspring,” Dr. Santavirta said, “and the wrinkle here is that these associations are sex-specific.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress; Epigenetics
Link ID: 24377 - Posted: 11.30.2017

By R. Douglas Fields While examining brain tissue through a microscope of hospital patients in the 1930’s, Hungarian neuropathologist Ladislaus Meduna made an intriguing observation: Brain cells, called glia, increased greatly in tissue taken from people with epilepsy. But samples from patients with schizophrenia and depression had far fewer glia in the cerebral cortex than normal. Unlike neurons, glia cannot fire electrical impulses, so they were (and still are) largely ignored by most neuroscientists. But Meduna speculated that schizophrenia and depression might result from a deficiency of glial cells, so he reasoned that by inducing a seizure, he could increase their numbers and cure his patients. On January 23, 1934, he induced a violent seizure in a man who was hopelessly catatonic from schizophrenia by injecting a chemical, camphor, into the man’s bloodstream. The injection induced an explosive seizure that wracked the man’s body for a full minute. Meduna’s legs gave out in shock after he saw what he had done. The scientist collapsed and two nurses had to help him back to his apartment to recover. Undeterred, Meduna four days later induced another seizure in the same man—who for four years had never spoken or moved and who had been fed continuously through a tube. By the fifth seizure he induced on February 10, 1934, the man awoke, dressed himself, requested breakfast and greeted Meduna cheerfully by name. “I hear them talking that you were going to make some crazy experiment? Did you do it?” he asked This success inspired others: Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini in Italy used electricity to induce a seizure by applying electrodes they had obtained from a pig slaughterhouse to the head of one of their mental patients on April 11, 1938. Did the patient get better? In some cases, patients who underwent these primitive procedures experienced improved mental states noticeably. But they could also induce violent, whole-body contractions that sometimes dislocated joints and broke bones. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24373 - Posted: 11.28.2017

By Claudia Wallis American parents have been warning teenagers about the dangers of marijuana for about 100 years. Teenagers have been ignoring them for just as long. As I write this, a couple of kids are smoking weed in the woods just yards from my office window and about a block and a half from the local high school. They started in around 9 A.M., just in time for class. Exaggerating the perils of cannabis—the risks of brain damage, addiction, psychosis—has not helped. Any whiff of Reefer Madness hyperbole is perfectly calibrated to trigger an adolescent's instinctive skepticism for whatever an adult suggests. And the unvarnished facts are scary enough. We know that being high impairs attention, memory and learning. Some of today's stronger varieties can make you physically ill and delusional. But whether marijuana can cause lasting damage to the brain is less clear. Advertisement A slew of studies in adults have found that nonusers beat chronic weed smokers on tests of attention, memory, motor skills and verbal abilities, but some of this might be the result of lingering traces of cannabis in the body of users or withdrawal effects from abstaining while taking part in a study. In one hopeful finding, a 2012 meta-analysis found that in 13 studies in which participants had laid off weed for 25 days or more, their performance on cognitive tests did not differ significantly from that of nonusers. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 24370 - Posted: 11.28.2017

Patricia Neighmond As the months grow colder and darker, many people find themselves somewhat sadder and even depressed. Bright light is sometimes used to help treat the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Researchers are now testing light therapy to see if it also can help treat depression that's part of bipolar disorder. It's unclear how lack of light might cause the winter blues, although some suggest that the dark days affect the production of serotonin in the skin. The idea with light therapy for depression is to replace the sunshine lost with a daily dose of bright white artificial light. (Antidepressants, psychotherapy and Vitamin D help, too, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.) The light box is actually more like a screen, the size of your average desktop computer. Some people call it a "happy box." To test its usefulness in treating bipolar disorder, researchers at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University enrolled 46 patients who had at least moderate bipolar depression. Half of participants were assigned to receive bright light therapy. The other half received a dim red placebo light. They also kept taking their regular medication. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 24368 - Posted: 11.27.2017

By EFFY REDMAN It’s late morning on a balmy September day. I try to summon the will to run from the bench where I’m sitting on Broadway and dive under the massive wheels of one of the trucks roaring past. Which section of my body, I wonder, should I hurl beneath the tires. Where would hurt the least, and soonest erase my suffering. I clutch my cellphone, hating its potential for rescue signals. After nine or 10 trucks pass me by, an unkempt man in his mid-50s sits on the bench beside me, plastic cup of lager in one hand, half-smoked self-rolled cigarette in the other. He looks me up and down and grins. Go away, jerk, I think to myself, shooting him an icy glance. Leave me be. “Are you waiting for a date?” he persists. “What are you doing?” I want to kill him, but my resolve switches. I stand abruptly and head for my apartment, where, I calculate, I have enough medications stored to off myself. I ponder what to say in my suicide note. My phone rings: my mother, responding to the please call me asap message I had texted her. “What’s going on?” she says. It is my mother who insists I call my therapist and my mother who, upon my therapist’s urging, drives me to the emergency room. “Can’t you think about how it’s a beautiful sunny day?” she says once I’ve checked in and changed into a hospital gown and scrubs pants. I tug at the neck of my cotton gown, which chokes no matter how much I loosen the ties. ‘“I just feel utterly hopeless,” I say. The depression is a silent, slow motion tsunami of dark breaking over me. I can’t swim away from it and don’t believe I can survive its natural withdrawal. That’s why I am here. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24367 - Posted: 11.27.2017