Chapter 16. Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders

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Kayt Sukel Psychedelic drugs conjure images of tie-dyed tee shirts, Woodstock, and Vietnam War protests. While early research into the properties of drugs like psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) during the middle of the 20th century suggested therapeutic potential for diverse mental health conditions, their role in the 1960s anti-war and counterculture movement made them suspect by law enforcement. Not long after American psychologist Timothy Leary called for people to “turn on, tune in, and drop out,” endorsing the regular use of psychedelic drugs for health and well-being, the federal Controlled Substances Act classified them as highly dangerous Schedule 1 compounds, or drugs with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” “Initially, psychedelics showed quite a lot of promise for treating a wide range of mental health conditions—in particular, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” says Anil Seth, co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. “There’s long been a blame game going regarding what led to these drugs being outlawed, mostly focusing on people like Timothy Leary promoting indiscriminate use of what we know are quite powerful drugs. But the end result was that, despite their promise, it became nearly impossible for anyone to do any research at all on them.” Over the past decade, however, there has been a revival of psychopharmacology and neuroscience research into the effects of psychedelic drugs. In fact, despite continuing legal barriers and funding challenges involved with using these banned drugs in research studies—many researchers wait years for Food and Drug Administration approvals and require funding from non-governmental agencies to move forward—several unique research centers, including the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London and Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Psychedelics and Consciousness Research, are now actively studying LSD, psilocybin, and dimethyltryptamine (DMT), from both basic science and clinical perspectives. © 2021 The Dana Foundation

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 27646 - Posted: 01.15.2021

By Pam Belluck Almost immediately, Dr. Hisam Goueli could tell that the patient who came to his psychiatric hospital on Long Island this summer was unusual. The patient, a 42-year-old physical therapist and mother of four young children, had never had psychiatric symptoms or any family history of mental illness. Yet there she was, sitting at a table in a beige-walled room at South Oaks Hospital in Amityville, N.Y., sobbing and saying that she kept seeing her children, ages 2 to 10, being gruesomely murdered and that she herself had crafted plans to kill them. “It was like she was experiencing a movie, like ‘Kill Bill,’” Dr. Goueli, a psychiatrist, said. The patient described one of her children being run over by a truck and another decapitated. “It’s a horrifying thing that here’s this well-accomplished woman and she’s like ‘I love my kids, and I don’t know why I feel this way that I want to decapitate them,’” he said. The only notable thing about her medical history was that the woman, who declined to be interviewed but allowed Dr. Goueli to describe her case, had become infected with the coronavirus in the spring. She had experienced only mild physical symptoms from the virus, but, months later, she heard a voice that first told her to kill herself and then told her to kill her children. At South Oaks, which has an inpatient psychiatric treatment program for Covid-19 patients, Dr. Goueli was unsure whether the coronavirus was connected to the woman’s psychological symptoms. “Maybe this is Covid-related, maybe it’s not,” he recalled thinking. “But then,” he said, “we saw a second case, a third case and a fourth case, and we’re like, ‘There’s something happening.’” Indeed, doctors are reporting similar cases across the country and around the world. A small number of Covid patients who had never experienced mental health problems are developing severe psychotic symptoms weeks after contracting the coronavirus. In interviews and scientific articles, doctors described: A 36-year-old nursing home employee in North Carolina who became so paranoid that she believed her three children would be kidnapped and, to save them, tried to pass them through a fast-food restaurant’s drive-through window. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Schizophrenia
Link ID: 27639 - Posted: 12.31.2020

Jon Hamilton Root extracts from the African shrub iboga have long been used in traditional healing rituals and more recently as an experimental treatment for depression and to reduce drug cravings in addiction. Scientists now are working on a version of the extract that doesn't cause heart attacks or hallucinations as side effects. Steeve Jordan/AFP via Getty Images A chemically tweaked version of the psychedelic drug ibogaine appears to relieve depression and addiction symptoms without producing hallucinations or other dangerous side effects. The results of a study in rodents suggest it may be possible to make psychedelic drugs safe enough to become mainstream treatments for psychiatric disorders, the authors report Wednesday in the journal Nature. "What we need is a medicine that is so safe that you can take it home and put it in your medicine cabinet just like you would aspirin," says David Olson, the paper's senior author and an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis. "And that's really what we were trying to achieve." The success with ibogaine is "a promising first step," says Gabriela Manzano, a postdoctoral fellow at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York and a co-author of a commentary on the study. "This provides a road map on how we could start tweaking these chemical compounds to make them very useful in the clinic," she says. "Keep the good parts, get rid of the bad parts." For decades, psychedelic drugs, including ketamine and psilocybin, have shown promise in treating people with mental health problems including addiction, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. But doctors and researchers have been wary of using the drugs because of their side effects. © 2020 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Depression
Link ID: 27621 - Posted: 12.12.2020

By Benedict Carey At a recent visit to the Veterans Affairs clinic in the Bronx, Barry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, learned that he belonged to a very exclusive club. According to a new A.I.-assisted algorithm, he was one of several hundred V.A. patients nationwide, of six million total, deemed at imminent risk of suicide. The news did not take him entirely off guard. Barry, 69, who was badly wounded in the 1968 Tet offensive, had already made two previous attempts on his life. “I don’t like this idea of a list, to tell you the truth — a computer telling me something like this,” Barry, a retired postal worker, said in a phone interview. He asked that his surname be omitted for privacy. “But I thought about it,” Barry said. “I decided, you know, OK — if it’s going to get me more support that I need, then I’m OK with it.” For more than a decade, health officials have watched in vain as suicide rates climbed steadily — by 30 percent nationally since 2000 — and rates in the V.A. system have been higher than in the general population. The trends have defied easy explanation and driven investment in blind analysis: machine learning, or A.I.-assisted algorithms that search medical and other records for patterns historically associated with suicides or attempts in large clinical populations. Doctors have traditionally gauged patients’ risks by looking at past mental health diagnoses and incidents of substance abuse, and by drawing on experience and medical instinct. But these evaluations fall well short of predictive, and the artificially intelligent programs explore many more factors, like employment and marital status, physical ailments, prescription history and hospital visits. These algorithms are black boxes: They flag a person as at high risk of suicide, without providing any rationale. But human intelligence isn’t necessarily better at the task. “The fact is, we can’t rely on trained medical experts to identify people who are truly at high risk,” said Dr. Marianne S. Goodman, a psychiatrist at the Veterans Integrated Service Network in the Bronx, and a clinical professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “We’re no good at it.” © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 27600 - Posted: 11.30.2020

By Jelena Kecmanovic Across the spectrum, mental health problems seem to be on the rise. One-quarter of Americans reported moderate to severe depression this summer and another quarter said they suffered from mild depression, a recent study reported. These findings are similar to surveys done by the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A third of Americans now show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau finds. Former first lady Michelle Obama highlighted the problem for many when she said in August that she has been dealing with “low-grade depression.” As a psychologist, I hear almost daily how the combination of coronavirus, racial unrest, economic uncertainty and political crisis are leading many people to feel a lot worse than usual. “It is not at all surprising that we are seeing the significant increase in distress. It’s a normal reaction to an abnormal situation,” said Judy Beck, president of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in Philadelphia and author of the widely used mental health textbook “Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond.” But an important difference exists between having depressive symptoms — such as sadness, fatigue and loss of motivation — and a full-blown major depressive episode that can affect your ability to function at work and home for weeks or months. The amount and duration of the symptoms, as well as the degree to which they impair one’s life all play a role in diagnosing clinical depression. Extensive research suggests that certain ways of thinking and behaving can hasten the plunge into clinical depression, while others can prevent it. As we head into winter, which can stress the coping skills of many people, here are some strategies that can help you resist the depressive downward spiral. 1. Reduce overthinking. When we feel down, we tend to think about the bad things repeatedly, often trying to figure out why they’ve happened. Research shows that some people are especially prone to this kind of “depressive rumination.” They overanalyze everything, hoping to think their way out of feeling bad, and fret about consequences of their sadness.

Keyword: Depression; Emotions
Link ID: 27599 - Posted: 11.30.2020

By Linda Searing The “baby blues” that women can experience after giving birth usually go away within a week or two, but it now appears that more severe depressive symptoms, known as postpartum depression, may affect some new mothers for at least three years. Research from the National Institutes of Health, which tracked 4,866 women for three years after childbirth, found that about 25 percent of the women reported moderate to high levels of depressive symptoms at some point and that the remaining 75 percent experienced low-level depressive symptoms throughout the study. The “baby blues” typically include such symptoms as mood swings, anxiety and trouble sleeping, whereas postpartum depression symptoms — generally more intense and longer lasting — may include excessive crying, overwhelming fatigue, loss of appetite, difficulty bonding with the baby, feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness and more. The NIH research, published in the journal Pediatrics, encourages pediatricians to screen their tiny patients’ mothers for depressive symptoms during the children’s regular checkups, noting that “mothers’ mental health is critical to children’s well-being and development.” The researchers note that maternal depression increases a child’s risk for cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems. Getting treatment, however, should not only ease a mother’s symptoms but also improve her child’s odds for a favorable developmental outcome.

Keyword: Depression; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 27573 - Posted: 11.10.2020

By Gretchen Reynolds Roiled by concerns about the pandemic and politics? Lifting weights might help, according to a timely new study of anxiety and resistance training. The study, which involved healthy young adults, barbells and lunges, indicates that regular weight training substantially reduces anxiety, a finding with particular relevance during these unsettling, bumpy days. We already have plenty of evidence that exercise helps stave off depression and other mental ills, and that exercise can elevate feelings of happiness and contentment. But most past studies of exercise and moods have looked at the effects of aerobic exercise, like running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. Scientists only recently have begun to investigate whether and how weight training might also affect mental health. A 2018 review of studies, for instance, concluded that adults who lift weights are less likely to develop depression than those who never lift. In another study, women with clinical anxiety disorders reported fewer symptoms after taking up either aerobic or weight training. But many of these studies involved frequent and complicated sessions of resistance exercise performed under the eyes of researchers, which is not how most of us are likely to work out. They also often focused on somewhat narrow groups, such as men or women with a diagnosed mental health condition like depression or an anxiety disorder, limiting their applicability. So for the new study, which was published in October in Scientific Reports, researchers at the University of Limerick in Ireland and other institutions decided to see if a simple version of weight training could have benefits for mood in people who already were in generally good mental health. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 27568 - Posted: 11.07.2020

By Nicholas Bakalar A mother’s psychological distress during pregnancy may increase the risk for asthma in her child, a new study suggests. Researchers had the parents of 4,231 children fill out well-validated questionnaires on psychological stress in the second trimester of pregnancy, and again three years later. The mothers also completed questionnaires at two and six months after giving birth. The study, in the journal Thorax, found that 362 of the mothers and 167 of the fathers had clinically significant psychological distress during the mothers’ pregnancies. When the children were 10 years old, parents reported whether their child had ever been diagnosed with asthma. As an extra measure, the researchers tested the children using forced expiratory volume, or FEV, a standard clinical test of lung function. After controlling for age, smoking during pregnancy, body mass index, a history of asthma and other factors, they found that maternal depression and anxiety during pregnancy was significantly associated with both diagnoses of asthma and poorer lung function in their children. There was no association between childhood asthma and parents’ psychological distress in the years after pregnancy, and no association with paternal psychological stress at any time. “Of course, this could be only one of many causes of asthma,” said the lead author, Dr. Evelien R. van Meel of Erasmus University in Rotterdam, “but we corrected for many confounders, and we saw the effect only in mothers. This seems to suggest that there’s something going on in the uterus. But this is an observational study, and we can’t say that it’s a causal effect.” © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 27534 - Posted: 10.21.2020

By John Horgan One of the most impressive, disturbing works of science journalism I’ve encountered is Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, published in 2010. In the book, which I review here, award-winning journalist Robert Whitaker presents evidence that medications for mental illness, over time and in the aggregate, cause net harm. In 2012, I brought Whitaker to my school to give a talk, in part to check him out. He struck me as a smart, sensible, meticulous reporter whose in-depth research had led him to startling conclusions. Since then, far from encountering persuasive rebuttals of Whitaker’s thesis, I keep finding corroborations of it. If Whitaker is right, modern psychiatry, together with the pharmaceutical industry, has inflicted iatrogenic harm on millions of people. Reports of surging mental distress during the pandemic have me thinking once again about Whitaker’s views and wondering how they have evolved. Below he answers some questions. —John Horgan
 Horgan: When and why did you start reporting on mental health? Whitaker: It came about in a very roundabout way. In 1994, I had co-founded a publishing company called CenterWatch that covered the business aspects of the “clinical trials industry,” and I soon became interested in writing about how financial interests were corrupting drug trials. Risperdal and Zyprexa had just come to market, and after I used a Freedom of Information request to obtain the FDA’s review of those two drugs, I could see that psychiatric drug trials were a prime example of that corruption. In addition, I had learned of NIMH-funded research that seemed abusive of schizophrenia patients, and in 1998, I co-wrote a series for the Boston Globe on abuses of patients in psychiatric research. My interest was in that broader question of corruption and abuse in research settings, and not specific to psychiatry. © 2020 Scientific American

Keyword: Depression; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 27531 - Posted: 10.19.2020

By Lisa Grossman Clues from a chemical — Science News, October 3, 1970 An experimental drug’s effects on the sexual behavior of certain animals is arousing interest among investigators.… The drug, para-chlorophenylalanine … reduces the level of a naturally occurring neurochemical, serotonin, in the brain of rats, mice and dogs.… Little is known about how serotonin acts in the brain, and investigators quickly recognized that PCPA could be used to study this brain chemical. Update PCPA helped e­stablish serotonin’s role in regulating sexual desire, as well as sleep, appetite and mood. The chemical messenger has become key to one common class of antidepressant drugs called selective serotonin r­euptake inhibitors. Identified in 1974, SSRIs work by increasing the brain’s serotonin levels. But such drugs can hinder sexual desire. One SSRI that failed to relieve depression in humans found a second life as a treatment for sexual dysfunction. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2015, this “little pink pill,” sold as Addyi, may boost sex drive in women by lowering serotonin in the brain’s reward centers. H.A. Croft. Understanding the role of serotonin in female hypoactive sexual desire disorder and treatment options. Journal of Sexual Medicine. Vol. 14, December 2017, p. 1575. Doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2017.10.068. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2020.

Keyword: Depression; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 27497 - Posted: 09.30.2020

By Elizabeth Landau At dinnertime, 10-year-old Clive Rodgers used to wrap his arms around his plate because he was afraid of germs at the table. “I was really scared, and if somebody tried to move my arm, I would, like, get really angry and stuff,” says Clive, who lives in San Diego with his parents and two younger siblings. Clive is just one of many young people who have struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD affects about 1 in every 200 children and teenagers, which is similar to the prevalence of diabetes in this age group. The hallmarks of OCD are intrusive, unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviors in response to those thoughts, a cycle that may cause significant anxiety and hamper daily activities. As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, it’s a tough time for any kid who has to stay home all day, studying remotely instead of going to school, unable to enjoy normal social activity with friends. Such stressors are making OCD symptoms worse in some children, even those who didn’t specifically fear germs before, doctors say. Andy Rodgers and his son, Clive, of in San Diego. Clive is just one of many youths who has struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD affects about 1 in every 200 children and teenagers, which is similar to the prevalence of diabetes in this age group. “Their rituals and obsessions are just worse because their general mental health is worse,” said Suzan Song, director of the Division of Child/Adolescent & Family Psychiatry at George Washington University. Fears of contamination and illness are generally common among people with OCD, but usually their concerns are not in line with likely threats, said Joseph McGuire, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine. With the coronavirus, which causes the disease covid-19, there is actual danger present. He is seeing a “rekindling” of symptoms in many patients who received treatment in the past, and need a refresher.

Keyword: OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Stress
Link ID: 27471 - Posted: 09.14.2020

By Linda Searing A growing number of U.S. adults are struggling with mental health issues linked to worry and stress over the novel coronavirus, increasing from 32 percent in March to 53 percent in July, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Those experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, for example, reached 40 percent this summer, up from 11 percent a year ago. In addition, a similar assessment from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, by late June, 13 percent of adults had started or increased alcohol consumption or drug use to help cope with pandemic-related woes, and 11 percent had seriously considered suicide in the past month — a number that reached 25 percent among those ages 18 to 24. Social isolation, loneliness, job loss and economic worries as well as fear of contracting the virus are among factors cited as contributing to people’s mental health problems. Kaiser researchers found that 59 percent of those who have lost income because of the pandemic experienced at least one adverse effect on their mental health and well-being, as did 62 percent of those with higher-than-average risk for covid-19 because of such chronic conditions as lung disease, asthma, diabetes or serious heart disease. Overall, both reports found that negative mental health effects from the stress of coronavirus were more common among women than men. Suicidal ideation, however, was more common among men. Also, the CDC report says that people described as “unpaid caregivers,” meaning they care for other adults at home, are considerably more likely than others to start or increase substance use to cope with coronavirus-related stress or to have suicidal thoughts.

Keyword: Stress; Depression
Link ID: 27456 - Posted: 09.07.2020

Adam Piore archive page Long before the world had ever heard of covid-19, Kay Tye set out to answer a question that has taken on new resonance in the age of social distancing: When people feel lonely, do they crave social interactions in the same way a hungry person craves food? And could she and her colleagues detect and measure this “hunger” in the neural circuits of the brain? “Loneliness is a universal thing. If I were to ask people on the street, ‘Do you know what it means to be lonely?’ probably 99 or 100% of people would say yes,” explains Tye, a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute of Biological Sciences. “It seems reasonable to argue that it should be a concept in neuroscience. It’s just that nobody ever found a way to test it and localize it to specific cells. That’s what we are trying to do.” In recent years, a vast scientific literature has emerged linking loneliness to depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and drug abuse. There is even a growing body of epidemiological work showing that loneliness makes you more likely to fall ill: it seems to prompt the chronic release of hormones that suppress healthy immune function. Biochemical changes from loneliness can accelerate the spread of cancer, hasten heart disease and Alzheimer’s, or simply drain the most vital among us of the will to go on. The ability to measure and detect it could help identify those at risk and pave the way for new kinds of interventions. In the months ahead, many are warning, we’re likely to see the mental-health impacts of covid-19 play out on a global scale. Psychiatrists are already worried about rising rates of suicide and drug overdoses in the US, and social isolation, along with anxiety and chronic stress, is one likely cause. “The recognition of the impact of social isolation on the rest of mental health is going to hit everyone really soon,” Tye says. “I think the impact on mental health will be pretty intense and pretty immediate.”

Keyword: Emotions; Depression
Link ID: 27454 - Posted: 09.05.2020

By Jenny Marder In May, a 15-year-old boy set up a socially distanced visit with a friend. They met on opposite sides of a sidewalk — a full six feet apart — and talked. But when the teenager returned home, he brought with him a new set of Covid-19 fears, according to John Duffy, the boy’s therapist and a child psychologist in Chicago. How could he be sure six feet was a safe distance?, the teenager wanted to know. He began washing his hands more frequently. He stopped touching countertops. And he hasn’t wanted to see friends since. The pandemic has understandably intensified our need for good hygiene and safety precautions. But for some children and teens, these precautions have crossed the line from careful to compulsive. And for parents, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between a reasonable reaction to a very real threat and something more concerning. There’s little data available yet on the toll the pandemic has taken on the mental health of children. But Eric Storch, an expert on obsessive-compulsive disorder and a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, said calls to the university’s O.C.D. program have jumped significantly, by about 25 percent, since March. He attributed it in part to telemedicine improving access, and in part to worsening mental health concerns. Dr. Duffy said the number of his patients experiencing O.C.D.-like symptoms has tripled during this time. About 500,000 children and teens in the United States have obsessive-compulsive disorder, according to the International OCD Foundation. Obsessive-compulsive disorder has two main components. Obsessions take the form of uncontrollable thoughts, urges, feelings or uncomfortable sensations. Compulsions are behaviors repeated over and over. These can include excessive handwashing, showering or sanitizing, but also checking things, putting things in order, tapping, touching, seeking reassurance or asking the same question repeatedly. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Stress
Link ID: 27445 - Posted: 09.02.2020

Chris Woolston Signs of depression among graduate students in the United States have apparently doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey that drew responses from more than 15,000 graduate and 30,000 undergraduate students at 9 US research universities. The survey, conducted by the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Consortium — a collaboration between the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in Minneapolis — found that indications of anxiety among graduate students rose by 50% this year compared with last year. “It’s very alarming that so many students are suffering from mental-health issues,” says Igor Chirikov, director of SERU and a senior researcher in higher education with the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC Berkeley. “The pandemic has obviously had a big impact.” The survey, which ran from 18 May to 20 July, used simple two-item questionnaires — the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-2 and Patient Health Questionnaire-2 — to screen for symptoms of anxiety disorders and major depression. Thirty-nine per cent of graduate students (a group that includes law- and medical-school students) screened positive for anxiety, and 32% screened positive for depression. When the same screening questions were asked in March to July 2019, 26% of graduate students had signs of anxiety and 15% showed depression symptoms. © 2020 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Depression; Stress
Link ID: 27427 - Posted: 08.20.2020

By Jan Hoffman The collateral damage from the pandemic continues: Young adults, as well as Black and Latino people of all ages, describe rising levels of anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts, and increased substance abuse, according to findings reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a research survey, U.S. residents reported signs of eroding mental health in reaction to the toll of coronavirus illnesses and deaths, and to the life-altering restrictions imposed by lockdowns. The researchers argue that the results point to an urgent need for expanded and culturally sensitive services for mental health and substance abuse, including telehealth counseling. In the online survey completed by some 5,400 people in late June, the prevalence of anxiety symptoms was three times as high as those reported in the second quarter of 2019, and depression was four times as high. The effects of the coronavirus outbreaks were felt most keenly by young adults ages 18 to 24. According to Mark Czeisler, a psychology researcher at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, nearly 63 percent had symptoms of anxiety or depression that they attributed to the pandemic and nearly a quarter had started or increased their abuse of substances, including alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs, to cope with their emotions. “It’s ironic that young adults who are at lower risk than older adults of severe illness caused by Covid-19 are experiencing worse mental health symptoms,” said Mr. Czeisler. A survey of about 5,000 people done in April, during the earlier days of the pandemic, Mr. Czeisler said, suggested that tremors in the mental health firmament were beginning to surface. Already in April, high percentages of respondents reported they were spending more time on screens and less time outside than before the pandemic, which translated into more virtual interactions and far fewer in person. They noted upheavals to family, school, exercise and work routines, and to their sleeping patterns. All of these are factors that can contribute to the robustness of mental health. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 27421 - Posted: 08.15.2020

Jon Hamilton The Food and Drug Administration has approved a variant of the anesthetic and party drug ketamine for suicidal patients with major depression. The drug is a nasal spray called Spravato and it contains esketamine, a chemical cousin of ketamine. In 2019, the FDA approved Spravato for patients with major depressive disorder who hadn't responded to other treatments. Now, the agency is adding patients who are having suicidal thoughts or have recently attempted to harm themselves or take their own lives. "Spravato is the first approved antidepressant medication that's been able to demonstrate a reduction in symptoms of major depressive disorder within 24 hours after the first dose," says Dr. Michelle Kramer, a psychiatrist and vice president of U.S. neuroscience, medical affairs at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which makes the drug. Janssen is part of Johnson & Johnson. The drug's quick action is potentially important for suicidal patients because "existing drugs typically can take weeks or longer before you really get noticeable clinical benefit," says Dr. Gerard Sanacora, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University and director of Yale's depression research program. He was involved in the studies leading to the FDA approval and has consulted for Janssen. So a dose of esketamine "could potentially get a person out of a difficult, horrible situation when they're feeling so overwhelmed," says Dr. Charles Conway, a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who wasn't involved in the study. "This could be a significant improvement in how we can help people who have intense suicidal thinking." © 2020 npr

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 27416 - Posted: 08.12.2020

Elizabeth Landau Carmen Sandi recalls the skepticism she faced at first. A behavioral neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, she had followed a hunch that something going on inside critical neural circuits could explain anxious behavior, something beyond brain cells and the synaptic connections between them. The experiments she began in 2013 showed that neurons involved in anxiety-related behaviors showed abnormalities: Their mitochondria, the organelles often described as cellular power plants, didn’t work well — they produced curiously low levels of energy. Those results suggested that mitochondria might be involved in stress-related symptoms in the animals. But that idea ran contrary to the “synapto-centric” vision of the brain held by many neuroscientists at the time. Her colleagues found it hard to believe Sandi’s evidence that in anxious individuals — at least in rats — mitochondria inside key neurons might be important. “Whenever I presented the data, they told me, ‘It’s very interesting, but you got it wrong,’” Sandi said. Yet a growing number of scientists have joined her during the past decade or so in wondering whether mitochondria might be fundamental not just to our general physical well-being but specifically to our mental health. In particular, they have explored whether mitochondria affect how we respond to stress and conditions like anxiety and depression. Carmen Sandi, a behavioral neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, suspected that a deficit in cellular energy might explain the lack of motivation that anxiety-prone people experience. © 2020 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Stress; Depression
Link ID: 27414 - Posted: 08.11.2020

By Hannah Sparks For communities with a low rate of depression and suicide, there may be something in the water, according to a new study. A comprehensive analysis of findings from previous studies has revealed that regions where the public drinking water contains a high level of naturally occurring lithium — a mineral used most often for the treatment of depression and bipolar disorder — also boast a lower rate of suicide than other areas. The review included all prior research on the effects of lithium, as well as regional water samples and suicide data from 1,286 locales in Austria, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the UK, Japan and the United States. “Naturally occurring lithium in drinking water may have the potential to reduce the risk of suicide and may possibly help in mood stabilization, particularly in populations with relatively high suicide rates and geographical areas with a greater range of lithium concentration in the drinking water,” the authors concluded in their report. Denoted as “Li” on the periodic table, the element is found in varying concentrations in crops, rocks, soil and ground water — thus how it seeps into our water supply. In a statement on the King’s College London website, lead study author and chairman of epidemiology and public health at Brighton and Sussex Medical School Anjum Memon said, “It is promising that higher levels of trace lithium in drinking water may exert an anti-suicidal effect and have the potential to improve community mental health.” The results, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, “are also consistent with the finding in clinical trials that lithium reduces suicide and related behaviors in people with a mood disorder,” said Allan Young, a professor at King’s College’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience.

Keyword: Depression; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 27408 - Posted: 08.08.2020

Viviana Gradinaru Despite the wealth and quality of basic neuroscience research, there is still little we can do to treat or prevent most brain disorders. Industry efforts, meanwhile, have shied away from this field, particularly after a series of major drug candidates for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease failed to meet expectations (1). My previous research, which entailed developing and using optogenetics (2, 3) to understand how deep brain stimulation works in Parkinson's disease (PD) (4, 5), resulted in two key insights: We need to look and intervene earlier in brain disease progression, and we need to be able to access relevant cell populations with noninvasive yet precise tools to investigate, prevent, contain, or even reverse the course of disease. Accumulating evidence has highlighted a third insight: We may need to look beyond the brain to fully understand brain disorders (6, 7). My goal has been to develop an effective toolkit for neuromodulation so we can start to bridge the gap between what we know and what we can do to treat the brain. To achieve minimally invasive optogenetic-mediated modulation, we need to be able to penetrate the blood–brain barrier (BBB) so that vectors can be delivered systemically rather than through intracranial injections and address the poor reach of visible light through tissue so that large tissue volumes can be recruited without implantation of optical fibers. For early intervention, we need to get past the neuronal and brain-centric view of neurological disease. © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Depression
Link ID: 27407 - Posted: 08.08.2020