Chapter 16. Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders

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By Joshua Kendall When adults claim to have suddenly recalled painful events from their childhood, are those memories likely to be accurate? This question is the basis of the “memory wars” that have roiled psychology for decades. And the validity of buried trauma turns up as a point of contention in court cases and in television and movie story lines. Warnings about the reliability of a forgotten traumatic event that is later recalled—known formally as a delayed memory—have been endorsed by leading mental health organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The skepticism is based on a body of research showing that memory is unreliable and that simple manipulations in the lab can make people believe they had an experience that never happened. Some prominent cases of recovered memory of child abuse have turned out to be false, elicited by overzealous therapists. But psychotherapists who specialize in treating adult survivors of childhood trauma argue that laboratory experiments do not rule out the possibility that some delayed memories recalled by adults are factual. Trauma therapists assert that abuse experienced early in life can overwhelm the central nervous system, causing children to split off a painful memory from conscious awareness. They maintain that this psychological defense mechanism—known as dissociative amnesia—turns up routinely in the patients they encounter. © 2021 Scientific American

Keyword: Stress; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 27761 - Posted: 04.08.2021

By Rachel Schraer People diagnosed with Covid-19 in the previous six months were more likely to develop depression, dementia, psychosis and stroke, researchers have found. A third of those with a previous Covid infection went on to develop or have a relapse of a psychological or neurological condition. But those admitted to hospital or in intensive care had an even higher risk. The study authors pointed to both the effects of stress, and the virus having a direct impact on the brain. UK scientists looked at the electronic medical records of more than half a million patients in the US, and their chances of developing one of 14 common psychological or neurological conditions, including: Anxiety and mood disorders were the most common diagnosis among those with Covid, and these were more likely to be down to the stress of the experience of being very ill or taken to hospital, the researchers explained. Conditions like stroke and dementia were more likely to be down to the biological impacts of the virus itself, or of the body's reaction to infection in general. Covid-19 was not associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's or Guillain-Barré syndrome (a risk from flu). Cause and effect The study, published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, was observational. So the researchers couldn't say whether Covid had caused any of the diagnoses - and some people would have had a stroke or depression in the next six months regardless. But by comparing a group of people who had had Covid-19 with two groups - with flu and with other respiratory infections respectively - the researchers at the University of Oxford concluded Covid was associated with more subsequent brain conditions than other respiratory illnesses. © 2021 BBC.

Keyword: Depression; Alzheimers
Link ID: 27760 - Posted: 04.08.2021

Jon Hamilton A study of mice that hear imaginary sounds could help explain human disorders like schizophrenia, which produce hallucinations. D-Keine/Getty Images A technique that induces imaginary sounds in both mice and people could help scientists understand the brain circuits involved in schizophrenia and other disorders that cause hallucinations. The technique appears to offer "a way to study psychotic disorders in animals," says Adam Kepecs, a professor of neuroscience and psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. It also shows how levels of the brain chemical dopamine determine the likelihood that a mouse or a person will perceive something that isn't really there, Kepecs and a team report in this week's issue of the journal Science. Until now, scientists have had no good way to study precisely how hallucinations occur in the brain. "This study is valuable because it will allow us to use mice and dig into the cellular, molecular, physiological details," says Eleanor Simpson, a researcher at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. That's important, Simpson says, because it could lead to better treatments for disorders like schizophrenia. "We have drugs that treat hallucinations but they're not very good," she says. "They don't work for everybody and they have a lot of terrible side effects which prevent people from using them." The study came about because "a mouse can't tell you when it's hallucinating," Kepecs © 2021 npr

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Hearing
Link ID: 27758 - Posted: 04.03.2021

By Benedict Carey When I joined the Science staff in 2004, reporters in the department had a saying, a reassuring mantra of sorts: “People will always come to the science section, if only to read about progress.” I think about that a lot as I say goodbye to my job, covering psychiatry, psychology, brain biology and big-data social science, as if they were all somehow related. The behavior beat, as it’s known, allowed tremendous freedom: I wrote about the mental upsides of binge drinking, playing the lotto and sports fandom. I covered basic lab research, the science of learning and memory, the experience of recurrent anguish, through the people who had to live with it. And much, much more. Like most science reporters, I had wanted to report on something big, to have a present-at-the-creation run that would shake up our understanding of mental health problems. At minimum, I expected research that would help people in distress improve their lives. But during my tenure, the science informing mental health care did not proceed smoothly along any trajectory. On the one hand, the field attracted enormous scientific talent, and there were significant discoveries, particularly in elucidating levels of consciousness in brain injury patients who appear unresponsive; and in formulating the first persuasive hypothesis of a cause for schizophrenia, based in brain biology. On the other hand, the science did little to improve the lives of the millions of people living with persistent mental distress. Almost every measure of our collective mental health — rates of suicide, anxiety, depression, addiction deaths, psychiatric prescription use — went the wrong direction, even as access to services expanded greatly. What happened? After 20 years covering the field, here and at The Los Angeles Times, I have a few theories, and some ideas on what might be required to turn things around. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Stress
Link ID: 27757 - Posted: 04.03.2021

By Perri Klass, M.D. When parents bring their children in for medical care these days, there is no such thing as a casual, “Hey, how’s it going?” We doctors walk into every exam room prepared to hear a story of sadness and stress, or at the very least, of coping and keeping it together in this very hard year, full of isolation, loss, tragedy and hardship, with routines disrupted and comfort hard to come by. Parents have carried heavy burdens of stress and responsibility, worrying about themselves but also watching their children struggle, and there is worldwide concern about depression and suicidality among young people. But it isn’t only the adults and the young adults and teenagers who are suffering and sad; young children can also experience depression, but it can look very different, which makes it challenging for parents — or doctors — to recognize it and provide help. Rachel Busman, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York City, said that it can be hard to think about depression in younger children because we picture childhood as a time of innocence and joy. But as many as 2 to 3 percent of children ages 6 to 12 can have serious depression, she said. And children with anxiety disorders, which are present in more than 7 percent of children aged 3 to 17, are also at risk for depression. Dr. Helen Egger, until recently the chair of child and adolescent psychiatry at N.Y.U. Langone Health, said that according to her epidemiologic research, between 1 and 2 percent of young children — as young as 3 — are depressed Depression was originally conceived of as an adult problem. Maria Kovacs, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said that in the 1950s and ’60s, there were child psychiatrists who believed that children did not have sufficient ego development to feel depression, but that research that she and other colleagues did in the ’70s showed that “school age children can suffer from diagnosable depression.” © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 27756 - Posted: 04.03.2021

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have discovered specific regions within the DNA of neurons that accumulate a certain type of damage (called single-strand breaks or SSBs). This accumulation of SSBs appears to be unique to neurons, and it challenges what is generally understood about the cause of DNA damage and its potential implications in neurodegenerative diseases. Because neurons require considerable amounts of oxygen to function properly, they are exposed to high levels of free radicals—toxic compounds that can damage DNA within cells. Normally, this damage occurs randomly. However, in this study, damage within neurons was often found within specific regions of DNA called “enhancers” that control the activity of nearby genes. Fully mature cells like neurons do not need all of their genes to be active at any one time. One way that cells can control gene activity involves the presence or absence of a chemical tag called a methyl group on a specific building block of DNA. Closer inspection of the neurons revealed that a significant number of SSBs occurred when methyl groups were removed, which typically makes that gene available to be activated. An explanation proposed by the researchers is that the removal of the methyl group from DNA itself creates an SSB, and neurons have multiple repair mechanisms at the ready to repair that damage as soon as it occurs. This challenges the common wisdom that DNA damage is inherently a process to be prevented. Instead, at least in neurons, it is part of the normal process of switching genes on and off. Furthermore, it implies that defects in the repair process, not the DNA damage itself, can potentially lead to developmental or neurodegenerative diseases.

Keyword: Epigenetics; Parkinsons
Link ID: 27744 - Posted: 03.27.2021

By Pam Belluck Ivan Agerton pulled his wife, Emily, into their bedroom closet, telling her not to bring her cellphone. “I believe people are following me,” he said, his eyes flaring with fear. He described the paranoid delusions haunting him: that people in cars driving into their suburban Seattle cul-de-sac were spying on him, that a SWAT officer was crouching in a bush in their yard. It was a drastic change for the 49-year-old Mr. Agerton, a usually unflappable former marine and risk-taking documentary photographer whose most recent adventure involved exploring the Red Sea for two months in a submarine. He was accustomed to stress and said that neither he nor his family had previously experienced mental health issues. But in mid-December, after a mild case of Covid-19, he was seized by a kind of psychosis that turned life into a nightmare. He couldn’t sleep, worried he had somehow done something wrong, suspected ordinary people of sinister motives and eventually was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward twice. “Like a light switch — it happened this fast — this intense paranoia hit me,” Mr. Agerton said in interviews over two months. “It was really single-handedly the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.” Mr. Agerton’s experience reflects a phenomenon doctors are increasingly reporting: psychotic symptoms emerging weeks after coronavirus infection in some people with no previous mental illness. Doctors say such symptoms may be one manifestation of brain-related aftereffects of Covid-19. Along with more common issues like brain fog, memory loss and neurological problems, “new onset” psychosis may result from an immune response, vascular issues or inflammation from the disease process, experts hypothesize. Sporadic cases have occurred with other viruses, and while such extreme symptoms are likely to affect only a small proportion of Covid survivors, cases have emerged worldwide. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Schizophrenia
Link ID: 27740 - Posted: 03.23.2021

Alexandra Jones In the summer of 1981, when he was 13, Grant crashed a trail motorbike into a wall at his parents’ house in Cambridgeshire. He’d been hiding it in the shed, but “it was far too powerful for me, and on my very first time starting it in the garden, I smashed it into a wall”. His mother came outside to find the skinny teenager in a heap next to the crumpled motorbike. “I was in a lot of trouble.” Grant hadn’t given this childhood memory much thought in the intervening years, but one hot August day in 2019, it came back to him with such clarity that, at 53, now a stocky father of two, he suddenly understood it as a clue to his dangerously unhealthy relationship with alcohol. The day before, a team of specialists at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital had given him an intravenous infusion of ketamine, a dissociative hallucinogen, in common use as an anaesthetic since the 1970s, and more recently one of a group of psychedelic drugs being hailed as a silver bullet in the fight to save our ailing mental health. To date, more than 100 patients with conditions as diverse as depression, PTSD and addiction have been treated in research settings across the UK, using a radical new intervention that combines psychedelic drugs with talking therapy. What was once a fringe research interest has become the foundation of a new kind of healthcare, one that, for the first time in modern psychiatric history, purports to not only treat but actually cure mental ill health. And if advocates are to be believed, that cure will be available on the NHS within the next five years. © 2021 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 27732 - Posted: 03.13.2021

By Cathleen O’Grady People who take tiny amounts of LSD, “magic mushrooms,” and related drugs report a range of benefits, from more creativity to improved psychological well-being. But do these microdoses—typically less than 10% of the amount that causes a true psychedelic experience—actually benefit the mind? That’s been a hard question to answer. Placebo-controlled trials are tricky to pull off, because psychedelics are so tightly regulated. Now, researchers have come up with a creative workaround: They’ve enlisted microdosing enthusiasts to hide their drugs in gel capsules and mix them up with empty capsules. The upshot of this “self-blinding” study: Microdosing did lead to improvements in psychological well-being—but so did the placebo capsules. “The benefits are real,” says lead author Balázs Szigeti, a neuroscientist at Imperial College London. “But they are not caused by the pharmacological effects of microdosing.” The findings, however, are “the least interesting thing about this study,” says Noah Haber, a study design specialist at Stanford University. The “very, very clever” method of self-blinding pushes the boundaries of what can be investigated using randomized placebo controls, he says. Getting the new study off the ground wasn’t easy. Obtaining ethical approval to enroll psychedelic-taking volunteers was a “long and difficult process,” Szigeti says. And then he had to go out and find those volunteers, which he did by reaching out to microdosing communities, giving talks at psychedelic societies, and holding an “ask me anything” discussion on Reddit. Szigeti eventually garnered more than 1600 sign-ups, but once potential participants realized they’d have to procure their own psychedelics, interest ebbed, and only 246 ended up in the experiment. © 2021 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 27721 - Posted: 03.06.2021

By Kim Tingley The brain is an electrical organ. Everything that goes on in there is a result of millivolts zipping from one neuron to another in particular patterns. This raises the tantalizing possibility that, should we ever decode those patterns, we could electrically adjust them to treat neurological dysfunction — from Alzheimer’s to schizophrenia — or even optimize desirable qualities like intelligence and resilience. Of course, the brain is so complex, and so difficult to access, that this is much easier to imagine than to do. A pair of studies published in January in the journal Nature Medicine, however, demonstrate that electrical stimulation can address obsessive-compulsive urges and symptoms of depression with surprising speed and precision. Mapping participants’ brain activity when they experienced certain sensations allowed researchers to personalize the stimulation and modify moods and habits far more directly than is possible through therapy or medication. The results also showed the degree to which symptoms that we tend to categorize as a single disorder — depression, for example — may involve electrical processes that are unique to each person. In the first study, a team from the University of California, San Francisco, surgically implanted electrodes in the brain of a woman whose severe depression had proved resistant to other treatments. For 10 days, they delivered pulses through the electrodes to different areas of the brain at various frequencies and had the patient record her level of depression, anxiety and energy on an iPad. The impact of certain pulses was significant and nuanced. “Within a minute, she would say, ‘I feel like I’m reading a good book,’” says Katherine W. Scangos, a psychiatrist and the study’s lead author. The patient described the effect of another pulse as “less cobwebs and cotton.” © 2021 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 27712 - Posted: 02.28.2021

By Gary Stix A consensus has emerged in recent years that psychotherapies—in particular, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—rate comparably to medications such as Prozac and Lexapro as treatments for depression. Either option, or the two together, may at times alleviate the mood disorder. In looking more closely at both treatments, CBT—which delves into dysfunctional thinking patterns—may have a benefit that could make it the better choice for a patient.The reason may be rooted in our deep evolutionary past. Scholars suggest humans may become depressed to help us focus attention on a problem that might cause someone to fall out of step with family, friends, clan or the larger society—an outcast status that, especially in Paleolithic times, would have meant an all-but-certain tragic fate. Depression, by this account, came about as a mood state to make us think long and hard about behaviors that may have caused us to become despondent because some issue in our lives is socially problematic. A recent article in American Psychologist, the flagship publication of the American Psychological Association, weighs what the possible evolutionary origins of depression might mean for arguments about the merits of psychotherapy versus antidepressants. In the article, Steven D. Hollon, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, explores the implications of helping a patient come to grips with the underlying causes of a depression—which is the goal of CBT, and is also in line with an evolutionary explanation. The anodyne effects of an antidepressant, by contrast, may divert a patient from engaging in the reflective process for which depression evolved—a reason perhaps that psychotherapy appears to produce a more enduring effect than antidepressants. Scientific American spoke with Hollon about his ideas on the topic.

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 27696 - Posted: 02.17.2021

By Warren Cornwall Prozac might need a new warning label: “Caution: This antidepressant may turn fish into zombies.” Researchers have found that long-term exposure to the drug makes guppies act more alike, wiping out some of the typical behavioral differences that distinguish them. That could be a big problem when the medication—technically named fluoxetine—washes into streams and rivers, potentially making fish populations more vulnerable to predators and other threats. In recent decades, scientists have uncovered a plethora of ways that pharmaceuticals affect animals in the lab and in the wild, such as by altering courtship, migration, and anxiety. The drugs find their way into the environment through water that pours from sewage treatment plants, which is rarely filtered to remove the chemicals. But the findings are usually based on an average taken from combining measurements of all the individual animals in a group. Giovanni Polverino, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Western Australia, Perth, and colleagues wondered whether this calculation obscured important but subtle insights about individual animals. Did the drug change behavior similarly in all the creatures in a group? Or were certain kinds of “personalities” affected more strongly? To find out, Polverino’s team captured 3600 guppies (Poecilia reticulata)—a common silvery fish often used in labs that grows to half the length of an average human’s pinkie—from a creek in northeastern Australia. In the laboratory, the fish and their offspring—as many as six generations—spent 2 years in tanks filled with either freshwater, water with fluoxetine at levels common in the wild, or a higher dose similar to places near sewage outflows. © 2021 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Depression; Neurotoxins
Link ID: 27685 - Posted: 02.13.2021

by Peter Hess A new engineered protein that glows in the presence of serotonin enables researchers to track the neurotransmitter’s levels and location in the brains of living mice, according to a new study. This ‘serotonin sensor’ could help elucidate serotonin’s role in autism, experts say. Serotonin helps regulate mood, circulation and digestion, among other functions. Some people with autism have elevated levels of serotonin in their blood. Other evidence links serotonin to social behavior in mice. “Serotonin is wildly important both for basic research and human health. And for the longest time, ways to measure it were very indirect,” says co-lead researcher Loren Looger, professor of neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego. “Only with sensors like this can one follow it in vivo, which is critical.” Unlike other tools for measuring serotonin, the sensor can also show changes in serotonin activity over time, making it an exciting tool for autism research, says Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, who was not involved in the study. “This tool will make it possible to understand the relationships between serotonin release and complex behaviors, including in different genetic mouse models related to autism,” he says. “I imagine that this tool will come into fairly broad use.” Programmable protein: The new sensor originated from one described last year that detects a different neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Looger and his team used a computer algorithm to redesign the acetylcholine-binding portion of the sensor protein so that it could attach to serotonin instead. © 2021 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Depression; Obesity
Link ID: 27680 - Posted: 02.08.2021

Cassandra Willyard In 2006, soon after she launched her own laboratory, neuroscientist Jane Foster discovered something she felt sure would set her field abuzz. She and her team were working with two groups of mice: one with a healthy selection of microorganisms in their guts, and one that lacked a microbiome. They noticed that the mice without gut bacteria seemed less anxious than their healthy equivalents. When placed in a maze with some open paths and some walled-in ones, they preferred the exposed paths. The bacteria in the gut seemed to be influencing their brain and behaviour. Foster, at McMaster University in Toronto, Canada, wrote up the study and submitted it for publication. It was rejected. She rewrote it and sent it out again. Rejected. “People didn’t buy it. They thought it was an artefact,” she says. Finally, after three years and seven submissions, she got an acceptance letter1. John Cryan, a neuroscientist at University College Cork in Ireland, joined the field about the same time as Foster did, and knows exactly how she felt. When he began talking about the connections between bacteria living in the gut and the brain, “I felt very evangelical”, he says. He recalls one Alzheimer’s disease conference at which he presented in 2014. “I’ve never given a talk in a room where there was less interest.” Today, however, the gut–brain axis is a feature at major neuroscience meetings, and Cryan says he is no longer “this crazy guy from Ireland”. Thousands of publications over the past decade have revealed that the trillions of bacteria in the gut could have profound effects on the brain, and might be tied to a whole host of disorders. Funders such as the US National Institutes of Health are investing millions of dollars in exploring the connection. © 2021 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Obesity; Alzheimers
Link ID: 27678 - Posted: 02.03.2021

by Laura Dattaro Genetic variants that contribute to autism may also be involved in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Tourette syndrome, according to a new study. In 2019, researchers from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium linked variants associated with autism to seven neuropsychiatric conditions, including anorexia, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Despite the genetic overlap, though, some of those conditions, such as anorexia and Tourette syndrome, don’t tend to co-occur. The new work homes in on Tourette syndrome — a motor and tic condition — and three diagnoses that often present with it: More than half of people with Tourette also have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or ADHD, and up to 20 percent have autism. Because all four conditions can involve impulsive and compulsive behaviors, some scientists have proposed that they exist along a spectrum, with ADHD on one end, OCD on the other, and autism and Tourette in the middle. The goal of looking at all the conditions on this spectrum together is to elucidate the genetics underlying their traits, says lead investigator Peristera Paschou, associate professor of biological sciences at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. “There is a lot of value in zooming out and trying to think across what would be strict diagnostic categories,” Paschou says. Gene associations: The researchers analyzed data from previous studies that involved a total of 93,294 people with at least one of the four conditions, along with 51,311 controls. They looked at common variants — single-letter changes to DNA that appear in more than 1 percent of the population — shared by any two of the four conditions. © 2021 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Autism; Tourettes
Link ID: 27676 - Posted: 02.03.2021

Paul Tullis On a sunny day in London in 2015, Kirk Rutter rode the Tube to Hammersmith Hospital in hopes of finally putting an end to his depression. Rutter had lived with the condition off and on for years, but the burden had grown since the death of his mother in 2011, followed by a relationship break-up and a car accident the year after. It felt as if his brain was stuck on what he describes as “an automatic circuit”, repeating the same negative thoughts like a mantra: “‘Everything I do turns to crap.’ I actually believed that,” he recalls. The visit to Hammersmith was a preview. He would be returning the next day to participate in a study, taking a powerful hallucinogen under the guidance of Robin Carhart-Harris, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Imperial College London. Years of talking therapy and a variety of anti-anxiety medications had failed to improve Rutter’s condition, qualifying him for the trial. “Everyone was super nice, like really lovely, and especially Robin,” Rutter recalls. Carhart-Harris led him to a room with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, so researchers could acquire a baseline of his brain activity. Then he showed Rutter where he would spend his time while on the drug. Carhart-Harris asked him to lie down and played him some of the music that would accompany the session. He explained that he would have on hand a drug that could neutralize the hallucinogen, if necessary. Then the two practised a grounding technique, to help calm Rutter in the event that he became overwhelmed. Without warning, Rutter burst into tears. “I think I knew this was going to be unpacking a lot — I was carrying a bit of a load at the time,” Rutter says. © 2021 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 27670 - Posted: 01.30.2021

Research shows that hallucinogens can be highly effective treatments for anxiety, depression, addiction, and trauma. Here's everything you need to know: Aren't psychedelic drugs illegal? Under federal and most states' laws, they are, but a push to legalize or decriminalize the drugs is gaining momentum. On Election Day, Oregon voters made their state the first to legalize the active ingredient in "magic mushrooms" — psilocybin — for mental health therapy in a controlled setting with a therapist. Washington, D.C., voters passed Initiative 81, making the city at least the fifth to decriminalize magic mushrooms. Similar legislation has been proposed in California, Vermont, and Iowa. Last summer, Canada issued four terminally ill patients exemptions to take psilocybin for end-of-life anxiety and depression. British Columbia resident Mona Strelaeff, 67, got an exemption for treatment for trauma, addiction, depression, and anxiety. "All the unresolved trauma," Strelaeff said, "it came back and I was beyond terrified, shaking uncontrollably, and crying." She said that psilocybin therapy helped her conquer "those tough memories" and today she "ain't afraid of jack (s---)." How does psychedelic therapy work? Participants usually take psilocybin or LSD in a relaxing setting, lying down with blindfolds and headphones on, listening to music. Trained supervisors encourage them to "go inward and to kind of experience whatever is going to come up," said Alan Davis, who studies psychedelics at Johns Hopkins University. Bad psilocybin trips are rare — Johns Hopkins and NYU researchers conducted 500 sessions without observing any "serious adverse effects" — but they can occur. Advocates say careful dose control, supervision, and controlled settings are very important. Psilocybin sessions typically last between four and six hours, while LSD sessions go on for 12. Robin Carhart-Harris, who runs the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College in London, theorized that such sessions can "reboot" the brain in a way similar to a near-death or intense spiritual experience. ® 2021 The Week Publications Inc.,

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 27667 - Posted: 01.27.2021

By Stephani Sutherland Patrick Thornton, a 40-year-old math teacher in Houston, Tex., relies on his voice to clearly communicate with his high school students. So when he began to feel he was recovering from COVID, he was relieved to get his voice back a month after losing it. Thornton got sick in mid-August and had symptoms typical of a moderate case: a sore throat, headaches, trouble breathing. By the end of September, “I was more or less counting myself as on the mend and healing,” Thornton says. “But on September 25, I took a nap, and then my mom called.” As the two spoke, Thornton’s mother remarked that it was great that his voice was returning. Something was wrong, however. “I realized that some of the words didn’t feel right in my mouth, you know?” he says. They felt jumbled, stuck inside. Thornton had suddenly developed a severe stutter for the first time in his life. “I got my voice back, but it broke my mouth,” he says. After relaying the story over several minutes, Thornton sighs heavily with exhaustion. The thought of going back to teaching with his stutter, “that was terrifying,” he says. In November Thornton still struggled with low energy, chest pain and headaches. And “sometimes my heart rate [would] just decide that we’re being chased by a tiger out of nowhere," he adds. His stutter only worsened by that time, Thornton says, and he worried that it reflected some more insidious condition in his brain, despite doctors’ insistence that the speech disruption was simply a product of stress. © 2021 Scientific American,

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 27661 - Posted: 01.23.2021

By Diana Kwon Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is marked by repetitive, anxiety-inducing thoughts, urges and compulsions, such as excessive cleaning, counting and checking. These behaviors are also prevalent in the general population: one study in a large sample of U.S. adults found more than a quarter had experienced obsessions or compulsions at some point in their life. Although most of these individuals do not develop full-blown OCD, such symptoms can still interfere with daily life. A new study, published on January 18 in Nature Medicine, hints that these behaviors may be alleviated by stimulating the brain with an electrical current—without the need to insert electrodes under the skull. Robert Reinhart, a neuroscientist at Boston University, and his group drew on two parallel lines of research for this study. First, evidence suggests that obsessive-compulsive behaviors may arise as a result of overlearning habits—leading to their excessive repetition—and abnormalities in brain circuits involved in learning from rewards. Separately, studies point to the importance of high-frequency rhythms in the so-called high-beta/low-gamma range (also referred to as simply beta-gamma) in decision-making and learning from positive feedback. Drawing on these prior observations, Shrey Grover, a doctoral student in Reinhart’s lab, hypothesized with others in the team that manipulating beta-gamma rhythms in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC)—a key region in the reward network located in the front of the brain—might disrupt the ability to repetitively pursue rewarding choices. In doing so, the researchers thought, the intervention could reduce obsessive-compulsive behaviors associated with maladaptive habits. To test this hypothesis, Grover and his colleagues carried out a two-part study. The first segment was aimed at identifying whether the high-frequency brain activity influenced how well people were able to learn from rewards. The team recruited 60 volunteers and first used electroencephalography to pinpoint the unique frequencies of beta-gamma rhythms in the OFC that were active in a given individual while that person took part in a task that involved associating symbols with monetary wins or losses. Previous work had shown that applying stimulation based on the particular patterns of rhythms in a person’s brain may enhance the effectiveness of the procedure. © 2021 Scientific American

Keyword: OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Link ID: 27657 - Posted: 01.20.2021

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