Chapter 16. Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders

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By Linda Qiu and Justin Bank A heavily armed young man is accused of killing 17 people after opening fire on terrified students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday. It was the third mass shooting in the past four months in the United States. Nikolas Cruz, who has been linked to a history of mental illness, is believed to have used a legally obtained AR-15 in the shooting. The attack has led to widespread conversations about links between gun violence and mental illness, and how lawmakers and interest groups are debating potential policy responses. Below is a look at some facts and falsehoods uttered by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin; Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont; and others in the wake of Wednesday’s shooting. “Mental health is often a big problem underlying these tragedies.” — House Speaker Paul Ryan There’s a link, but it’s more limited than widely thought. Mr. Ryan’s claim reflects a common misconception. According to various polls, roughly half of Americans either believe that failing to identify people with mental health problems is the primary cause of gun violence or that addressing mental health issues would be a major deterrent. That conclusion is not shared by experts or widely accepted research. In an analysis of 235 mass killings, many of which were carried out with firearms, 22 percent of the perpetrators could be considered mentally ill. Overall, mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent 1 percent of all gun homicides each year, according to the book “Gun Violence and Mental Illness” published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2016. To be sure, gun violence experts contacted by New York Times reporters have said that barring sales to people who are deemed dangerous by mental health providers could help prevent mass shootings. But the experts said several more measures — including banning assault weapons and barring sales to convicted violent criminals — more effective. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 24676 - Posted: 02.17.2018

By Matt Warren The anesthesia medication ketamine has shown promise in treating depression, but its exact effects on the brain are unclear. Now, researchers have discovered that the drug changes the firing patterns of cells in a pea-size structure hidden away in the center of the brain. This could explain why ketamine is able to relieve symptoms of depression so quickly—and may provide a fresh target for scientists developing new antidepressants. “It’s a spectacular study,” says Roberto Malinow, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved in the work. “It will make a lot of people think.” In clinical trials, ketamine appears to act much faster than existing antidepressants, improving symptoms within hours rather than weeks. “People have tried really hard to figure out why it’s working so fast, because understanding this could perhaps lead us to the core mechanism of depression,” says Hailan Hu, a neuroscientist at Zhejiang University School of Medicine in Hangzhou, China, and a senior author on the new study. Hu suspected the drug might target a tiny region in the middle of the brain called the lateral habenula, the so-called “anti–reward center.” This region inhibits nearby reward areas, which can be useful in learning; for example, if a monkey pulls a lever expecting a treat but never receives it, the lateral habenula will reduce the activity of reward areas, and the monkey will be less likely to pull the lever in the future. But research over the past decade has suggested that the area may be overactive in depression, dampening down those reward centers too much. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24664 - Posted: 02.15.2018

People with schizophrenia can be trained by playing a video game to control the part of the brain linked to verbal hallucinations, researchers say. Patients in a small study were able to land a rocket in the game when it was connected to the brain region sensitive to speech and human voices. In time, the patients learnt to use the technique in their daily lives to reduce the power of hallucinations. But this is a small pilot study and the findings still need to be confirmed. The research team, from King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience and the University of Roehampton, says the technique could be used to help schizophrenia patients who do not respond to medication. People with the condition are known to have a more active auditory cortex, which means they are more sensitive to sounds and voices. All 12 patients in the study experienced nasty and threatening verbal hallucinations every day - a common symptom of schizophrenia. To try to control their symptoms, they were asked to play a video game while in an MRI scanner, using their own mental strategies to move a computerised rocket - and in doing so they were able to turn down the volume on the external voices they heard as well. Image copyright King's College London Image caption The auditory cortex (in yellow) is hypersensitive in the brains of people with schizophrenia Dr Natasza Orlov, from King's College London, said: "The patients know when the voices are about to start - they can feel it, so we want them to immediately put this aid into effect to lessen them, or stop the voices completely." She said all the patients in the study, who each had four turns in the MRI scanner, found that their voices became less external and more internal, making them less stressful. They were also better able to cope with them. Dr Orlov added: "Although the study sample size is small and we lacked a control group, these results are promising. "We are now planning to conduct a randomised controlled study to test this technique in a larger sample." © 2018 BBC

Keyword: Schizophrenia
Link ID: 24645 - Posted: 02.12.2018

By Roni Dengler Mental illness affects one in six U.S. adults, but scientists' sense of the underlying biology of most psychiatric disorders remains nebulous. That's frustrating for physicians treating the diseases, who must also make diagnoses based on symptoms that may only appear sporadically. No laboratory blood test or brain scan can yet distinguish whether someone has depression or bipolar disorder, for example. Now, however, a large-scale analysis of postmortem brains is revealing distinctive molecular traces in people with mental illness. This week, an international team of researchers reports that five major psychiatric disorders have patterns of gene activity that often overlap but also vary in disease-specific—and sometimes counterintuitive—ways. The findings, they say, might someday lead to diagnostic tests and novel therapies, and one has already inspired a clinical trial of a new way to treat overactive brain cells in autism. Outsiders say the data mark a milestone in psychiatry. "This [work] is changing fundamental views about the nature of psychiatric illness," says Kenneth Kendler, a psychiatric geneticist at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Researchers have long known that genes influence mental illness. Five years ago, for example, the global Psychiatric Genomics Consortium found that people with autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder frequently share certain DNA variations. But that 2013 study did not say how those genetic alterations might lead to symptoms. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 24638 - Posted: 02.09.2018

By Andrew Joseph, Thousands of people with post-traumatic stress disorder have taken the drug prazosin to ease the nightmares and disturbances that stalk their sleep. Numerous studies have shown the drug to be effective at controlling those episodes. But a team of researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs, seeking to collect more evidence, set out to study the sustained effectiveness of the treatment. They organized a large, lengthy, multisite trial—the most rigorous type of trial. The drug was no better than a placebo. The trial “seemed like a good idea, but you know, live and learn,” said Dr. Murray Raskind, a lead researcher on the trial, which was described Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Some researchers not involved with the study were quick to say that clinicians should still prescribe prazosin for some patients; Raskind, director of the VA Northwest Network Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center, agreed. There are few other treatment options and there is evidence supporting the use of the drug, a generic that was originally approved to treat high blood pressure but is prescribed off label to control nightmares and improve sleep quality in patients with PTSD. “I don’t think it should change clinical practice—there are six positive studies and one negative study,” said Raskind, who described the research team as “humbled” by the results. He estimated that 15 percent to 20 percent of veterans in the VA system with PTSD are currently prescribed prazosin, and said he did not expect that to change. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 24634 - Posted: 02.09.2018

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR People with acne are at substantially higher risk for depression in the first years after the condition appears, a new study reports. Researchers used a British database of 134,427 men and women with acne and 1,731,608 without and followed them for 15 years. Most were under 19 at the start of the study, though they ranged in age from 7 to 50. The study is in the British Journal of Dermatology. Over the 15-year study period, the probability of developing major depression was 18.5 percent among patients with acne and 12 percent in those without. People with acne were more likely to be female, younger, nonsmokers and of higher socioeconomic status. They were also less likely to use alcohol or be obese. After adjusting for these factors, the scientists found that the increased risk for depression persisted only for the first five years after diagnosis. The risk was highest in the first year, when there was a 63 percent increased risk of depression in a person with acne compared to someone without. The reason for the association is unclear. The lead author, Isabelle A. Vallerand, an epidemiologist at the University of Calgary, said she was surprised to see such a markedly increased risk. “It appears that acne is a lot more than just skin deep,” she said. “It can have a substantial impact on overall mental health.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24624 - Posted: 02.07.2018

Ina Jaffe A study published Monday by Human Rights Watch finds that about 179,000 nursing home residents are being given antipsychotic drugs, even though they don't have schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses that those drugs are designed to treat. Most of these residents have Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia and antipsychotics aren't approved for that. What's more, antipsychotic drugs come with a "black box warning" from the FDA, stating that they increase the risk of death in older people with dementia. The study concluded that antipsychotic drugs were often administered without informed consent and for the purpose of making dementia patients easier to handle in understaffed facilities. Researchers focused on six states, including California and Texas, which have the most skilled nursing facilities. They used publicly available data, along with hundreds of interviews with residents, families and state ombudsmen, the officials who deal with complaints about long term care facilities. In 2012, the federal government began a program to reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes, in partnership with the nursing home industry, and advocacy organizations. Since then, the use of the drugs has dropped by about a third nationwide, from 23.9 percent of residents in 2012 to 15.7 percent at the beginning of 2017. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have called for an additional 15 percent reduction by 2019 for those nursing homes that have lagged in curtailing their use of antipsychotics. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Alzheimers; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 24620 - Posted: 02.06.2018

By Viviane Callier People who experience blast-related trauma to the brain, a condition that has become more and more common among combat veterans, can later experience depression and heightened anxiety, even in the absence of a psychological stressor. Patients are usually treated with medications (particularly antidepressants) and behavioral therapy, but these are often only partially effective. In search of a more-effective drug, researchers have found that a compound that blocks certain glutamate receptors in the brain reverses many of the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-like symptoms that appear after rats endure a blast injury, they report in eNeuro this week (January 29). The drug, called BCI-838, is already in human clinical trials for the treatment of depression. “What makes this paper a really nice addition to the literature is that it comes from a good group that over the years has honed and refined a very legitimate, biologically relevant, and battlefield-relevant animal model,” says David Cook, who studies neurodegenerative disease at the VA Puget Sound and the University of Washington and who was not involved in the study. “This compound, which has plausibility for clinical use, was quite efficacious in ameliorating the PTSD-like symptoms that were caused by blast exposure a long time afterwards. This is the kind of stuff everyone is looking for.” Recent improvements in body armor have increased the chance that military personnel survive blast exposures that, a few years ago, would have killed them. But the result is that mild, repetitive TBI has become a signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, explains Cook. It isn’t unusual to encounter veterans who have been exposed to—and survived—more than 100 blasts, he says. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Stress
Link ID: 24608 - Posted: 02.03.2018

Jon Hamilton Scientists have found specialized brain cells in mice that appear to control anxiety levels. The finding, reported Wednesday in the journal Neuron, could eventually lead to better treatments for anxiety disorders, which affect nearly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. "The therapies we have now have significant drawbacks," says Mazen Kheirbek, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco and an author of the study. "This is another target that we can try to move the field forward for finding new therapies." But the research is at an early stage and lab findings in animals don't always pan out in humans. The discovery of anxiety cells is just the latest example of the "tremendous progress" scientists have made toward understanding how anxiety works in the brain, says Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which helped fund the research. "If we can learn enough, we can develop the tools to turn on and off the key players that regulate anxiety in people," Gordon says. Anxiety disorders involve excessive worry that doesn't go away. These disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. Kheirbek and a team including several researchers from Columbia University discovered the cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain known to be involved in anxiety as well as navigation and memory. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Emotions; Stress
Link ID: 24601 - Posted: 02.01.2018

Dean Burnett Doctors Warn That Anti-Depressants Can Lead To SuicideMIAMI, FL - MARCH 23: A bottle of antidepressant pills named Effexor is shown March 23, 2004 photographed in Miami, Florida. The Food and Drug Administration asked makers of popular antidepressants to add or strengthen suicide-related warnings on their labels as well as the possibility of worsening depression especially at the beginning of treatment or when the doses are increased or decreased. (Photo Illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) Please, do not just abandon your medication. If you’ve been prescribed drugs to treat an illness, suddenly dropping it altogether – for whatever reason – is invariably a very bad move. And this is as true for things like antidepressants as it is for insulin or antibiotics. Antidepressant withdrawal syndrome is a real problem. It doesn’t effect everyone equally, but that’s always been the case with antidepressants. The effects can be really profound and debilitating though, including a spike in anxiety, alarming “brain zaps”, and more. For better or worse, if you’ve been taking antidepressants for a number of weeks, your brain has slowly adapted to the new chemical levels and balance that they have brought about. A sudden cessation will rapidly alter this again, potentially causing all manner of problems, and possibly cause the underlying issue (ie depression) they’re supposed to be treating to return with a vengeance. This is why the specific dose and schedule of antidepressants is very carefully considered. If you do genuinely want to come off your antidepressants, please speak to your GP or medical expert, work out a system for gradual reduction and cessation and make plans and preparations for what could happen, as it could leave you unable to function normally. If you’re going to do it, please do it carefully, and thoroughly. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limit

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24564 - Posted: 01.25.2018

By Benjamin W. Nelson, Heidemarie Laurent, Nick Allen, An estimated 1 in 9 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. These symptoms—including mood swings, fatigue and reduced interest in activities—can make it difficult for mothers to bond with their newborns. Early relationships between mothers and their infants can influence health across the lifespan, for better or worse. For example, adults who report more household dysfunction and abuse during their childhood are more likely to suffer disease as adults. Those with healthy and supportive relationships during early life are better at handling stress and regulating their emotions. Advertisement However, scientists do not completely understand how these environments get “under the skin” to shape health. Our latest paper, published in November, shows a possible link between increasing depression symptoms in mothers and cellular damage in their infants. How does stress affect our cells? One area of burgeoning research focuses on telomeres. Telomeres are caps at the end of our DNA that protect chromosomes. They’re analogous to the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces that keep laces from unraveling. In essence, these plastic caps keep laces functional. The same can be said of your telomeres. Since the length of telomeres is affected by our genetics and age, they’re sometimes thought of as part of a “biological clock” that reflects the age of our cells. As telomeres shorten over time, people are more likely to experience a host of negative health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, cancer, obesity and even death. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Depression; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24559 - Posted: 01.24.2018

By LIZZ SCHUMER It happens every year, and every year, it’s a shock to the system. Nature throws itself one last party, festooning every tree in a crisp blaze of glory. After we’ve digested the last of the spiced cider, after the pumpkins have gone soft, the long, dark days of winter descend. In much of the Northern Hemisphere, December through March brings blustery cold that makes dreary days feel as if we’ve been banished to Siberia. Sound dramatic? Probably not to the roughly 6 percent of Americans suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal and his colleagues first put a name to the disorder in 1984. Today, it’s characterized as a seasonal pattern of major depressive episodes, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. SAD ranges widely in severity, from the doldrums Dr. Rosenthal calls the “winter blues” to disabling ennui. Its cyclical nature differentiates SAD from major depressive disorder. “We have a tendency to want to blame everything on psychological causes,” Dr. Rosenthal explained. “We overlook the obvious, which is that it’s dark as pea soup outside. That’s why I think [SAD] goes unrecognized — it’s right in front of our noses.” While SAD should be diagnosed and treated by a licensed medical professional, several treatment options have emerged in the decades since it was first recognized. Here are a few ways for patients and their doctors to address the disorder, ranging from most to least widely used. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 24558 - Posted: 01.24.2018

By LISA SANDERS, M.D. “Have you been to see your doctor?” the woman asked her 72-year-old mother anxiously. Her mother had come from Miami to visit her in New York. They hadn’t seen each other for a couple of months, and her daughter hardly recognized her. Her mother had been slender; now, she looked emaciated. Her usually bright eyes peered dully above her newly prominent cheekbones. But it was more than that — the unrelentingly cheerful, energetic, outgoing woman she had known her entire life had disappeared. Now her mother spoke of nothing but how awful she felt and spent most of her day in bed. It started a couple of months earlier when the mother and her partner were traveling in Italy for a month. While there, she began to feel irritable. She had fallen in love with this man eight years earlier — two years after the sudden death of her husband. And their years together had been happy ones. But on this trip, everything about him, about their relationship, began to grate on her. Suddenly she didn’t want to travel with him; she didn’t even want to see him. Indeed, she didn’t want to see anyone. When she got home, she felt no better. She was a psychologist and recognized the symptoms of anxiety. She had never felt this before, but she had seen it in her patients. She went back to the psychiatrist she saw a few times after her husband died. Yes, the therapist agreed, she did seem anxious. She was also depressed. The woman accepted the psychiatric diagnoses, but told her therapist that it wasn’t just her mind; her body felt like it was too fatigued to do the work of living. But of course, the therapist told her, your mind is part of your body. People, especially older people, often feel symptoms of depression in their bodies — feeling sick and tired rather than sad. The woman started taking an antidepressant and saw the psychiatrist once a week. When that didn’t help, the psychiatrist tried another drug. When she was still no better, she saw another psychiatrist, who added an antipsychotic. By the time the mother went to visit her daughter, she was on four medications: one for anxiety, two for depression and one for her insomnia. Yet she remained anxious, depressed and unable to sleep. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24549 - Posted: 01.22.2018

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