Chapter 16. Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders

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By Dana G. Smith Postpartum depression afflicts 10 to 20 percent of the nearly four million women who give birth in the U.S. every year. The condition hits at a vulnerable moment when mother and infant normally begin to bond. Depressed moms pay less attention to their newborns, so the critical attachment between mother and baby does not occur. For some women, postpartum depression can last for years, and the lack of maternal bonding can interfere with children’s development through adolescence. “There's a real need to identify women and treat them, and treat them quickly,” says Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Center for Women’s Mood Disorders. “When mom is not doing well, it becomes a crisis for the whole family at this vulnerable time. But like many issues related to mental health, and specifically women's mental health, it has been neglected.” Despite the frequency of postpartum depression, no treatments specifically target it. Many women who suffer from the condition receive standard antidepressants like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Prozac) but it is unclear how well these drugs work because the neurochemical serotonin may play only a secondary role in postpartum depression or may not be involved at all. Instead, researchers hypothesize that a shift in female reproductive hormones during pregnancy is the main cause. Now a new drug that has gone through late-stage clinical trials aims to correct the consequences of these hormonal changes, and early results in human trials suggest it may be working. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Depression; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25337 - Posted: 08.16.2018

by Amy Ellis Nutt Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability in young adults in the developed world. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Though the reasons for any particular suicide are often inscrutable, research published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that at least a fraction of the blame could be placed on traumatic brain injuries. Researchers found that of the nearly 7.5 million people who make up the population of Denmark, more than 34,500 deaths between 1980 and 2014 were by suicide. Approximately 10 percent of those who took their own lives had also suffered a medically documented traumatic brain injury. The statistical analysis was conducted using the Danish Cause of Death registry. “Individuals with mild TBI, with concussion, had an elevated suicide risk by 81 percent,” said Trine Madsen of the Danish Research Institute of Suicide Prevention, one of the authors of the study. “But individuals with severe TBI had a higher suicide risk that was more than double [the risk of someone with no TBI].” Three factors most strongly predicted the risk of suicide: the severity of the traumatic brain injury, a first incidence occurring in young adulthood and discharge from a hospital for a TBI in the previous six months. Seena Fazel, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of Oxford, has studied TBIs and health risks, including mental health issues, in large Scandinavian populations as well. “What is important in this study,” Fazel said, “is that we can say that these risks are also found when TBIs are sustained in childhood.” © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Depression
Link ID: 25330 - Posted: 08.15.2018

Laura Sanders To understand the human brain, take note of the rare, the strange and the downright spooky. That’s the premise of two new books, Unthinkable by science writer Helen Thomson and The Disordered Mind by neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel. Both books describe people with minds that don’t work the same way as everyone else’s. These are people who are convinced that they are dead, for instance; people whose mental illnesses lead to incredible art; people whose memories have been stolen by dementia; people who don’t forget anything. By scrutinizing these cases, the stories offer extreme examples of how the brain creates our realities. In the tradition of the late neurologist Oliver Sacks (SN: 10/14/17, p. 28), Thomson explores the experiences of nine people with unusual minds. She travels around the world to interview her subjects with compassion and curiosity. In England, she meets a man who, following a bathtub electrocution, became convinced that he was dead. (Every so often, he still feels “a little bit dead,” he tells Thomson.) In Los Angeles, she spends time with a 64-year-old man who can remember almost every day of his life in extreme detail. And in a frightening encounter in a hospital in the United Arab Emirates, she interviews a man with schizophrenia who transmogrifies into a growling tiger. By visiting them in their element, Thomson presents these people not as parlor tricks, but as fully rendered human beings. Kandel chooses the brain disorders themselves as his subjects. He explains the current neuroscientific understanding of autism, depression and schizophrenia, for example, by weaving together the history of the research and human examples. His chapter on dementia and memory is particularly compelling, given his own Nobel Prize–winning role in revealing how brains form memories (SN: 10/14/00, p. 247). |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 25326 - Posted: 08.14.2018

Philip Ball Carl Zimmer is a rarity among professional science writers in being influential among the scientists on whose work he writes and comments – to the extent that he has been appointed as professor adjunct in the department of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University. Zimmer has just published his 13th book, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, a survey of “the power, perversions and potential of heredity”. What is the book’s main message about our attitudes to heredity? Heredity is central to our existence and how we define ourselves. But it’s not what we think it is. It’s not just genes, for example. We inherit culture too, and there may even be other channels of heredity. And the way genes enable heredity doesn’t fit our common notions. We tend to imagine that we inherit particular genes from our parents, grandparents and so on, and that these shape us in ways that are easy to understand and trace. But that’s not how heredity works. Each trait is typically influenced by hundreds or thousands of different genes, and the environment in which those genes are acting makes all the difference to how we turn out. You talk in the book about how some of these questions were brought home to you when your first daughter was born in 2001. What’s your personal journey into the story of heredity? In 2000 my wife was pregnant with our first child, and our doctor asked us to go to a genetics counsellor. I thought this was pointless. But the counsellor started asking me questions and I suddenly realised I had a really terrible grasp of my family history. I felt very ashamed and irresponsible, because here was this child who would be inheriting a lot of my genes. This was the first time heredity went from being something I learned about in class to one of the most important things in my existence. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Genes & Behavior; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 25325 - Posted: 08.13.2018

by Antonia Noori Farzan It’s been well-documented that a decreased sex drive can be one of the side effects of antidepressants like Prozac. But the amount of these drugs that end up in sewage plants may also have an impact on the mating habits of wild birds, a new study from the University of York shows. Researchers found that female starlings that had been exposed to small doses of fluoxetine, the generic name for Prozac, became less attractive to male starlings, which sung to them less often and treated them more aggressively. Kathryn Arnold, one of the study’s authors and a senior lecturer in ecology at the University of York, described it as “the first evidence that low concentrations of an antidepressant can disrupt the courtship of songbirds.” That’s problematic because birds that are slow to find a mate may not get the chance to breed, she wrote. “We’re definitely not saying that it’s bad to take antidepressants, but certainly there is a greater need for new technologies to clean out sewage,” Arnold told The Washington Post. Birds like to graze at sewage treatment plants, which are teeming with worms, flies and maggots, she explained. But because antidepressants often make their way through the human body and into sewage plants without fully breaking down, those insects are frequently laced with prescription drugs. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Depression; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25320 - Posted: 08.13.2018

There is a new study on the effect treating teens for depression has on their parents. It suggests just treating teens has benefits for parents. LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST: There are estimates that 13 percent of adolescents in the United States experience at least one episode of major depression. That depression can be treated in teens. And new research suggests that it helps not just them but also their parents. NPR's Rhitu Chatterjee reports. RHITU CHATTERJEE, BYLINE: We tend to think of depression as affecting individuals, but Myrna Weissman says... MYRNA WEISSMAN: Depression is a family affair. CHATTERJEE: Weissman is a professor of psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. And she's studied depression in families for years. WEISSMAN: We know that there's high rates of depression in the offspring of depressed mothers. CHATTERJEE: Weissman's previous work has shown that when mothers are treated for depression, their children feel better, as well. That led another researcher, Kelsey Howard, to wonder, could the opposite be true? KELSEY HOWARD: So if kids get better, do parents then feel better? And we found that to be true, as well. CHATTERJEE: Howard is a graduate student at the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University. To answer her question, she and her graduate adviser analyzed data from a previous study that followed more than 300 teenagers getting treatment for depression either through counseling or pills or both. Before and during the course of the study, the researchers had also surveyed one parent of each teenager for symptoms of depression. When Howard looked at that data, she found that... © 2018 npr

Keyword: Depression; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 25319 - Posted: 08.13.2018

Pamela Duncan and Nicola Davis More than four million people in England are long-term users of antidepressants, new figures obtained by the Guardian show. Data released under the Freedom of Information Act shows that more than 7.3 million people were prescribed antidepressants in 2017-18, 4.4 million of whom also received a prescription for such drugs in both of the two previous years. 1.6 million people prescribed antidepressants in the past year were “new” users, meaning they were not being prescribed such drugs in either 2015-16 or 2016-17. The figures also show the number of such “new” users of antidepressants is falling. Month-by-month figures show an overall decline from just over 179,000 “new” starters in April 2016 to just over 132,000 in March 2018. Experts say it is not clear what is behind the trend and that there could be a number of factors at play. Scott Weich, a professor of mental health at the University of Sheffield, said the tendency to prescribe antidepressants seems to have gone in phases over recent decades. “Professionals may be becoming slightly less certain about the benefits of antidepressants [for mild depression], and patients themselves may be declining medication,” he said. Weich noted other reasons might be that individuals are finding it increasingly difficult to access GP services to discuss mental health issues, or that the issues are not discussed due to time constraints or other pressures. On the other hand, he said, it could in part reflect the rise in so-called “talking therapies” like CBT. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 25318 - Posted: 08.11.2018

Public awareness of the debilitating impact of postpartum depression on new moms has grown over the years, but many people don't realize it can affect men too, mental health experts say. In a series of presentations at the American Psychological Association annual convention this week, a group of psychologists said about 10 per cent of new fathers experience symptoms of depression and anxiety in the weeks before, during or after their babies are born. "One of the main myths is men don't experience hormonal changes, therefore they can't get postpartum depression or anxiety," said Daniel Singley, one of the presenters and a psychologist based in San Diego, Calif. "In fact, plenty of research shows that men do get hormonal changes around the birth of children, and that hormonal changes is just one of a number of bio-psychosocial factors that cause postpartum mood issues," he said. The Canadian Mental Health Association acknowledges that men and women and even parents who adopt can suffer from the condition, noting on its website that "a mother or father with postpartum depression may not enjoy the baby and have frequent thoughts that they're a bad parent." Dealing with the issue of postpartum depression in men is important for the well-being of their children, Singley said, because fathers experiencing it are "much less likely" to be involved with their newborns — which, in turn, can negatively affect the babies' development. ©2018 CBC/Radio-Canada

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 25317 - Posted: 08.11.2018

Ina Jaffe The antipsychotic drug Seroquel was approved by the FDA years ago to help people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other serious mental illnesses. But too frequently the drug is also given to people who have Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. The problem with that? Seroquel can be deadly for dementia patients, according to the FDA. Now some researchers have conducted an experiment that convinced some of the general practice doctors who prescribe Seroquel most frequently to cut back. All the scientists did was have Medicare send letters — three of them over the course of six months — to the roughly 5,000 general practitioners who prescribe Seroquel the most. The letters (attached to this document) had two elements: First there was a peer comparison aspect. The doctors who got the letters were told that they wrote a lot more prescriptions for Seroquel than the average for their state — in some cases as many as 8 times more. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services which regulates Medicare, was a partner in the study and sent the letters. So the in addition to peer pressure, they contained a government warning: "You have been flagged as a markedly unusual prescriber, subject to review by the Center for Program Integrity." Researchers then tracked the physicians' prescribing habits for two years. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25303 - Posted: 08.07.2018

By Pagan Kennedy Nearly 30 years ago, the author William Styron outed himself in these pages as mentally ill. “My days were pervaded by a gray drizzle of unrelenting horror,” he wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed article, describing the deep depression that had landed him in the psych ward. He compared the agony of mental illness to that of a heart attack. Pain is pain, whether it’s in the mind or the body. So why, he asked, were depressed people treated as pariahs? A confession of mental illness might not seem like a big deal now, but it was back then. In the 1980s, “if you were depressed, it was a terrible dark secret that you hid from the world,” according to Andrew Solomon, a historian of mental illness and author of “The Noonday Demon.” “People with depression were seen as pathetic and even dangerous. You didn’t let them near your kids.” “In the popular mind, suicide is usually the work of a coward or sometimes, paradoxically, a deed of great courage, but it is neither; the torment that precipitates the act makes it often one of blind necessity.” The response to Mr. Styron’s op-ed was immediate. Letters flooded into The New York Times. The readers thanked him, blurted out their stories and begged him for more. “Inadvertently I had helped unlock a closet from which many souls were eager to come out,” Mr. Styron wrote later. “It was like the #MeToo movement,” Alexandra Styron, the author’s daughter, told me. “Somebody comes out and says: ‘This happened. This is real. This is what it feels like.’ And it just unleashed the floodgates.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 25298 - Posted: 08.06.2018

Illegal, underground and said to be brimming with health benefits — the practice of microdosing psychedelic drugs is growing increasingly popular, yet it remains relatively unstudied and its reported benefits unproven. A group of Canadian researchers is hoping to change that with new data that begins to shed light on how and why people microdose, and what they say are its effects and drawbacks. Microdosing is the practice of taking minute doses of hallucinogens like LSD or psilocybin (the active compound in so-called magic mushrooms) for therapeutic purposes. The amounts are too small to produce a high but large enough to quell anxiety or improve mood, according to users. Researchers at the University of Toronto, York University and Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health collaborated on the study, which they say is the first of its kind. The team targeted microdosing communities on Reddit and other social media channels with an anonymous online survey last year. They received 909 completed responses from current and former microdosers as well as others who had no experience with the practice. The survey yielded information about how much and how often people microdosed: typically 10 to 20 micrograms of LSD (about one- or two-tenths of a tab) or 0.2 to 0.5 grams of dried magic mushrooms, about once every three days or once per week. Thomas Anderson presented the findings at the Beyond Psychedelics conference in Prague in June. Those who microdosed reported a number of benefits, including improved mood, increased focus and productivity, and better connection with others. ©2018 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Depression
Link ID: 25290 - Posted: 08.04.2018

Laura Sanders Anxiety can run in families. Key differences in how an anxious monkey’s brain operates can be passed along too, a large study suggests. By finding a pattern of brain activity linked to anxiety, and by tracing it through generations of monkeys, the results bring researchers closer to understanding the brain characteristics involved in severe anxiety — and how these characteristics can be inherited. “We can trace how anxiety falls through the family tree,” which parents pass it on to which children, how cousins are affected and so on, says study coauthor Ned Kalin of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. The newly identified brain activity pattern takes the same path through the family tree as the anxious behavior, Kalin and colleagues report July 30 in the Journal of Neuroscience. Kalin and colleagues studied rhesus monkeys that, as youngsters, displayed an anxious temperament. Human children with this trait are often painfully shy, and are at much higher risk of going on to develop anxiety and depression than other children, studies have shown. Monkeys can behave similarly. Researchers measured anxious temperament by subjecting young monkeys to a stressful situation: An intruder entered their cage and showed only his or her profile to the monkey. “The monkey isn’t sure what is going to happen, because it can’t see the individual’s eyes,” Kalin says. Faced with this potential threat, monkeys freeze and fall silent. By measuring the degree of this response, as well as levels of the stress hormone cortisol, the researchers figured out which monkeys had anxious temperaments. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Emotions; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 25274 - Posted: 07.31.2018

By Rhiannon Picton-James I was seeing a guy from London, and he told me Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were his favorite couple. He was charming, exciting and “got” me. His choice sounded so romantic, so like him. Obviously I knew who they were, but I wasn’t familiar with the details of their relationship. I lay in bed and Googled eagerly. Was this the kind of great love he envisioned for us? Zelda Fitzgerald was intensely glamorous and hauntingly beautiful. Scott called her the original flapper. Oh, and they had a turbulent relationship wracked with infidelity and excessive drinking: a love affair that ended with her dying after a fire broke out in the mental institution where she was a patient. She was schizophrenic and spent the last of her years hospitalized. Is this how he saw me? I had clinical depression, not schizophrenia. In my head (and, clearly, mine alone) we shared a blind devotion. When the reality of our relationship sank in, he got busy at work fast before disappearing entirely. He told me, over text, that he was “gut-wrenchingly sorry.” Although the devastation passed, his words lingered. I pulled up more articles on the Fitzgeralds. The Guardian wrote that Scott Fitzgerald’s “troubled wife” was a “beautiful and damned” socialite, per the title of his second novel, who would be played by Scarlett Johansson in an upcoming drama. The romanticism was bothersome to me. Elsewhere, on Facebook, an ad for a sale at Skinnydip, a London brand, popped up. It included a cute miniature backpack, emblazoned with the words “I’ve got issues” and embroidered pink roses. The catchy Julia Michaels hit played in my head, her soft voice gently singing, “When I’m down, I get real down,” before breaking into the chorus: “’Cause baby I’ve got issues.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 25263 - Posted: 07.28.2018

By Dave Philipps SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Some of the local growers along the coast here see it as an act of medical compassion: Donating part of their crop of high-potency medical marijuana to ailing veterans, who line up by the dozens each month in the echoing auditorium of the city’s old veterans’ hall to get a ticket they can exchange for a free bag. One Vietnam veteran in the line said he was using marijuana-infused oil to treat pancreatic cancer. Another said that smoking cannabis eased the pain from a recent hip replacement better than prescription pills did. Several said that a few puffs temper the anxiety and nightmares of post-traumatic stress disorder. “I never touched the stuff in Vietnam,” said William Horne, 76, a retired firefighter. “It was only a few years ago I realized how useful it could be.” The monthly giveaway bags often contain marijuana lotions, pills, candies and hemp oils, as well as potent strains of smokable flower with names like Combat Cookies and Kosher Kush. But the veterans do not get any medical guidance on which product might help with which ailment, how much to use, or how marijuana might interact with other medications. Ordinarily, their first stop for advice like that would be the Department of Veterans Affairs health system, with its thousands of doctors and hundreds of hospitals and clinics across the country dedicated to caring for veterans. But the department has largely said no to medical marijuana, citing federal law. It won’t recommend cannabis products for patients, and for the most part it has declined even to study their potential benefits. That puts the department out of step with most of the country, where at least 30 states now have laws that allow the use of medical marijuana in some form. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25254 - Posted: 07.26.2018

In the wake of a mass shooting — or any other senseless tragedy — the search for answers begins. How could it happen? Could it have been prevented? What can we do to prevent this from happening again? The question of whether there is a relationship between mental illness and violence — and the potential threat it may pose to public safety — was renewed this week after the family of Faisal Hussain, the gunman in Sunday night's deadly shooting rampage in Toronto, said he was mentally ill. "Our son had severe mental health challenges, struggling with psychosis and depression his entire life," the statement said. Two people were killed and 13 others injured in the attack, jolting a city already rattled by escalating gun violence. Hussain died from a gunshot wound moments after exchanging gunfire with Toronto police officers. Little is known about Hussain's condition or treatment beyond the statement released by his family. And while some explanation of what may have tormented or even motivated Hussain may add to our understanding, experts agree mental illness is just one of many potential red flags and not a reliable predictor of behaviour. People leave flowers at a memorial Tuesday honouring the victims of the mass shooting on Toronto's Danforth Avenue. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press) ©2018 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Aggression; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 25252 - Posted: 07.26.2018

By Dana G. Smith Suicide rates and temperatures are both on the rise, but are these two occurrences connected? A new study suggests maybe so. The research revealed hotter-than-average months corresponded to more deaths by suicide—and the effect isn’t limited to the summer, even warmer winters show the trend. In the study, published in Nature Climate Change, the investigators looked at all of the suicides that occurred in the U.S. and Mexico over several decades (1968 to 2004 for the U.S. and 1990 to 2010 for Mexico), comprising 851,088 and 611,366 deaths, respectively. They then observed how monthly temperature fluctuations over these periods in every county or municipality in both countries correlated to the suicide rates for that region. They discovered that for every 1-degree Celsius (1.8-degree Fahrenheit) rise in temperature, there was a 0.7 percent increase in suicide rates in the U.S. and a 2.1 percent increase in Mexico, averaging a 1.4 percent increment across both countries. That is, over the years, a given county would see more deaths by suicide in warmer-than-average months. Notably, the average temperature of the county did not matter; for example, Dallas and Minneapolis saw a similar rise in suicide rates. The effect did not depend on the month either—it made no difference whether it was January or July. There was also no difference between gender, socioeconomic status, access to guns, air-conditioning and whether it was an urban or rural region. Across the board, when temperatures rose in a given place, so did the number of suicides. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Depression
Link ID: 25243 - Posted: 07.24.2018

By Oliver Newlan The number of antidepressants prescribed to children in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland has risen over the past three years, figures obtained by BBC's File on 4 reveal. In England, there was a 15% rise. Scotland saw a 10% increase. And in Northern Ireland the number rose by 6%. In total, there were 950,000 prescriptions issued between April 2015 and March 2018. Experts have linked the rise to waits for specialist mental health services. Antidepressants should prescribed to children only under close supervision. NHS England, NHS Scotland and the Health and Social Care Board in Northern Ireland all say they are committed to improving child mental health services. NHS Wales was unable to provide prescription figures because it does not hold the data requested. The figures were obtained by Freedom of Information requests and relate to a group of powerful antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The total number of prescriptions rose from 290,393 in 2015-16 to 330,616 in 2017-18. The steepest increase was seen in the youngest patients, those aged 12 and under, where the number of prescriptions rose on average by 24%, from 14,500 to almost 18,000. Dr Bernadka Dubicka, who chairs the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "Currently only one in four children and young people are treated for their mental health problems. "The fact that prescriptions for antidepressants are rising could reflect a slow but steady move towards treating everyone who is unwell. "But the importance of giving children access to psychological therapies cannot be overstated. "What we don't know from today's data is why these antidepressants are being prescribed, and how. "It is vital that they are being used judiciously, monitored carefully, and the risks and benefits of taking them are assessed in each individual case." © 2018 BBC

Keyword: Depression; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 25240 - Posted: 07.24.2018

Olga Khazan For people with bipolar disorder, manic episodes can be euphoric, but they can also be terrifying. In the throes of mania, some people feel like they are superhuman. They start new projects and stay up all night to work on them. In the worst cases, they cease thinking coherently: They might attempt to walk into the sea or fly off the roof. Though medications can help manage the symptoms, no pill is perfect, and all of them have side effects. Bipolar disorder appears to be at least partly genetic, but environmental factors also play a role, perhaps by switching different genes on and off, which might spark manic episodes. And the thing that might be switching on some of these genes, according to a new study, is rather surprising: a category of preservatives in beef jerky called nitrates. For the study, recently published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, researchers asked people being treated for psychiatric disorders at the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore whether they had ever eaten dry cured meat, undercooked meat, or undercooked fish. Those who had eaten cured meats—which include jerky and meat sticks—were three and a half times more likely to be in the group that was hospitalized for mania compared with the control group. Meanwhile, cured meats were not significantly associated with other types of psychiatric disorders, such as major depression, and none of the other foods participants were asked about was significantly correlated with mania.

Keyword: Schizophrenia
Link ID: 25234 - Posted: 07.21.2018

By Rick Strassman The resumption of clinical research with psychedelics is producing preliminary evidence of benefit for a variety of conditions. These include depression, substance abuse and palliative care. Some research also indicates efficacy in attaining quasi-clinical goals such as “mystical-type experiences.” With proper safeguards in place, the frequency and severity of adverse effects are acceptable. These safeguards include careful screening and preparation of subjects, close supervision of drug sessions with specially trained therapists, and careful follow-up. We are now hearing calls to increase psychedelics’ clinical availability; i.e., “legalizing psychedelics.” Michael Pollan’s popular book How to Change Your Mind encapsulates many of the arguments for loosening current regulatory burdens that restrict the drugs’ use to the research setting. But there are some risks as well, and as John Horgan reminds us in his recent blog post in Scientific American, we need to exercise due caution. Psychedelics currently live in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, which is reserved for drugs with high abuse potential; no accepted medical use; and lack of safety even under medical supervision. The lower schedules, II–V, are for drugs with greater safety and for which medical uses exist, but they’re still highly abusable; they include oxycodone and amphetamine, for example. Schedule III drugs, including low-dose opiates/painkillers such as Vicodin or Tylenol with codeine, and certain cough syrups, are less so. Advocates of rescheduling psychedelics usually recommend placement into Schedule III. © 2018 Scientific American,

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25221 - Posted: 07.18.2018

By Mark Fischetti The Same Genes May Underlie Different Psychiatric Disorders Schizophrenia brain. 3-D magnetic resonance image (MRI) of the brain of a schizophrenic patient showing structural changes. Credit: Nancy C. Andreasen Getty Images People who have autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may have different challenges, but the ailments might arise from a common set of genes. Researchers compared genetic analyses of 700 human brains from deceased individuals who had one of those three disorders, major depression or alcoholism (columns) with brains of individuals who had none of the conditions. They examined 13 groups of genes thought to function together (rows). The scientists found that five groups had a pattern of overactivity or underactivity across at least three of the five conditions (blue and gray panels). Bipolar disorder, for example, was more similar to schizophrenia than to major depression even though clinicians may link bipolar disorder and depression, based on their symptoms. These insights could possibly reveal new treatments, says neurogeneticist Daniel Geschwind of the University of California, Los Angeles, one of the investigators. He adds that one path to that result, which has not yet been tested, could be to “put the different groups of genes in lab dishes and see which drugs reverse any overexpression or underexpression of the genes.” © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Genes & Behavior; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 25214 - Posted: 07.17.2018