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By Giorgia Guglielmi This mantis shrimp (Gonodactylus smithii) might have a much more elaborate brain than previously thought. That’s the conclusion of the first study to peer into the head of more than 200 crustaceans, including crabs, shrimp, and lobsters. Researchers discovered that the brain of mantis shrimp contains memory and learning centers, called mushroom bodies, which so far have been seen only in insects. The team also found similar structures in close relatives of these sea creatures: cleaner shrimp, pistol shrimp, and hermit crabs. This may not be a coincidence, the researchers say, because mantis shrimp and their brethren are the only crustaceans that hunt over long distances and might have to remember where to get food. But the finding, reported in eLife, is likely to stir debate: Scientists agree that mushroom bodies evolved after the insect lineage split off from the crustacean lineage about 480 million years ago; finding these learning centers in mantis shrimp means that either mushroom bodies are much more ancient than scientists realized and were lost in all crustaceans but mantis shrimp, or that these structures are similar to their counterparts in insects but have evolved independently. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Evolution
Link ID: 24158 - Posted: 10.07.2017

By GINA KOLATA For the first time, doctors have used gene therapy to stave off a fatal degenerative brain disease, an achievement that some experts had thought impossible. The key to making the therapy work? One of medicine’s greatest villains: HIV. The patients were children who had inherited a mutated gene causing a rare disorder, adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD. Nerve cells in the brain die, and in a few short years, children lose the ability to walk or talk. They become unable to eat without a feeding tube, to see, hear or think. They usually die within five years of diagnosis. The disease strikes about one in 20,000 boys; symptoms first occur at an average age of 7. The only treatment is a bone-marrow transplant — if a compatible donor can be found — or a transplant with cord blood, if it was saved at birth. But such transplants are an onerous and dangerous therapy, with a mortality rate as high as 20 percent. Some who survive are left with lifelong disabilities. Now a new study, published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, indicates that gene therapy can hold off ALD without side effects, but only if it is begun when the only signs of deterioration are changes in brain scans. The study involved 17 boys (the disease strikes males almost exclusively), ages 4 to 13. All got gene therapy. Two years later, 15 were functioning normally without obvious symptoms. “To me, it seems to be working,” said Dr. Jim Wilson, director of the gene therapy program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, who was not involved in the new study. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Genes & Behavior; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24157 - Posted: 10.06.2017

By Ann Gibbons The insult "You're a Neandertal!" has taken on dramatic new meaning in the past few years, as researchers have begun to identify the genes many of us inherited from our long-extinct relatives. By sequencing a remarkably complete genome from a 50,000-year-old bone fragment of a female Neandertal found in Vindija Cave in Croatia, researchers report online today in Science a new trove of gene variants that living people outside of Africa obtained from Neandertals. Some of this DNA could influence cholesterol levels, the accumulation of belly fat, and the risk of schizophrenia and other diseases. The genome is only the second from a Neandertal sequenced to such high quality that it can reliably reveal when, where, and what DNA was passed from Neandertals to modern humans—and which diseases it may be causing or preventing today. "It's really exciting because it's more than two times better to have two Neandertal genomes," says evolutionary genomicist Tony Capra of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. The first Neandertal genome was a composite drawn from three individuals from Vindija Cave. Then, over the past few years, ancient DNA researchers sequenced two more Neandertal genomes, including another high-quality sequence from an individual that lived 122,000 years ago in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. Together, the genomes showed that living Europeans and Asians carry traces of DNA from Neandertals who mated with members of Homo sapiens soon after our species left Africa. (Most Africans lack Neandertal DNA as a result.) © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Obesity; Evolution
Link ID: 24156 - Posted: 10.06.2017

Hannah Devlin French scientists have been criticised for concealing the death of the patient at the centre of a breakthrough in which consciousness was restored to a man in a persistent vegetative state. The treatment was hailed as a major advance in the field and suggested that the outlook for these patients and their families might be less bleak than was previously thought. However, it has emerged that the scientists behind the research withheld the fact that the man, who remains anonymous, died a few months after receiving the therapy. The team justified the decision, citing the family’s wish to keep the death private and a concern that people might have wrongly linked the therapy, which involved nerve stimulation, to the 35-year-old’s death from a lung infection. However, others said the decision had created an over-optimistic narrative of a patient on an upward trajectory. Damian Cruse, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Birmingham, said: “I do worry that the media coverage of the study gave a more hopeful message to other families in this situation than the message that perhaps would have been delivered with all of the facts … If we protect patient anonymity, then there’s no reason not to be able to tell the full story.” When the paper came out last month, Angela Sirigu, who led the work at the Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod in Lyon, France, told the Guardian: “He is still paralysed, he cannot talk, but he can respond. Now he is more aware.” © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24155 - Posted: 10.06.2017

By Michael Price Expensive medications tend to make us feel better, even when they’re no different than cheap generics. But they can also make us feel worse, according to a new study. Researchers have found that we’re more likely to experience negative side effects when we take a drug we think is pricier—a flip side of the placebo effect known as the “nocebo” effect. The work could help doctors decide whether to recommend brand-name or generic drugs depending on each patient’s expectations. In the study, researchers asked 49 people to test out a purported anti-itch cream that, in reality, contained no active ingredient. Some got “Solestan® Creme,” a fake brand name in a sleek blue box designed to look like other expensive brands on the market. Others received “Imotadil-LeniPharma Creme”—another fake, this time housed in a chintzier orange box resembling those typically used for generic drugs. “I put a lot of effort into making the designs convincing,” says study leader Alexandra Tinnermann, a neuroscientist at University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany. The researchers rubbed one of the two creams on the volunteers’ forearms and waited a few minutes for it soak in. They told the participants that the cream could cause increased sensitivity to pain—a known side effect of real medications called hyperalgesia. Then the scientists affixed a small device to the volunteers’ arms that delivered a brief flash of heat up to about 45°C (or 113°F). © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 24154 - Posted: 10.06.2017

By Clare Wilson OUR braininess may have evolved thanks to gene changes that made our brain cells less sticky. The cortex is the thin, highly folded outer layer of our brains and it is home to some of our most sophisticated mental abilities, such as planning, language and complex thoughts. Around three millimetres thick, this layer is folded into an intricate pattern of ridges and valleys, which allows the cortex to be large, but still fit into a relatively small space. Many larger mammals, such as primates, dolphins and horses, have various patterns of folds in their cortex, but folds are rarer in smaller animals like mice. So far, we have only identified a few genetic mutations that contributed to the evolution of the human brain, including ones that boosted the number of cells in the cortex. One theory about how the cortex came to be folded is that it buckled as the layer of cells expanded. Daniel del Toro at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Munich, Germany, and colleagues wondered if some of the genetic changes in our brain’s evolution might have been about more than just an increasing number of cells. They investigated the genes for two molecules – FLRT1 and FLRT3 – which make developing brain cells stick to each other more. Human brain cells produce only a small amount of these compounds, while mice brain cells make lots. Del Toro’s team created mice embryos that lacked functioning FLRT1 and FLRT3 genes, which meant their cortex cells were only loosely attached to each other, like those of humans. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 24153 - Posted: 10.05.2017

By Emma Yasinski Scientists and physicians have tried countless methods to treat the nightmares, anxiety, and flashbacks of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers, from talk therapy to drugs designed to press the “delete” button on specific memories. Now, one group of researchers proposes another solution: Prevent the condition in the first place by predicting who is most likely to get it. In a new study, they say a 105-question survey already given to all U.S. soldiers may be able to do just that. “It’s a very important study,” says Sharon Dekel, who studies PTSD at Harvard Medical School in Boston, but was not involved in the new work. Only a minority of people exposed to trauma develop the disorder, and the new work may lead to better screening methods for this “vulnerable population,” she adds. U.S. Army soldiers have taken the Global Assessment Tool (GAT), a survey about their mental health, every 2 years since 2009. The confidential questionnaire asks soldiers to rate their agreement with statements like “My leaders respect and value me,” and “I believe there is a purpose to my life.” It’s meant to help soldiers understand their own strengths and weaknesses. But Yu-Chu Shen, a health economics researcher at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, wondered whether the survey could also predict the likelihood of someone developing PTSD or depression. So she and colleagues designed a study to see how soldiers’ GAT scores aligned with later illnesses. They looked at 63,186 recruits who enlisted in the Army between 2009 and 2012 and had not yet been exposed to combat. The team then compared the scores with how the same soldiers fared on a postduty comprehensive health assessment that also looked for signs of PTSD and depression. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 24152 - Posted: 10.05.2017

By Jessica Hamzelou AT LAST, we’ve seen how the brain memories when we sleep. By scanning slumbering people, researchers have watched how the “trace” of a memory moves from one region of the brain to another. “The initial memory trace kind of disappears, and at the same time, another emerges,” says Shahab Vahdat at Stanford University in California. It is the first time memories have been observed being filed away in humans during sleep, he says. Vahdat and his colleagues did this by finding people who were able to fall asleep in the confined, noisy space of an fMRI scanner, which is no easy undertaking. “We screened more than 50 people in a mock scanner, and only 13 made it through to the study,” says Vahdat. The team then taught this group of volunteers to press a set of keys in a specific sequence – in the same way that a pianist might learn to play a tune. It took each person between about 10 and 20 minutes to master a sequence involving five presses. “They had to learn to play it as quickly and as accurately as possible,” says Vahdat. Once they had learned the sequence, each volunteer put on a cap of EEG electrodes to monitor the electrical activity of their brain, and entered an fMRI scanner – which detects which regions of the brain are active. The team saw a specific pattern of brain activity while the volunteers performed the key-pressing task. Once they had stopped, this pattern kept replaying, as if each person was subconsciously revising what they had learned. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Sleep; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 24151 - Posted: 10.05.2017

By Simon Makin About 10 years ago David Adam scratched his finger on a barbed wire fence. The cut was shallow, but drew blood. As a science journalist and author of The Man Who Couldn't Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought, a book about his own struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, Adam had a good idea of what was in store. His OCD involved an obsessive fear of contracting HIV and produced a set of compulsive behaviors revolving around blood. In this instance he hurried home to get some tissue and returned to check there was not already any blood on the barbed-wire. “I looked and saw there was no blood on the tissue, looked underneath the fence, saw there was no blood, turned to walk away, and had to do it all again, and again and again,” he says. “You get stuck in this horrific cycle, where all the evidence you use to form judgments in everyday life tells you there’s no blood. And if anyone asked, you’d say ‘no.’ Yet, when you ask yourself, you say ‘maybe.’” Such compulsive behaviors, and the obsessions to which they are typically linked are what define OCD. Far from merely excessive tidiness, the mental disorder can have a devastating impact on a person’s life. Adam's story illustrates a curious feature of the condition. Sufferers are usually well aware their behavior is irrational but cannot stop themselves from doing whatever it is they feel compelled to do. Advertisement A new study published September 28 in Neuron uses mathematical modeling of decision-making during a simple game to provide insight into what might be going on. The game looked at a critical aspect of the way we perceive the world. Normally, a person's confidence about their knowledge of the surrounding environment guides their actions. “If I think it’s going to rain, I'm going to take an umbrella,” says lead author Matilde Vaghi. The study shows this link between belief and action is broken to some extent in people with OCD. As a consequence, what they do conflicts with what they know. This insight suggests compulsive behaviors are a core feature rather than merely a consequence of obsessions or a result of inaccurate beliefs. © 2017 Scientific America

Keyword: OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Link ID: 24150 - Posted: 10.05.2017

By Caroline Williams We are used to hearing that meditation is good for the brain, but now it seems that not just any kind of meditation will do. Just like physical exercise, the kind of improvements you get depends on exactly how you train – and most of us are doing it all wrong. That the brain changes physically when we learn a new skill, like juggling or playing a musical instrument, has been known for over a decade. Previous studies had suggested that meditation does something similar for parts of the brain involved in focused attention. Two new studies published in Science Advances suggest that certain kinds of meditation can change social and emotional circuitry, too. The research comes out of the ReSource Project at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, and looked at the effects of three different meditation techniques on the brains and bodies of more than 300 volunteers over 9 months. One technique was based on mindfulness meditation, and taught people to direct attention to the breath or body. A second type concentrated on compassion and emotional connection via loving kindness meditations and non-judgmental problem-sharing sessions with a partner. A final method encouraged people to think about issues from different points of view, also via a mix of partnered sessions and solo meditation. In one study, MRI scans taken after each three-month course showed that parts of the cortex involved in the specific skill that was trained grew thicker in comparison with scans from a control group. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 24149 - Posted: 10.05.2017

David Dobbs By the time Nev Jones entered DePaul University's esteemed doctoral program in philosophy, she had aced virtually every course she ever took, studied five languages and become proficient in three, and seemed to have read and memorized pretty much everything. Small and slightly built, with a commanding presence that emerged when she talked, she was the sort of student that sharp teachers quickly notice and long remember: intellectually voracious, relentlessly curious, endlessly capable, and, as one of her high school teachers put it, "magnificently intense." Her mind drew on a well-stocked, seemingly flawless memory with a probing, synthesizing intelligence. With astounding frequency she produced what one doctoral classmate called "genius-level reflections." So Jones grew alarmed when, soon after starting at DePaul in the fall of 2007, at age 27, she began having trouble retaining things she had just read. She also struggled to memorize the new characters she was learning in her advanced Chinese class. She had experienced milder versions of these cognitive and memory blips a couple times before, most recently as she’d finished her undergraduate studies earlier that year. These new mental glitches were worse. She would study and draw the new logograms one night, then come up short when she tried to draw them again the next morning. These failures felt vaguely neurological. As if her synapses had clogged. She initially blamed them on the sleepless, near-manic excitement of finally being where she wanted to be. She had wished for exactly this, serious philosophy and nothing but, for half her life. Now her mind seemed to be failing. Words started to look strange. She began experiencing "inarticulable atmospheric changes," as she put it—not hallucinations, really, but alterations of temporality, spatiality, depth perception, kinesthetics. Shimmerings in reality's fabric. Sidewalks would feel soft and porous. Audio and visual input would fall out of sync, creating a lag between the movement of a speaker's lips and the words' arrival at Jones' ears. Something was off. © 2017 The Social Justice Foundation

Keyword: Schizophrenia
Link ID: 24148 - Posted: 10.05.2017

Anna Gorman Kerri De Nies received the news this spring from her son's pediatrician: Her chubby-cheeked toddler has a rare brain disorder. She'd never heard of the disease — adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD — but soon felt devastated and overwhelmed. "I probably read everything you could possibly read online — every single website," De Nies says as she cradles her son, Gregory Mac Phee. "It's definitely hard to think about what could potentially happen. You think about the worst-case scenario." ALD is a genetic brain disorder depicted in the 1992 movie Lorenzo's Oil, which portrayed a couple whose son became debilitated by the disease. The most serious form of the illness typically strikes boys between the ages of 4 and 10. Most are diagnosed too late for treatment to be successful, and they often die before their 10th birthday. The more De Nies learned about ALD, the more she realized how fortunate the family was to have discovered Gregory's condition so early. Her son's blood was tested when he was about 10 months old. Dr. Florian Eichler, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, says newborn screening is a game changer for children with the ALD, because it allows doctors to keep a close eye on kids who test positive for an ALD mutation from the beginning. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24147 - Posted: 10.05.2017

Jon Hamilton Fresh evidence that the body's immune system interacts directly with the brain could lead to a new understanding of diseases from multiple sclerosis to Alzheimer's. A study of human and monkey brains found lymphatic vessels — a key part of the body's immune system — in a membrane that surrounds the brain and nervous system, a team reported Tuesday in the online journal eLife. Lymphatic vessels are a part of the lymphatic system, which extends throughout the body much like our network of veins and arteries. Instead of carrying blood, though, these vessels carry a clear fluid called lymph, which contains both immune cells and waste products. The new finding bolsters recent evidence in rodents that the brain interacts with the body's lymphatic system to help fend off diseases and remove waste. Until a few years ago, scientists believed that the brain's immune and waste removal systems operated independently. The discovery of lymphatic vessels near the surface of the brain could lead to a better understanding of multiple sclerosis, which seems to be triggered by a glitch in the immune system, says Dr. Daniel Reich, an author of the study and a senior investigator at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Alzheimers; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24146 - Posted: 10.04.2017

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS Because we can never have enough reasons to keep exercising, a new study with mice finds that physical activity not only increases the number of new neurons in the brain, it also subtly changes the shape and workings of these cells in ways that might have implications for memory and even delaying the onset of dementia. As most of us have heard, our brains are not composed of static, unchanging tissue. Instead, in most animals, including people, the brain is a dynamic, active organ in which new neurons and neural connections are created throughout life, especially in areas of the brain related to memory and thinking. This process of creating new neurons, called neurogenesis, can be altered by lifestyle, including physical activity. Many past studies have shown that in laboratory rodents, exercise doubles or even triples the number of new cells produced in adult animals’ brains compared to the brains of animals that are sedentary. But it has not been clear whether the new brain cells in active animals are somehow different from comparable new neurons in inactive animals or if they are just more numerous. That question has long interested scientists at the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging, who have been examining how running alters the brains and behavior of lab animals. Last year, in an important study published in NeuroImage, the researchers found for the first time that young brain cells in adult mice that spent a month with running wheels in their cages did seem to be different from those in animals that did not run. For the experiment, the scientists injected a modified rabies vaccine into the animals, where it entered the nervous system and brain. They then tracked and labeled connections between brain cells and learned that compared to the sedentary animals’ brain cells, the runners’ newborn neurons had more and longer dendrites, the snaky tendrils that help to connect the cells into the neural communications network. They also found that more of these connections led to portions of the brain that are important for spatial memory, which is our internal map of where we have been and how we got there. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Neurogenesis; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24145 - Posted: 10.04.2017

Amazon has been described as "irresponsible" for selling a hoodie that describes anorexia as "like bulimia, except with self control". One woman living with anorexia said it could "damage" the mental health of those with the conditions. Anorexia expert Dr Susie Orbach told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme the online retailer should "remove it immediately". Amazon said the hoodie was not sold on its UK website. It has previously been criticised for stocking T-shirts which say: "Keep calm and rape a lot". Beth Grant, who has lived with anorexia for 13 years, said selling the product was "absolutely disgraceful". "It could be extremely damaging to anyone suffering with either bulimia or anorexia," she told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme. "I think it could damage their mental health even further and cause them to potentially harm their life." Dr Susie Orbach, a psychotherapist and expert on anorexia, described the hoodie as "a way to make people feel really awful" when they were "already anguished enough". "This is terribly irresponsible on Amazon's part," she said. "We're breeding a culture [where people think] you should transform your body, you should comment on it, and if it isn't the way you want it to be it's got to be some other way." Dr Orbach called for Amazon to "remove it immediately". © 2017 BBC.

Keyword: Anorexia & Bulimia
Link ID: 24144 - Posted: 10.04.2017

Allison Aubrey "With exquisite precision, our inner clock adapts our physiology to the dramatically different phases of the day," the Nobel Prize committee wrote of the work of Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young. "The clock regulates critical functions such as behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism." We humans are time-keeping machines. And it seems we need regular sleeping and eating schedules to keep all of our clocks in sync. Studies show that if we mess with the body's natural sleep-wake cycle — say, by working an overnight shift, taking a trans-Atlantic flight or staying up all night with a new baby or puppy — we pay the price. Our blood pressure goes up, hunger hormones get thrown off and blood sugar control goes south. We can all recover from an occasional all-nighter, an episode of jet lag or short-term disruptions. But over time, if living against the clock becomes a way of life, this may set the stage for weight gain and metabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. "What happens is that you get a total de-synchronization of the clocks within us," explains Fred Turek, a circadian scientist at Northwestern University. "Which may be underlying the chronic diseases we face in our society today." So consider what happens, for instance, if we eat late or in the middle of the night. The master clock — which is set by the light-dark cycle — is cuing all other clocks in the body that it's night. Time to rest. "The clock in the brain is sending signals saying: Do not eat, do not eat!" says Turek. But when we override this signal and eat anyway, the clock in the pancreas, for instance, has to start releasing insulin to deal with the meal. And, research suggests, this late-night munching may start to reset the clock in the organ. The result? Competing time cues. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 24143 - Posted: 10.04.2017

By Diana Kwon Recovering from a concussion typically takes female athletes more than twice as long as males, according to a new study that tracked hundreds of teenagers active in sports. The finding adds to a growing body of evidence that vulnerability to this injury—and aspects of the healing process—may vary by sex. A handful of studies published since the mid-2000s have suggested that girls in high school and college may sustain a higher rate of these injuries on the playing field than boys do, and investigations over the last few years have indicated they may also take longer to recover. As a result, when sports medicine researchers and experts convened in Berlin last fall for the 5th International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport, their subsequent statement cited evidence girls were more likely to suffer concussions that required a more lengthy recovery period than their male counterparts did. “But there wasn’t enough data to [definitively] say that this was the case,” says John Neidecker, a sports medicine physician with the Orthopaedic Specialists of North Carolina. “We thought that we'd take a look back at the athletes that we saw over a three-year period and actually [provide] some objective data.” Neidecker and his colleagues analyzed the medical records of 212 middle and high school athletes who visited a sports medicine practice in southern New Jersey—110 boys and 102 girls—who had experienced their first concussion while playing an organized sport such as football, field hockey or wrestling. (Only initial head injuries were considered to rule out the possible effect of prior incidents.) Their analysis revealed the median recovery time for girls was 28 days—more than double that of boys, which was 11 days. The results appeared Monday inThe Journal of the © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24142 - Posted: 10.03.2017

By JAIME LOWE WHEN I was 16, I was admitted to U.C.L.A.’s neuropsychiatric institute. I’d been suffering from increasing paranoia (I thought war was imminent; I thought I would be called into battle) and lack of sleep (I paced our staircase into the early hours of morning). Most profoundly, I thought my parents were actually secret agents, wearing masks, sent to monitor my behavior. My hallucinations encompassed a wide range of cultural references — Michael Jackson, the Muppets, the Night Stalker, Bob from “Twin Peaks” and the clown from “It.” My parents told the doctors at U.C.L.A. that my behavior had been erratic for two months — I was obsessing over odd things, I wasn’t eating and I was convinced that the end of the world was on its way. In short, I was manic. I was hospitalized for almost a month, and I left the institute with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. My cure came in the form of three pink pills: 900 milligrams of lithium. It worked when I was on it. But a few years ago, my general practitioner had discovered heart-attack-level blood pressure and high creatinine measures — side effects that I couldn’t feel but were serious enough to warrant a visit to the E.R. As a result of my taking lithium, my kidneys were breaking down — I basically had a 60-year-old’s kidneys in my 37-year-old body. I was given a choice: I could stay on the lithium and get a kidney transplant eventually, or I could switch medication and risk having mania return. I chose to try a new medication. No drug could ever be as cool as lithium, a mysterious element that was present during the Big Bang and lingers throughout the galaxy as primordial stardust. Lithium has a medicinal history that dates to the Greeks and Romans, yet no doctor or researcher knows exactly how or why it works. It just does. It’s on the periodic table of elements, unpatentable and therefore cheap. Depakote, a drug officially approved for bipolar patients in the United States in the mid-1990s, has none of this cachet, and yet it’s known to be as effective as lithium in bipolar cases like mine. So my psychiatrist prescribed it to replace my pink pills. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Schizophrenia
Link ID: 24141 - Posted: 10.03.2017

/ By Shayla Love Just after lunchtime, on a blistering summer day in Washington D.C., cultural psychologist Yulia Chentsova-Dutton is showing me the stars. They’re on her computer screen at Georgetown University, and labelled disturbingly: insomnia, anhedonia, headache, social withdrawal, chronic pain, and more. Each star represents a somatic or emotional sensation linked to depression. “There’s the way people express depression … and then there’s what Chinese people do.” Chentsova-Dutton’s father was an astronomer. She’s found a way to use what he studied, the night sky, to understand her own research: how culture can influence the way we feel and express emotion. If you look up, there are thousands of stars, she says. You can’t possibly take them all in. So, each culture has invented schemas to remember them by, constellations. She pushes a button, and several of the depression stars are connected by a thin yellow line. “This is depression according the DSM,” she says, referring to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. “This,” she says, pushing another button, “is a Chinese model of depression.” The constellation changes, morphing into a different shape. New stars pop up, most having to do with the body: dizziness, fatigue, loss of energy. Chentsova-Dutton and her colleagues have been comparing these two constellations — of Chinese and Western emotion — for years, trying to explain a long-standing assumption about Chinese culture. Since the 1980s, cultural psychologists had been finding that, in a variety of empirically demonstrable ways, Chinese people tend to express their feelings, particularly psychological distress, through their bodies — a process known as somatization. Copyright 2017 Undark

Keyword: Emotions; Depression
Link ID: 24140 - Posted: 10.03.2017

By Claudia Wallis, A funny thing happened in the Dutch city of Maastricht in the fall of 2011. A policy went into effect banning the sale of marijuana at the city’s 13 legal cannabis shops to visitors from most other countries. The goal was to discourage disruptive drug tourism in a city close to several international borders. The policy had its intended effect, but also a remarkable unintended one: foreign students attending Maastricht University starting getting better grades. According to an analysis published earlier this year in Review of Economic Studies, students who had been passing their courses at a rate of 73.9% when they could legally buy weed were now passing at a rate of 77.9% — a sizeable jump. The effect, which was based on data from 336 undergraduates in more than 4,000 courses, was most dramatic for weaker students, women, and in classes that required more math. Some of this falls in line with past research: marijuana use has been linked to inferior academic achievement (and vice versa), so it makes sense that poorer students might benefit most from a ban, and the drug is known to have immediate effects on cognitive performance, including in math. But what’s really unusual about the study, notes one of its authors, economist Ulf Zoelitz of the Briq Institute on Behavior and Inequality, is that rather than merely correlating academic performance with cannabis use, as much past research has done, “we could cleanly identify the causal impact of a drug policy.” Zoelitz co-authored the study with Olivier Marie of Erasmus University Rotterdam. © 2017 KQED Inc.

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24139 - Posted: 10.03.2017