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July 8, 2008, 9:02 PM CT

The association with stress and depression

The association with stress and depression
The brain is the key organ in the response to stress. Brain reactions determine what in the world is threatening and might be stressful for us, and regulate the stress responses that can be either adaptive or maladaptive. Chronic stress can affect the brain and lead into depression: Environmental stressors correlation to job or family situation are important triggers of depressive episodes and major life events such as trauma or abuse amongst the most potent factors inducing depression.

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that major depression will soon be the worlds greatest public health burden. Thus optimising antidepressive treatment with regard to delayed or insufficient therapy response and unwanted side effects is urgent. Since the development of novel antidepressants is based upon an improved neurobiological understanding of this condition, new information about the cellular changes that take place in the brain is required.

Professor Fuchs from the Clinical Neurobiology Laboratory, German Primate Center in Goettingen, will present the latest findings on how brain cells can be adversely affected by stress and depression. He will explain how the adult brain is generating new cells and which impact these findings will have on the development of novel antidepressant drugs.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 7, 2008, 10:07 PM CT

Schizophrenia linked to dysfunction in molecular brain pathway

Schizophrenia linked to dysfunction in molecular brain pathway
Alterations in a molecular brain pathway activated by marijuana may contribute to the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, as per a report in the recent issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Expression of the cannabinoid 1 receptor (CB1R), the site of action of the main chemical ingredient of marijuana, is significantly reduced in the brains of individuals with schizophrenia. Activation of CB1R impairs signaling by gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an important neurotransmitter essential for core cognitive processes such as working memory. The use of marijuana in individuals with schizophrenia appears to worsen this deficit in GABA synthesis.

Since reduced GABA is known to be present in schizophrenia, these findings suggest possible new drug targets that could help to improve function in people with the mental illness, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine scientists report.

"Heavy marijuana use, especially in adolescence, appears to be linked to an increased risk for the later development of schizophrenia, and the course of illness is worse for people with schizophrenia who use marijuana," said David A. Lewis, M.D., corresponding author of the study and UPMC Endowed Professor in Translational Neuroscience, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "We wanted to understand the biological mechanisms that could explain these observations, and with this study, I think that we can narrow down at least part of the 'why' to CB1R, the receptor for both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and the brains own cannabinoid chemical messengers".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 7, 2008, 9:58 PM CT

A baby's smile is a natural high

A baby's smile is a natural high
The baby's smile that gladdens a mother's heart also lights up the reward centers of her brain, said Baylor College of Medicine scientists in a report that appears in the journal Pediatrics today.

The finding could help researchers figure out the special mother-infant bond and how it sometimes go wrong, said Dr. Lane Strathearn, assistant professor of pediatrics at BCM and Texas Children's Hospital and a research associate in BCM's Human Neuroimaging Laboratory.

"The relationship between mothers and infants is critical for child development," said Strathearn. "For whatever reason, in some cases, that relationship doesn't develop normally. Neglect and abuse can result, with devastating effects on a child's development".

To study this relationship, Strathearn and colleagues asked 28 first-time mothers with infants aged 5 to 10 months to watch photos of their own babies and other infants while they were in a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner. The machine measures blood flow in the brain. In the scans, areas of increased blood flow "light up," giving scientists a clue as to where brain activity takes place.

In some of the photos, babies were smiling or happy. In others they were sad, and in some they had neutral expressions.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 7, 2008, 9:50 PM CT

PTSD causes early death from heart disease

PTSD causes early death from heart disease
Vietnam veterans who experienced posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were twice as likely to die from heart disease as veterans without PTSD, a new Geisinger study finds.

As per a research findings reported in the recent issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, Geisinger Senior Investigator Joseph Boscarino, PhD, MPH examined the prevalence of heart disease, PTSD and other problems in more than 4,000 Vietnam veterans.

The more severe the PTSD diagnosis, the greater the likelihood of death from heart disease, the study showed.

Vietnam veterans with PTSD--like chronic smokersare at higher risk of early death from heart disease, Dr. Boscarino concluded. Boscarino equated PTSD to smoking two to three packs of cigarettes per day for more than 20 years.

PTSD causes the body to release stress hormones, which leads to the inflammation and damage to the arteries and cardiovascular system damage. Stress hormones also tend to reduce the amount of inflammation-reducing cortisol in the bodythough scientists aren't sure why.

"Increased levels of stress hormones and less cortisol from PTSD are a bad combination," Dr. Boscarino explained. "Basically, PTSD just cooks your arteries in this situation."

Dr. Boscarino previously observed that people with PTSD had dramatically higher rates of chronic health problems such as psoriasis, arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 3, 2008, 8:55 PM CT

Disclosing violence to primary care or obestetrics

Disclosing violence to primary care or obestetrics
Scientists from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) observed that patients who disclose intimate partner violence (IPV) to their clinicians of any type did not experience serious harm. However, those who disclosed IPV in a primary care or obstetrics/gynecology setting received the most benefit. The findings, which appear in the Biomedical Central Public Health Journal, also conclude that disclosures made in an emergency department setting were more problematic from the patient's point of view.

Scientists studied 27 IPV survivors recruited through community support programs in Massachusetts. The participants were given in-depth interviews to ascertain types of medical encounters relating to abuse, with encounters described as either single interactions or continued contact over a period of time.

Participants described disclosure of IPV to medical personnel. They also reported episodes in which they were asked about or treated for an IPV related problem in which they did not disclose. The scientists determined the medical specialty in which the encounters occurred, and limited their focus to emergency department, obstetrical/gynecological care, and primary care. The scientists also labeled whether harms occurred as a result of any disclosure as well as the perceived helpfulness (beneficial or not).........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 1, 2008, 9:44 PM CT

Minimum drinking age of 21 saves lives

Minimum drinking age of 21 saves lives
One of the most comprehensive studies on the minimum drinking age shows that laws aimed at preventing consumption of alcohol by those under 21 have significantly reduced drinking-related fatal car crashes.

Specifically, the study reported in the July 2008 issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention observed that laws making it illegal to possess or purchase alcohol by anyone under the age of 21 had led to an eleven percent drop in alcohol-related traffic deaths among youth; secondly, they observed that states with strong laws against fake IDs reported seven percent fewer alcohol-related fatalities among drivers under the age of 21.

The study was funded by the Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The study, led by James C. Fell, M.S., of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), accounted for a variety of factors, such as improved safety features in cars, better roadways and tougher adult drunk driving laws, that are supposed to have contributed to a reduction in fatalities involving underage drivers who have consumed alcohol. Fell's research controlled for more variables than any other prior study on the topic, accounting for regional and economic differences, improvements in roadways and vehicles, and changes that lowered the illegal blood alcohol content for driving to.08. Yet, as per Fell, the eleven percent drop in youth fatalities is a "conservative" figure.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 1, 2008, 9:41 PM CT

Violence declines with medication use

Violence declines with medication use
Some schizophrenia patients become less prone to violence when taking medication, but those with a history of childhood conduct problems continue to pose a higher risk even with therapy, as per a new study by scientists at Duke University Medical Center.

"This is the first large randomized controlled study to compare the effectiveness of several commonly-prescribed medications for schizophrenia on reducing community violence," said Jeffrey Swanson, professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences and the study's lead author. "Serious violent behavior is not frequent among people with schizophrenia, but when it does occur, the results can be costly and tragic".

The study observed that violence declined significantly when patients took antipsychotic medications as prescribed, but only among patients whose previous risk for violence could be associated with psychotic symptoms.

The scientists identified a subgroup of schizophrenia patients with a history of childhood conduct problems who were more likely to be violent at the beginning of the study. Among these patients, violence was not strongly correlation to psychotic symptoms, and did not significantly decline with adherence to prescribed antipsychotic medicine during the six-month study period.

The new results, which are from the National Institute of Mental Health's Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) study, are reported in the recent issue of The British Journal of Psychiatry........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 1, 2008, 9:38 PM CT

Spiritual effects of hallucinogens persist

Spiritual effects of hallucinogens persist
In a follow-up to research showing that psilocybin, a substance contained in "sacred mushrooms," produces substantial spiritual effects, a Johns Hopkins team reports that those beneficial effects appear to last more than a year.

Writing in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the Johns Hopkins scientists note that most of the 36 volunteer subjects given psilocybin, under controlled conditions in a Hopkins study published in 2006, continued to say 14 months later that the experience increased their sense of well-being or life satisfaction.

"Most of the volunteers looked back on their experience up to 14 months later and rated it as the most, or one of the five most, personally meaningful and spiritually significant of their lives," says lead investigator Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., a professor in the Johns Hopkins departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Neuroscience.

In a related paper, also reported in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, scientists offer recommendations for conducting this type of research.

The guidelines caution against giving hallucinogens to people who are at risk for psychosis or certain other serious mental disorders. Detailed guidance is also provided for preparing participants and providing psychological support during and after the hallucinogen experience. These "best practices" contribute both to safety and to the standardization called for in human research.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


June 30, 2008, 6:59 PM CT

The perils of overconfidence

The perils of overconfidence
Overestimating one's abilities can have hazardous consequences. The overconfident investment banker may lose millions on a "can't-miss" start up or a driver who's had one too a number of may insist on making it home in the car. Research has backed up this notion but with one glaring problem: It relies on participants to give accurate reports of their own confidence.

But Pascal Mamassian, a researcher at CNRS and Universit Paris Descartes, France, believes he has found a way to circumvent this problem. In a paper reported in the recent issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Mamassian demonstrates that overconfidence can be revealed using a natural and objective visuo-motor task.

Participants in Mamassian's study sat at a computer and were asked to press a key in synchrony with a visual "blob" that would appear on the screen. Participants would be awarded points if they succeeded and docked points if they pressed the key prematurely or too late.

Mamassian then used a mathematical model to examine how participants would need to adjust their key tapping strategy in order to maximize their gain and minimize their loss.

Mamassian observed that participants routinely failed to aim toward the optimal time, instead displaying overconfidence in their action. Specifically, "They underestimated the magnitude of their uncertainty and the cost of their error," he writes.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


June 26, 2008, 9:18 PM CT

'No men allowed' in women's secret world

'No men allowed' in women's secret world
From the Petri dish in the controlled environment of a sterile laboratory to the faraway fields of another country, virtually anything can be the topic of scientific study. However, a University of Missouri religion professor observed that if the researcher is a male fieldworker studying women, the situation can be challenging.

"The question of whether men can conduct field research on women ultimately will be determined by the quality and type of the data that they gather," said Robert M. Baum, professor of religious studies in the MU College of Arts and Science. "The subject matter of the field research will profoundly shape the possibilities of success. For example, access to women's ritual spaces and esoteric knowledge may be too restricted for male researchers. Research on female religious leaders whose teachings are designed for both men and women and who preside over mixed congregations will be far more fruitful for men to conduct".

His conclusions about male scientists studying female subjects are based on his extensive observations of the Diola (pronounced joe-la) people. Baum has been traveling to southwestern Senegal on the African continent and conducting field research among the Diola communities, approximately 600,000 people, for more than 30 years. The modern Diola are primarily rice farmers.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Too little evidence exists to recommend or rule out estrogen as a treatment for schizophrenia in women, a new review of studies finds.People diagnosed with schizophrenia suffer distorted perceptions of reality and hallucinations. Today, estrogen is strictly an experimental therapy for the psychotic symptoms associated with the mental illness.

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