September 19, 2014

Antidepressants rapidly alter brain architecture, study finds [latimes.com]

paxil

By GEOFFREY MOHAN / latimes.com

A single dose of a popular class of psychiatric drug used to treat depression can alter the brain’s architecture within hours, even though most patients usually don’t report improvement for weeks, a new study suggests.

More than 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. use these drugs, which adjust the availability of a chemical transmitter in the brain, serotonin, by blocking the way it is reabsorbed. The so-called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, include Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa, Paxil and Zoloft.

The findings could be a first step toward figuring out whether a relatively simple brain scan might one day help psychiatrists distinguish between those who respond to such drugs and those who don’t, an area of mystery and controversy in depression treatment.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, used a magnetic resonance imaging machine to compare connections in the gray matter of those who took SSRIs and those who did not. They were particularly interested in what goes on when the brain is doing nothing in particular.

“We just tell them to let their minds wander and not think of anything particularly dramatic or upsetting,” said neuroscientist Dr. Julia Sacher, a co-author of the study published online Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

They created 3-D maps of connections that “matter” to gray matter: interdependence, not just anatomical connection. They relied on a discovery in the late 1990s that low-frequency brain signaling during relative inactivity, such as daydreaming, is a good indicator of functional connectivity.

When more serotonin was available, this resting state functional connectivity decreased on a broad scale, the study found. This finding was not particularly surprising — other studies have shown a similar effect in brain regions strongly associated with mood regulation.

But there was a two-fold shock: Some areas of the brain appeared to buck the trend and become more interdependent. And all the changes were evident only three hours after the single dosage.

“It was interesting to see two patterns that seemed to go in the opposite direction,” Sacher said. “What was really surprising was that the entire brain would light up after only three hours. We didn’t expect that.”

Click on the link below to continue reading the article on the LA Times website:

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-antidepressants-brain-structure-20140918-story.html

September 19, 2014

Schizophrenia Is Actually Eight Distinct Genetic Disorders [io9.com]

by George Dvorsky / io9.com

New research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that schizophrenia is not a single disease, but rather a group of eight genetically distinct disorders, each of them with its own set of symptoms. The finding could result in improved diagnosis and treatment, while also shedding light on how genes work together to cause complex disorders.

Schizophrenia is classified as a psychotic disorder, one characterized by an inability to discern what is real and not real, to think clearly, have normal emotional responses, and act normally in social situations. As Elyn Saks told us last year, “it’s a waking nightmare, where you have all the bizarre images, the terrible things happening, and the utter terror — only with a nightmare you open your eyes and it goes away. No such luck with a psychotic episode.”

Scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes it, nor does it manifest identically in all people who have it (leading to the broader diagnosis of being on the ‘schizophrenia spectrum’). But links have been made to genetics, social factors (including early development), and neurobiology. The heritability link looks to be particularly promising, however; about 80% of the risk for schizophrenia is genetic. Yet scientists have struggled to identify which genes are responsible for the condition.

But a novel approach to analyzing genetic influences on more than 4,000 people with schizophrenia has finally allowed researchers to identify distinct gene clusters that contribute to eight different classes of schizophrenia.

“Genes don’t operate by themselves,” noted C. Robert Cloninger, MD, PhD, one of the study’s senior investigators in a statement. “They function in concert, much like an orchestra, and to understand how they’re working, you have to know not just who the members of the orchestra are but how they interact.”

Indeed, complex diseases like schizophrenia may be influenced by hundreds or thousands of genetic variants that interact with one another in complicated and dynamic ways, leading to what scientists call “multifaceted genetic architectures.” Now, thanks to the work of investigators at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the genetic architecture for schizophrenia is starting to take shape.

That’s a Match

For the study, Cloninger and his colleagues matched precise DNA variations in people with and without schizophrenia to symptoms in individual patients. In total, they looked at nearly 700,000 sites within the genome where a single unit of DNA is altered (i.e. a single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP). Specifically, they analyzed the SNPs of 4,200 people with schizophrenia and 3,800 people without it. This allowed them to learn how individual genetic variations interact with each other to produce the illness.

So, for example, hallucinations and delusions were associated with one set of DNA variations, that carried a 95% risk of schizophrenia. Another symptom, disorganized speech and behavior, was found to carry a 100% risk with another set of DNA.

“What we’ve done here, after a decade of frustration in the field of psychiatric genetics, is identify the way genes interact with each other, how the ‘orchestra’ is either harmonious and leads to health, or disorganized in ways that lead to distinct classes of schizophrenia,” Cloninger said.

Click to continue reading the article on io9.com:

http://io9.com/schizophrenia-is-actually-eight-distinct-genetic-disord-1634838735

September 19, 2014

Occupy activists abolish $3.85m in Corinthian Colleges students’ loan debt [theguardian.com]

by  / theguardian.com

Rolling Jubilee activist group buys student debt at knockdown price to inspire Americans to ‘exert collective power’

Over the last few days, over 2,700 Everest College students woke up to find that someone had paid off their private student debt.

This was no act of goodwill by the government, which is currently suing Everest parent Corinthian Colleges for its predatory lending practices. Nor is it a gift from Everest itself, which is expected to shutter its doors and possibly leave 72,000 students out of their time and tuition.

Instead, the disappearing student loan debt is the second major piece of financial activism by a group of Occupy Wall street activists.

To inspire Americans with student debt to unionize, the Rolling Jubilee Fund, a project of Strike Debt, has purchased and abolished a portfolio of private student loans issued to Everest students.

Strike Debt is also launching a new initiative – The Debt Collective, which will “create a platform for organization, advocacy and resistance by debtors”.

“Solutions are not going to happen if we just wait for Congress to do it,” says Thomas Gokey, one of the organizers. “We need a social movement. We need debtors to unite to exert collective power.”

The portfolio was valued at – to be exact – $3,856,866.11 in student debt.

In the vast scheme of things, $3.8m is barely a drop in the bucket as the student debt owed by Americans has now surpassed $1tn.

The gesture, however, is meant to be symbolic as it proves that debt can be conquered – and at a discount. Rolling Jubilee bought the $3.8m worth of student loans for a total of $106,709.48 in cash. That’s about 3¢ for $1 of student debt.

“The Rolling Jubilee doesn’t actually solve the problem. The Rolling Jubilee is a tactic and a valuable one because it exposes how debt operates,” says Gokey.

“It punches a hole through the morality of debt, through this idea that you owe X amount of dollars that the 1% says you owe. In reality, that debt is worth significantly less. The 1% is selling it to each other at bargain-based prices. You don’t actually owe that.”

The 1% in this scenario are the companies issuing private student loans and the debt buyers, who often purchase student loan portfolios like the one purchased by the Rolling Jubilee.

This is not the first time that the group has shown that consumer debt can be purchased for cents on the dollar.

Last year, the group managed to buy $13.5m of medical debt owed by 2,693 people as well as $1.2m of other personal debt for a total of $400,000.

The funds that are making these purchases possible came directly from the US public. For little over a year, from November 2012 to end of December 2013, Rolling Jubilee was accepting donations from its supporters. The campaign was able to raise about $700,000.

“It’s really a crowdsourced project,” says Laura Hanna, one of the members, noting that majority of contributions were quite small.

Click on the link below to continue reading the article:

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/sep/17/occupy-activists-student-debt-corinthian-colleges

 

September 19, 2014

The Strange Case of An 18th-Century Sex Change Surgery [newrepublic.com]

by Alice Robb / newrepublic.com

One day in 1779, a London couple, seeking treatment for their seven-year-old daughter, showed up at the Soho Square Dispensary for the Relief of the Infant Poor. The first doctor thought she might have a hernia. The second had a different idea.

“I shall not trouble the reader with the surprise into which the parents were thrown when I first told them their child was not a girl, as they had supposed, but a boy,” wrote the second doctor. The case was recently discovered in the archives of the University of Kansas and written up in the latest issue of the journal Sexualities.

mistakenIn the early 2000s, Carol Warrenthen a professor of sociology at the University of Kansaswas researching the history of electricity in the college’s rare books library when she noticed an old pamphlet with an eye-catching title: “The case of a boy who had been mistaken for a girl; with three anatomical views of the parts, before and after the operation and cure,” by a surgeon called Thomas Brand. “I was looking through a bunch of materials that had been shoved together, and this one appeared,” recalls Warren.

According to Brand’s report, published in 1787, he noticed an “irregularity” in the patient’s “external parts.” After further examination, he concluded that the child’s “part, which had the appearance of the labia pudenda, was in fact the scrotum,” and suggested an “operation to free the penis from its confinement.” He went ahead and made some alterations, enabling the childwhose name is unknown“to urinate standing up, wear trousers, and enjoy the privileges of being a male.” Brand, who practiced at the Royal Hospital at Greenwich, was “not a quack,” according to Mary Fissell, a professor of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins who I spoke to on the phone.

Eight pages long, with three illustrations of the child’s anatomy, the pamphlet may describe one of the earliest instances of sex-change surgery. “The first case that I found (in America) was in the 1840s, and it was received quite critically by fellow physicians,” writes Elizabeth Reis, author of Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex and professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Oregon, in an email.

Brand saw the operation not as sex change, but as a means of returning the child to his “proper” gender; Brand seemed to believe that only two distinct sexes were possible. He denied the existence of hermaphrodites, although he was familiar with the concept: “The term ‘hermaphrodite’ is properly understood as an animal that has both the male and female organs equally and perfectly formed,” he wrote. “But,” he goes on, “There is no reason to believe that such a case ever had existence in the human subject.”

Brand’s attitude toward sex and gender was consistent with the predominant view of his time; according to eighteenth-century norms, sex was a medical fact that had nothing to do with choice or personal expression. In fact, neither the patient nor his parents seem to have even been consulted. “Gender wasn’t conceived of as a form of identity,” says Warren. “It was conceived of as a form of body.” The idea of a person being “transgender,” of course, is not something that would enter common conception until about two centuries later.

Click on the link continue reading the article…

September 12, 2014

Serendipity: Animated Chart of North American Butterflies [tabletopwhale.com]

Amazing animated chart of North American Butterflies by Eleanor Lutz!

As an aside, you can support Lutz by purchasing some of her amazing work here at: http://www.artsider.com/people/hellofromthemoon

butterflies

http://tabletopwhale.com/2014/08/27/42-butterflies-of-north-america.html

September 12, 2014

The Only Thing Unusual About Ray And Janay Rice Is That Anyone Noticed [deadspin.com]

BTS-Buttonby Diana Moskovitz / deadspin.com

One of my first homicide stories as a young crime reporter was about a woman killed by her boyfriend. One of my last stories as a crime reporter was about a woman killed by her husband. In between, there were too many dead women to count. A few stand out in memory, the ones whose deaths were especially grisly or tragic. But without fail, women slain by the men they loved kept coming across my desk.

It’s amazing how routine abuse can become. That’s why, whenever a woman turned up dead in South Florida, I knew exactly what to do.

First, find the old restraining order she’d let expire. Second, pull the file from the courthouse. Finally, find the letter inside in which she’d told the court her boyfriend or husband promised he would never hit her again. Because he’s a changed man. Because this was a one-time incident. Because I’m at fault, too. Because this is not a reflection of our relationship. He’ll never hit me again, the dead women had pleaded—just like Janay Rice did, on national television.

But this story isn’t about that press conference anymore. It’s about the video that shows Ray Rice with Janay—then his fiancée, now his wife—in an Atlantic City casino elevator. She rushes up to him, and he throws one swift punch. Her body goes horizontal, head slamming into a handrail before she crumples, powerless, to the floor. It happens in seconds, and then come the gut-wrenching moments when Ray Rice stands there, just stands there, over her unconscious body.

Get angry at what Ray Rice did and get angry at what Roger Goodell didn’t do, but please don’t be surprised by any of it. Not by the hit, not by the blatant attempts to make it look like it was the woman’s fault, not by Rice saying he would never do it again, not even by his wife taking him back. From the beginning, the Ray Rice saga has recapitulated everything awful about how domestic violence plays out in America. It has followed the script perfectly.

Click on this link to continue reading the rest of the article:

http://deadspin.com/the-only-thing-unusual-about-ray-and-janay-rice-is-that-1633583402/+laceydonohue

September 9, 2014

Poem of the Day: Unfamiliar Circumstances

impression

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“But your solitude will be a support
and a home for you,
even in the midst of very
unfamiliar circumstances,
and from it you will find all your paths.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

 

(Painting: Delicious Solitude, 1909, by Frank Bramley)

September 8, 2014

90-Year-Old Women Get Married After 70 Years Together [gawker.com]

It’s not a competition, but here’s the best wedding that happened this weekend: 90-year-old Alice “Nonie” Dubes and 91-year-old Vivian Doyack got married in Davenport, Iowa after 72 years together. Vivian wore pink, Nonie wore taupe, and the two held hands in their wheelchairs during the ceremony.

According to the Quad City Times, Vivian and Nonie met in their hometown of Yale, Iowa and moved to Davenport together in 1947. Vivian was a longtime elementary school teacher and Nonie did payroll work. Nonie says of their romance: “We’ve had a good time.”

The two have apparently visited all 50 states, all the Canadian provinces, and England.

The officiant Rev. Linda Hunsaker told attendees on Saturday, “This is a celebration of something that should have happened a very long time ago.” Gay marriage was legalized in Iowa in 2009.

http://gawker.com/90-year-old-women-get-married-after-seven-decades-livin-1631938145

September 8, 2014

Student Debt in America

September 5, 2014

Study: Science and Religion Really Are Enemies After All [motherjones.com]

Are science and religion doomed to eternal “warfare,” or can they just get along? Philosophers, theologians, scientists, and atheists debate this subject endlessly (and often, angrily). We hear a lot less from economists on the matter, however. But in arecent paper, Princeton economist Roland Bénabou and two colleagues unveiled a surprising finding that would at least appear to bolster the “conflict” camp: Both across countries and also across US states, higher levels of religiosity are related to lower levels of scientific innovation.

“Places with higher levels of religiosity have lower rates of scientific and technical innovation, as measured by patents per capita,” comments Bénabou. He adds that the pattern persists “when controlling for differences in income per capita, population, and rates of higher education.”

That’s the most salient finding from the paper by Bénabou and his colleagues, which uses an economic model to explore how scientific innovation, religiosity, and the power of the state interact to form different “regimes.” The three kinds of regimes that they identify: a secular, European-style regime in which religion has very little policy influence and science garners great support; a repressive, theocratic regime in which the state and religion merge to suppress science; and a more intermediate, American-style regime in which religion and science both thrive, with the state supporting science and religions (mostly) trying to accommodate themselves to its findings.

It is in the process of this inquiry on the relationship between science, religion, and the state that the researchers dive into an analysis of patents, both in the United States and across the globe. And the results are pretty striking.

Click on this link to read the rest of the article:
http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/09/religion-quashes-innovation-patents

 

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