Posts tagged ‘mental’

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 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

July 2, 2014

Why Solitary Confinement Is The Worst Kind Of Psychological Torture [io9.com]

by George Dvorsky / io9.com

There may be as many as 80,000 American prisoners currently locked-up in a SHU, or segregated housing unit. Solitary confinement in a SHU can cause irreversible psychological effects in as little as 15 days. Here’s what social isolation does to your brain, and why it should be considered torture.

There’s no universal definition for solitary confinement, but the United Nations describes it as any regime where an inmate is held in isolation from others, except guards, for at least 22 hours a day. Some jurisdictions allow prisoners out of their cells for one hour of solitary exercise each day. But meaningful contact with others is typically reduced to a bare minimum. Prisoners are also intentionally deprived of stimulus; available stimuli and the fleetingly rare social contacts are rarely chosen by the prisoners, and are are typically monotonous and inconsiderate of their needs.

As for the jail cell itself, it typically measures 6′ x 10′. Nearly all scenarios for human contact, such as a guard, or medical and family visits, are done through a metal mesh, behind glass partitions, or in hand- and leg-cuffs.

Writing in Wired, Brandon Keim describes the conditions in the cells:

What’s emerged from the reports and testimonies reads like a mix of medieval cruelty and sci-fi dystopia. For 23 hours or more per day, in what’s euphemistically called “administrative segregation” or “special housing,” prisoners are kept in bathroom-sized cells, under fluorescent lights that never shut off. Video surveillance is constant. Social contact is restricted to rare glimpses of other prisoners, encounters with guards, and brief video conferences with friends or family.

For stimulation, prisoners might have a few books; often they don’t have television, or even a radio. In 2011, another hunger strike among California’s prisoners secured such amenities as wool hats in cold weather and wall calendars. The enforced solitude can last for years, even decades.

These horrors are best understood by listening to people who’ve endured them. As one Florida teenager described in a report on solitary confinement in juvenile prisoners, “The only thing left to do is go crazy.”

Prisoners in low and medium security jails are often thrown in the SHU for “just” a few days. But in maximum security prisons, individuals in solitary are held on average for five years, and there are thousands of cases of prisoners who have been held in solitary confinement for decades. Some countries, including the United States, employ the use of Super Maximum Security Prisons, or “Supermax Prisons,” in which solitary confinement is framed as a normal, rather than exceptional, practice for inmates.

Exact statistics are not known, but a 2011 study suggested that 20,000 to 25,000 prisoners in the United States are held in this way. Keim claims that that California holds some 4,500 inmates in solitary confinement, and that there are as many as 80,000 prisoners held in solitary across the United States — more than any other democratic nation.

Lasting Effects

Human beings are social creatures. Without the benefit of another person to “bounce off of,” the mind decays; without anything to do, the brain atrophies; and without the ability to see off in the distance, vision fades. Isolation and loss of control breeds anger, anxiety, and hopelessness.

Indeed, psychologist Terry Kupers says that solitary confinement “destroys people as human beings.” A quick glance at literature review studies done by Sharon Shalev (2008) and Peter Scharff Smith (2006) affirms this assertion; here are some typical symptoms:

  • Anxiety: Persistent low level of stress, irritability or anxiousness, fear of impending death, panic attacks
  • Depression: Emotional flatness/blunting and the loss of ability to have any “feelings”, mood swings, hopelessness, social withdrawal, loss of initiation of activity or ideas, apathy, lethargy, major depression
  • Anger: Irritability and hostility, poor impulse control, outbursts of physical and verbal violence against others, self, and objects, unprovoked angers, sometimes manifested as rage
  • Cognitive disturbances: Short attention span, poor concentration and memory, confused thought processes, disorientation
  • Perceptual distortions: Hypersensitivity to noises and smells, distortions of sensation (e.g. walls closing in), disorientation in time and space, depersonalization/derealization, hallucinations affecting all five senses (e.g. hallucinations of objects or people appearing in the cell, or hearing voices when no one is speaking
  • Paranoia and psychosis: Recurrent and persistent thoughts, often of a violent and vengeful character (e.g. directed against prison staff), paranoid ideas (often persecutory), psychotic episodes or states, psychotic depression, schizophrenia
  • Self-harm: self-mutilation and cutting, suicide attempts

In California, it has been shown that inmates are 33 times more likely to commit suicide than other prisoners incarcerated elsewhere in the state. Disturbingly, solitary confinement beyond 15 days leads directly to severe and irreversible psychological harm. But for some, it can manifest in even less time. What’s more, a significant number of individuals will experience serious health problems regardless of specific conditions of time, place, and pre-existing personal factors.

In terms of prevalence, somewhere between 8% and 19% of American prisoners will experience significant psychiatric or functional disabilities, while another 15% to 20% will require some form of psychiatric intervention during their incarceration. Figures in Europe are comparable. The American Psychiatric Association says that up to 20% of all prisoners are “seriously mentally ill” whereas up to 5% are “actively psychotic at any given moment.” About 4% of inmates have schizophrenia or some other psychotic disorder, nearly 19% suffer from depression, and around 4% have bipolar disorder (Abramsky and Fellner 2003).

Click this link to continue reading the article on io9’s website:

http://io9.com/why-solitary-confinement-is-the-worst-kind-of-psycholog-1598543595

June 18, 2014

Is There a Brain Region Associated with a Belief in Social Justice? [io9.com]

by Annalee Newitz / io9.com

socialjusticeSome people believe that we could live in a just world where everybody gets what they deserve. Others believe that’s impossible. Now, neuroscientists say they have evidence that the “just world hypothesis” is a cognitive bias that’s connected with a specific part of the brain.

This does not mean there is a “social justice center” in your brain. What neurologist Michael Schaefer and colleagues discovered is that there is a slightly different pattern of electrical impulses shooting through the brains of people who believe in a just world. They asked people whether they believed in a just world, then put them in an fMRI machine and then asked them to ponder scenarios where people broke from social norms or conformed to them.

Previously, other neuroscientists had identified brain areas that become active when people perceive norm violations. So the group knew that if those areas were lit up in the fMRI, all they were seeing was a response to norm violations in general. But what they found was that a few additional brain regions became active in people who believe in a just world. So they now believe there could be some physiological component to a belief in social justice.

Here’s the researchers’ abstract:

Previous studies identified a network of brain regions involved in the perception of norm violations, including insula, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and right temporoparietal junction area (RTPJ). Activations in these regions are suggested to reflect the perception of norm violations and unfairness. The current study aimed to test this hypothesis by exploring whether a personal disposition to perceive the world as being just is related to neural responses to moral evaluations. The just-world-hypothesis describes a cognitive bias to believe in a just world in which everyone gets what he or she deserves and deserves what he or she gets. Since it has been demonstrated that ACC, RTPJ, and insula are involved in the perception of unfairness, we hypothesized that individual differences in the belief in a just world are reflected by different activations of these brain areas. Participants were confronted with scenarios describing norm-violating or -confirming behavior. FMRI results revealed an activation of dorsal ACC, RTPJ, and insula when perceiving norm violations, but only activity in insula/somatosensory cortex correlated with the belief in a just world. Thus, our results suggest a role for insula/somatosensory cortex for the belief in a just world.

I can see the dystopian science fiction possibilities erupting out of your brains already. Imagine a terrifying Neurofascist regime, which uses neural pacemakers to prevent the “social justice” part of your brain from activating when you see soldiers killing people, or when you see innocent people being arrested. The possibilities are endless.

The science fictional possibilities are endless, that is. In terms of real-life science, this is just a tiny shred of evidence that could mean a lot of things.

Read the full scientific paper via PubMed

http://io9.com/is-there-a-brain-region-associated-with-a-belief-in-soc-1592261665

May 28, 2014

Lawmakers Aim To Restrict Guns for Mentally Ill After Shooting [californiahealthline.org]

California lawmakers are calling for increased restrictions on gun purchases for individuals who are suspected of having mental health issues and could pose a threat to themselves or others, theAP/Sacramento Bee reports. The legislation comes after six people were killed last week by an individual with suspected mental health issues.

Background on Killings

On May 23, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six individuals by stabbing or shooting them and wounded 13 others in Isla Vista, Calif. Rodger had legally purchased three semi-automatic guns and ammunition used in the attack (Dillon/Thompson, AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/28).

The incident occurred after Rodger’s family members had contacted the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department on April 30 with concerns about his mental health. Police conducted a welfare visit and concluded that Rodger did not pose a risk (Pickert, Time, 5/27).

Details of Legislation

Following the killings, California lawmakers proposed changes to the state’s rules for purchasing guns.

Assembly members Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) have introduced a bill that would allow temporary restraining orders to prevent individuals who are potentially violent from purchasing guns. Under the bill, family members and friends could contact law enforcement if they believe an individual could be a threat to themselves or others, and officers then could ask a judge for the temporary restraining order (Mason, “PolitiCal,” Los Angeles Times, 5/27).

Under current state law, individuals can be banned from buying firearms only if they are involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.

Skinner said, “When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs, but almost nothing can now be done to get back their guns or prevent them from buying more.”

In addition, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said the state should require law enforcement officers to check for weapons when conducting welfare visits, such as the one that took place at Rodger’s residence on April 30. In addition, Steinberg suggested that officers should search the area when called on such visits and speak with roommates and neighbors (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/28).

Reaction

Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, said the new legislation limiting gun purchases is unnecessary. Parades said, “We don’t need another bill to solve this problem. The tools are there — the Legislature and the professionals involved need to be willing to understand and take advantage of the system that is there in place” (“PolitiCal,” Los Angeles Times, 5/27).

Meanwhile, a spokesperson with the California chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness noted that only 30 law enforcement employees in Santa Barbara County undergo crisis-intervention training each year. However, the official said increasing such training still might “not be enough to respond” to such violent incidents.

NAMI California Executive Director Jessica Cruz added that there often is a lack of funding for mental health prevention and treatment, noting that the state has fewer than 50% of the number of psychiatric in-patient hospital beds as recommended by an expert panel (Time, 5/27).

http://www.californiahealthline.org/articles/2014/5/28/lawmakers-aim-to-restrict-guns–for-mentally-ill-after-shooting

January 29, 2014

Map Shows Just How Far the World Has to Go to Reach Gender Equality [time.com]

The United States is #42.

Based on stats culled from a report from the United Nations Development Programme, the below map highlights each country’s Gender Inequality Index, a figure calculated by analyzing factors such as the maternal mortality rate, number of seats women hold in government bodies and the labor force participation rate. The lower the number, the better gender equality each country has.

2012′s research found that the Netherlands was the country with the highest rate of gender equality, while Yemen had the lowest. Check out the below map, plus the 10 countries with the best gender parity.
GenderEquity

Click this link to read more:
June 20, 2013

Quote of the Day: Strong Children

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglas

January 16, 2013

This Is What’s in President Obama’s Gun Control Package [gawker.com]

By Robert Kessler / gawker.com

A few minutes ago, President Obama announced a $500 million package, synthesized from suggestions put forth by Vice President Joe Biden’s task force on gun control, aimed at curbing gun violence in the U.S. in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. The President called on Congress to take action in a number of ways, including:

  • Establishing universal background checks for anyone looking to buy a gun
  • Banning military-style assault weapons, as well as a 10-round cap on gun magazines
  • Confirming Todd Jones as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. (Jones is currently acting director, as Congress has not confirmed a director in six years)

Immediately following the announcement, Obama also signed 23 executive actions, which do not require congressional approval. They are the following:

  1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
  3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
  4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
  5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
  6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
  7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
  8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety
    Commission).
  9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns
    recovered in criminal investigations.
  10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it
    widely available to law enforcement.
  11. Nominate an ATF director.
  12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper
    training for active shooter situations.
  13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
  14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to
    research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
  15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective
    use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop
    innovative technologies.
  16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients
    about guns in their homes.
  17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits
    them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
  18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
  19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
  20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
  21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
  22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
  23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental
    health.

During his announcement, Obama stated that in the month since the massacre in Newtown, more than 900 Americans have been killed by guns. Obama, who at parts of the speech was both emotional and forceful, urged several times he will do everything he can to curb gun violence in America.

http://gawker.com/5976447/this-is-whats-in-president-obamas-gun-control-package

January 15, 2013

Holy health: Hospital program aims to boost community health [gazette.com]

by Barbara Cotter / gazette.com

Judging from the questions and statements in the survey that Patsy Janeba took one day, you could almost see her stretched out on a couch in a therapist’s office, mulling over her existence.

“In general, how satisfied are you with your life?”

“What keeps me up at night?”

“I suffer most with …”

This, however, was not your typical setting for deep soul-searching — though executives at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services believe it might be the perfect place to ask such questions. Janeba was at church, and she took the survey with the others at Trinity Lutheran Church to assess the spiritual well-being of the congregation.

The survey is one cornerstone of a relatively new Penrose-St. Francis program, the Church Health Project, part of the hospital system’s longstanding effort to boost community health and wellness by reaching people through their places of worship and emphasizing the connection between body and soul.

“Generally speaking, if you were to ask a church what its health care ministry would look like, they’d say, ‘We visit the sick and we bury the dead,’” says Penrose-St. Francis Vice President of Mission Integration Larry Seidl. “What we’re trying to do here at Penrose-St. Francis is ask the question: ‘What can a church do for its members to keep them well, or to be with them differently in the process of getting sick?’”

For about 13 years, Penrose-St. Francis has been helping churches create health ministries, with guidance from its team of Faith Community Nurses. Some of the 20 Colorado Springs churches that Penrose-St. Francis works with offer basic services, such as blood-pressure checks and flu-shot clinics. Others, including Trinity Lutheran, have a more robust program.

“It really depends on the church, and what resources they have” says Cynthia Wacker, head of the Faith Community Nurses. “We always encourage them to make sure they open it broadly enough so anyone interested in health and wellness — counselors, spiritual advisers, mental health professionals, chiropractors in the church — can be involved in the wellness of this church.”

Click to continue reading the article…

 

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