Brain abnormality indicates general risk for mental illness

A new study by researchers at Duke University reports an abnormality in visual regions of the brain that is associated with a person’s general risk for mental illness. The findings, published in Biological Psychiatry, indicate a signature abnormality shared between common forms of mental illness, which could help clinicians assess a patient’s general risk for developing a mental illness. The signature abnormality was present in participants involved in the study who already had a higher risk of mental illness. This was characterized by a reduced efficiency between visual areas and brain networks important for integrating sensory information and suppressing distracting information.

Researchers have long thought that some aspects of the biology of the risk for psychiatric disorders were specific to particular disorders, and by studying specific groups of patients, may have mistaken general risk factors as specific risk factors. Newer research suggests that a person’s risk for developing mental illness is not specific to one form of disorder, but is instead shared across many different disorders. “In other words, there may be a single risk factor that predicts whether an individual develops any form of psychiatric disorder, be it depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, or even schizophrenia,” said first author Maxwell Elliott, a doctoral student in the laboratory of Ahmad Hariri, PhD.

Full story at Science Daily

Washington Politics Adding To Mental Health Crisis Among Farmers

Suicide rates among farmers are higher than any other profession in the United States and now some experts and Senators worry Washington politics could be making farmland stresses even worse.

The House is set to vote by Friday on a controversial farm bill that includes major changes to work requirements for people on food stamps. The issue is dividing Republicans and Democrats and threatens to undermine support for the bill in Washington. Now farmers fear the bill, which includes safety net programs to keep farmers in business in bad economic times, is at risk because of the unrelated fight.

Bob Worth, a soybean farmer in Minnesota, said the frustration is growing in rural America.

Full story at npr.org

New hope for patients with depression and anxiety

There is a strong link between depression and anxiety disorders and autoimmune thyroiditis (AIT), a chronic thyroid condition affecting approximately 10 percent of the population. Scientists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now proven that special treatment could help many sufferers, especially women.

Depression and anxiety are among the most common psychiatric disorders across the globe. In 2016 more than 260,000 patients were admitted to hospital for treatment in Germany alone, according to statistics from the Federal Statistics Office.

Together with Prof. Dr. Johannes Kornhuber, Chair of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at FAU, and scientists from the Psychiatric Clinic at the University of Bonn, Dr. Teja Wolfgang Grömer, medical practitioner in Bamberg and lecturer at the Chair of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, has now proven a strong link between depression and anxiety disorders and autoimmune thyroiditis. ‘Over the years, I must have been consulted by several hundred people suffering from depression and anxiety,’ reports the psychiatrist and former Max-Planck researcher. ‘At the end of 2015 I noticed a marked connection between AIT and the other two conditions, especially in patients suffering from both. After realising that more than one in two people diagnosed with anxiety and depression — and only in these cases, not other conditions — also tested positive for antibodies I decided to investigate the issue in more detail.’ With the help of the co-authors and a student of psychology at the University of Bamberg, Eva-Maria Siegmann, Dr. Grömer drew up a systematic overview of the current state of research and calculated the strength of the connection on the basis of statistics. For his metastudy, Dr. Grömer combined 21 independent studies based on a total of 36,174 participants. 35,168 of the participants suffered from depression and 34,094 from anxiety.

Full story at Science Daily

How do you know if you’re having a panic or anxiety attack?

The terms panic attack and anxiety attack are used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Key characteristics distinguish one from the other, though they have several symptoms in common.

These types of attack have different intensities and durations.

Panic attacks are generally more intense than anxiety attacks. They also come on out of the blue, while anxiety attacks are often associated with a trigger.

Symptoms of anxiety are linked to numerous mental health conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and trauma, while panic attacks mainly affect those with panic disorder.

Full story at Medical News Today

 

Depression linked to memory problems and brain aging

Depression in older adults may be linked to memory problems, according to a study published in the May 9, 2018, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study also showed that older people with greater symptoms of depression may have structural differences in the brain compared to people without symptoms.

“Since symptoms of depression can be treated, it may be possible that treatment may also reduce thinking and memory problems,” said study author Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, PhD, MS, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida. “With as many as 25 percent of older adults experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s important to better understand the relationship between depression and memory problems.”

The study involved 1,111 people who were all stroke-free with an average age of 71. The majority were Caribbean Hispanic. At the beginning of the study, all had brain scans, a psychological exam and assessments for memory and thinking skills. Their memory and thinking skills were tested again an average of five years later.

Full story at Science Daily

New Processing Technique Helps Researchers Use Electronic Health Records to Study Biological Contributors to Mental Illnesses

Researchers have found a way to scan electronic health records (EHRs) that helps identify associations between broad dimensions of behavioral function and genes relevant to mental disorders. Use of the technique opens an enormous source of data to researchers who are interested in taking a dimensional approach to the study of mental illnesses instead of using traditional diagnostic categories. The study, funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), was published online February 26, 2018 in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

As medicine has entered the digital age, the use of electronic systems for managing health data has skyrocketed. These electronic health records provide a trove of information for researchers who want to understand factors that contribute to health and illness.

Full story at NIMH

Mental health crises seeing more kids forced to ED for help; experts call for greater investment

A dramatic increase in the number of children going to the emergency department in mental health crises is evidence “the system is failing”, according to a group of leading adolescent and mental health experts.

In Victoria, there was a 46 per cent increase in the number of children presenting to the ED for self-harm, stress and anxiety, mood, behavioural and emotional disorders between 2008 and 2015, according to a recent study.

Similarly, in New South Wales, ED presentations among 10-19 year-olds for suicidal thoughts, self-harm and intentional poisoning increased by 27 per cent between 2010 and 2014, another paper has shown.

Full story at ABC.net

Brains of young people with severe behavioral problems are ‘wired differently’

Research published today (Tuesday 1 May) has revealed new clues which might help explain why young people with the most severe forms of antisocial behaviour struggle to control and regulate their emotions, and might be more susceptible to developing anxiety or depression as a result.

The study, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, used neuroimaging methods to investigate young people with the condition ‘Conduct Disorder’ — typified by symptoms that range from lying and truancy, through to physical violence and weapon use at its more extreme end.

Researchers from the universities of Bath (UK), Cambridge (UK) and the California Institute of Technology (USA) wanted to understand more about the wiring of the brain in adolescents with Conduct Disorder, and link connectivity to the severity of Conduct Disorder and ‘psychopathic traits’ — the term used to define deficits in guilt, remorse and empathy.

Full story at Science Daily

Hubs Help Native American Communities Address Youth Suicide

Three NIMH-funded collaborative research hubs are exploring the factors behind the high suicide rates among American Indian (AI) and Alaska Native (AN) youth and designing and testing approaches to preventing suicide. In each hub, research centers and tribal or urban AI/AN leaders and organizations are working together to provide information on which to base effective, community-based, and culturally sensitive preventive approaches that are suitable for use in low-resource settings.

AI/AN youth have suicide rates that are among the highest of any demographic group in the U.S.; based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rates of suicide in the AI/AN population have been increasing since 2003. Suicide rates vary among communities, however, and the reasons for the variation are not clear. One of the goals of the work is to explore elements that promote resilience, including the degree of adherence to cultural spirituality, community engagement, and participation in traditional practices.

Full story at NIMH

More than 1 in 20 US children and teens have anxiety or depression

About 2.6 million American children and adolescents had diagnosed anxiety and/or depression in 2011-12, reports an analysis of nationwide data in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, the official journal of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

The number of children with diagnosed anxiety — but not depression — has increased in recent years, according to the new report. The lead author was Rebecca H. Bitsko, PhD, of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Study Shows High Rates and Impact of Anxiety and Depression in American Youth

The researchers analyzed data from the nationally representative National Survey of Children’s Health for the years 2003, 2007, and 2011-12. In the most recent year, more than 65,000 parents were asked about problems with anxiety and/or depression (diagnosed by a doctor or other healthcare professional) in their children aged six to 17 years.

Full story at Science Daily