DNA Tests For Psychiatric Drugs Are Controversial But Some Insurers Are Covering Them

As a teenager, Katie Gruman was prescribed one mental health drug after another. None seemed to help her manage symptoms of anxiety and bipolar disorder, so she self-medicated with alcohol and illicit drugs.

It would take five years, and trying more than 15 different medications, before she found meds that actually helped.

Now 28 and in recovery, Gruman has been on the same drugs for years. But when a clinician recommended a genetic test to see which drugs work best for her, she took it.

Reading the test results “was definitely vindicating,” she says. Medications that hadn’t worked for her as a teenager were the same ones the results marked as bad fits.

Full story at NPR

PTSD nearly doubles infection risk

First-of-its-kind study finds people with PTSD were 1.8 times as likely to have any infection as those without PTSD, ranging from being 1.3 times as likely to have meningitis, to 1.7 times as likely to have influenza, to 2.7 times as likely to have viral hepatitis.

A new Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) study is the first to examine the relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and dozens of infection types in a nationwide cohort. Published in the journal Epidemiology, it is also the first to find that PTSD affects infection risks for men and women differently, having, for example, more of an effect on a woman’s risk of urinary tract infection and a man’s risk of skin infection.

“Our study adds to the growing evidence suggesting that PTSD and chronic severe stress are damaging for physical health,” says BUSPH doctoral candidate Ms. Tammy Jiang, who led the study. This underscores the public health importance of PTSD prevention and treatment interventions, she says.

Full story at Science Daily

Mindfulness may reduce opioid cravings, study finds

People suffering from opioid addiction and chronic pain may have fewer cravings and less pain if they use both mindfulness techniques and medication for opioid dependence, according to Rutgers and other researchers.

The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, examined the effects of mindfulness and methadone therapy on 30 patients with opioid addiction and chronic pain. Mindfulness is the meditative practice of focusing on the present moment and accepting one’s thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, without judgement.

The findings showed that those who received methadone and a mindfulness training-based intervention were 1.3 times better at controlling their cravings and had significantly greater improvements in pain, stress, and positive emotions, even though they were aware of more cravings than those who only received standard methadone treatment and counseling.

Full story at Science Daily

Relaxation makes worriers more anxious

Some people become more anxious as they attempt to relax because relaxing interrupts their worrying, according to new research.

Although the intent of relaxation exercises is to reduce anxiety, for some people, they have the opposite effect.

A new study concludes that, in these people, relaxation conflicts with a strategy that they employ to lessen the impact of negative events: continual worrying.

The authors of the study were Michelle Newman, a professor of psychology, and Hanjoo Kim, a graduate student in psychology, both at Penn State University, in College Park, PA.

Full story at Medical News Today

Depression: Brief change in diet may relieve symptoms

In the first study of its type, researchers conclude that even a brief shift in dietary habits can alleviate the symptoms of depression in young adults. The findings offer hope, but more work is needed.

Science has now clearly established the impact of poor diet on overall physical health.

Consuming large amounts of processed and sugary foods increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

More recently, researchers have begun to focus on the impact of healthful or unhealthful eating on mental health.

Full story at Medical News Today

Teens taking oral contraceptives may be at increased risk for depressive symptoms

Ever since birth control pills first became available, researchers have been trying to understand the connection between oral contraceptive use and mood. A new study led by investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) and Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands adds important, new information by surveying young women about depressive symptoms.

Depressive symptoms — such as crying, sleeping excessively, and eating issues — can be far subtler than diagnosed clinical depression. But by surveying a cohort of more than 1,000 women every three years, investigators have amassed a unique trove of data about these subclinical symptoms. In a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, investigators report that there was no association between oral contraceptive use and depressive symptom severity in the entire population they studied (ages 16 through 25). However, they found that 16-year-old girls reported higher depressive symptom severity compared with 16-year-old girls not using oral contraceptives.

Full story at Science Daily

Brain Stimulation Shows Promise in Treating Severe Depression

For more than a decade, doctors have been using brain-stimulating implants to treat severe depression in people who do not benefit from medication, talk therapy or electroshock sessions. The treatment is controversial — any psychosurgery is, given its checkered history — and the results have been mixed. Two major trials testing stimulating implant for depression were halted because of disappointing results, and the approach is not approved by federal health regulators.

Now, a team of psychiatric researchers has published the first long-term results, reporting Friday on patients who had stimulating electrodes implanted as long ago as eight years. The individuals have generally fared well, maintaining their initial improvements. The study, appearing in the American Journal of Psychiatry, was small, with just 28 subjects. Even still, experts said the findings were likely to extend interest in a field that has struggled.

“The most impressive thing here is the sustained response,” Dr. Darin Dougherty, director of neurotherapeutics at Massachusetts General Hospital, said. “You do not see that for anything in this severe depression. The fact that they had this many people doing well for that long, that’s a big deal.”

Full story at The New York Times

Sex-based differences in the development of brain hubs involved in memory and emotion

The amygdala and the hippocampus — structures in the brain that are involved in emotion, learning, and memory — have been found to play a role in a diverse range of disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Research investigating the development of these two structures has shown that differences in age, sex, and pubertal status affect the bulk volume of these brain structures. However, researchers have yet to understand the dynamics of volume and shape change that occur between childhood and early adulthood.

“Because the amygdala and hippocampus have been so often implicated in psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders from childhood through young adulthood, it’s especially important to understand how brain development occurs in healthy people, so we have a stronger comparative framework for when the process goes awry in disease,” said co-first author Ari M. Fish, a former Postbaccalaureate Research Fellow in the Developmental Neurogenomics Unit, part of the NIMH’s Intramural Research Program.

Full story at Science Daily

Secretary DeVos Continues to Transform FAFSA Experience with New Mobile App Features, Enhanced Student Privacy Protections as 2020-21 Cycle Launches

In its continued efforts to modernize and improve the federal student aid process, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced today that it has added new features to the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and myStudentAid mobile app. These enhancements come as the Department launches the 2020–21 FAFSA.

“Improving students and families’ experience with the FAFSA has been a key priority since day one,” said Secretary DeVos. “With our transformative myStudentAid mobile app and customer-centric approach, completing the FAFSA is now simpler, faster and more intuitive.”

Key changes released today include:

  • To promote a fully integrated customer experience, the fafsa.gov website has been synchronized with the myStudentAid mobile app’s myFAFSA component, allowing customers to switch easily between the online FAFSA form and the myStudentAid mobile app, picking up where they left off in the other platforms.

Full story at US Department of Education

Neurons’ response to seizure-induced stress reduces seizure severity

In response to seizures, the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), a network of flattened tubes in the cell that packages and transports proteins, triggers a stress response that reduces brain activity and seizure severity. The new findings, reported by Nien-Pei Tsai and colleagues at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on 26th September in PLOS Genetics, may have important implications for the development of new epilepsy therapies.

For one-third of epilepsy patients, existing anti-epileptic drugs don’t effectively prevent the uncontrolled electrical disturbances in the brain that causes a seizure. Scientists hope to develop more effective therapies through a better understanding of what occurs during a seizure at a molecular level inside neurons, such as within the ER. Seizures are known to cause a stress response in the ER that can be severe enough to cause cell death, but until the current study, no one knew if the stress response had any positive effects on brain activity. Using a mouse model where they could monitor electrical signals in the brain, the researchers induced seizures and looked for downstream effects of the ER stress response. They discovered that the early part of the ER stress response triggers a signaling pathway that reduces brain activity through the production of certain protective proteins.

Full story at Science Daily