How ketamine can change the brain to fight depression

New research in mice, which the National Institutes of Health supported, shows how ketamine can alter brain circuits, quickly redressing depression-like symptoms.

Previous studies have shown that ketamine — an anesthetic — can rapidly reduce severe symptoms of major depressive disorder, particularly the occurrence of suicidal thoughts.

However, researchers are still unsure how this substance acts in the brain to fight off depression or how to maintain its therapeutic effects in the long run.

Full story at Medical News Today

Simple test can indicate prolonged symptoms following pediatric sports-related concussion

Researchers from Children’s Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colorado, have found that abnormal performance on the Romberg balance test can indicate that children and adolescents will experience prolonged symptoms following sports-related concussion. This finding is reported today in a new article by David R. Howell, PhD, and colleagues in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.

Concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury. In most cases, symptoms of concussion (headaches, dizziness, confusion, loss of memory, and others) subside within four weeks after injury. In some cases, however, symptoms do not resolve for months. Early recognition of predictors of lengthy recovery periods can help clinicians refer these patients for special therapies that may aid in the healing process.

Howell and colleagues set out to identify which variables assessed by sports medicine physicians during an initial evaluation of concussion in children or adolescents are independently associated with the length of time until symptom resolution.

Full story at Science Daily

NIH BRAIN Initiative Tool May Transform How Scientists Study Brain Structure and Function

Researchers have developed a high-tech support system that can keep a large mammalian brain from rapidly decomposing in the hours after death, enabling study of certain molecular and cellular functions. With funding through the National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative, researchers developed a way to deliver an artificial blood supply to the isolated postmortem brain of a pig, preventing the degradation that would otherwise destroy many cellular and molecular functions and render it unsuitable for study. Importantly, although the researchers saw some preservation of flow through blood vessels and energy use, there was no higher level functional activity in the brain circuits. The scientific team, led by Nenad Sestan, M.D., Ph.D., of Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, reports on their findings in the journal Nature.

“This line of research could lead to a whole new way of studying the postmortem brain,” explained Andrea Beckel-Mitchener, Ph.D., BRAIN Initiative Team Lead at the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, which co-funded the research. “The new technology opens up opportunities to examine complex cell and circuit connections and functions that are lost when specimens are preserved in other ways. It also could stimulate research to develop interventions that promote brain recovery after loss of brain blood flow, such as during a heart attack.”

Full story at NIMH

For Kids With Anxiety, Parents Learn To Let Them Face Their Fears

The first time Jessica Calise can remember her 9-year-old son Joseph’s anxiety spiking was about a year ago, when he had to perform at a school concert. He said his stomach hurt and he might throw up. “We spent the whole performance in the bathroom,” she recalls.

After that, Joseph struggled whenever he had to do something alone, like showering or sleeping in his bedroom. He would beg his parents to sit outside the bathroom door or let him sleep in their bed. “It’s heartbreaking to see your child so upset and feel like he’s going to throw up because he’s nervous about something that, in my mind, is no big deal,” Jessica says.

Jessica decided to enroll in an experimental program, one that was very different from other therapy for childhood anxiety that she knew about. It wasn’t Joseph who would be seeing a therapist every week — it would be her.

Full story at npr.org

Ketamine reverses neural changes underlying depression-related behaviors in mice

Researchers have identified ketamine-induced brain-related changes that are responsible for maintaining the remission of behaviors related to depression in mice — findings that may help researchers develop interventions that promote lasting remission of depression in humans. The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health, appears in the journal Science.

Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, with approximately 17.3 million adults experienced a major depressive episode in 2017. However, many of the neural changes underlying the transitions between active depression, remission, and depression re-occurrence remain unknown. Ketamine, a fast-acting antidepressant which relieves depressive symptoms in hours instead of weeks or longer, provides an opportunity for researchers to investigate the short- and long-term biological changes underlying these transitions.

“Ketamine is a potentially transformative treatment for depression, but one of the major challenges associated with this drug is sustaining recovery after the initial treatment,” said study author Conor Liston, M.D., Ph.D., of Weill Cornell Medicine, New York City.

Full story at Science Daily

Stress-related disorders linked to heightened risk of cardiovascular disease

Stress related disorders — conditions triggered by a significant life event or trauma — may be linked to a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), finds a large Swedish study published in The BMJtoday.

The risk of severe and acute CVD events, such as cardiac arrest and heart attack, was particularly high in the first six months after diagnosis of a stress related disorder, and within the first year for other types of CVD.

Most people are, at some point during their life, exposed to psychological trauma or stressful life events such as the death of a loved one, a diagnosis of a life threatening illness, natural disasters, or violence, write the authors.

Full story at Science Daily

Concerta vs. Adderall: What’s the difference?

Concerta and Adderall are stimulant medications that a doctor may prescribe for a person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. They can also help a person with narcolepsy.

Stimulants work by helping regulate the chemicals in a person’s brain that support thinking and paying attention.

Although they have many associated side effects, stimulants are generally safe and effective at treating the symptoms of ADHD.

In this article, learn about the differences between Concerta and Adderall, including the effects and dosage.

Full story at Medical News Today

Can scientists ‘hack’ memory?

Modern science brings us endless possibilities to help our bodies and our minds stay healthy, but some recent scientific pursuits have also been the center of controversy. One of these is researchers’ interest in manipulating memories. Is this feat possible, and if so, why would we want to achieve it?

Our memories make up so much of who we are, and the things we remember can often define our experience of the world.

And while positive memories can help us grow and thrive, negative memories do not always have such welcome effects.

Sometimes, unpleasant memories can be part of a learning curve — getting scalded with boiling water means that next time we will be more careful when handling the kettle.

Full story at Medical News Today

Integrating infant mental health into the neonatal intensive care unit

Bringing a baby into the world involves many firsts — mothers and fathers are discovering their new roles, babies are learning what it means to live outside the womb, and the family is forging a relationship and bonding. What happens when this time of uncertainty is complicated by medical issues?

Many infants born premature or with other complications often forego their first weeks or months at home for a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. The NICU is designed to deliver critical medical care to babies in need but can be traumatic for infants and their families, alike. In the Early Childhood Mental Health Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, clinical psychologists Marian Williams, PhD, Patricia Lakatos, PhD, and a team of infant-family mental health specialists work towards greater mental health awareness in the NICU.

Infants may not be the first age group called to mind in discussions of mental health. Yet, for babies in critical medical condition, Dr. Lakatos says an “infant mental health-informed perspective” could reduce stress and improve bonding with parents. This means not only focusing on the physical needs of the child but also the emotional and mental needs, not an easy task for newborn infants who cannot make their voices heard.

Full story at Science Daily

A Psychotherapist Goes To Therapy — And Gets A Taste Of Her Own Medicine

Even therapists need someone to talk to sometimes. Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist who started seeing a therapist herself five years ago, when the man she thought she would marry unexpectedly broke up with her, shattering her sense of the present and the future.

“My reaction was the reaction of everybody that I told at the time, [which] was ‘This guy’s a jerk! You dodged a bullet!’ ” Gottlieb says. “But once I go to therapy, I start to see — or I’m forced to see — the situation, and my role in it too.”

Gottlieb writes about her experiences as a psychotherapist in therapy in her new book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. She notes that she initially thought she needed just a few sessions to get her through her crisis, but stayed in therapy much longer — and learned a lot about herself in the process.

Full story at npr.org