Dynamic Associations Among Motor Activity, Sleep, Energy, and Mood Could Suggest New Focus for Depression Treatment

Current theories of depression suggest that sleep problems, low energy, and low activity levels result from depressed mood, but a new study looking at interactions among these factors in people with bipolar disorder or depression suggests that the opposite may be true—that instability in activity and sleep systems could lead to mood changes. The findings, published online December 12 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, suggest new targets for depression treatment.

Previous research has shown the interrelated nature of many of the homeostatic systems of the body. For example, the regulation of motor activity has been found to be linked with other systems, such as those regulating sleep, activity, and emotional states. While dysregulation in these systems is often seen in people with mental disorders, it can be challenging for researchers to examine both the interrelationships between multiple systems and their directional influences using traditional clinical assessments based on retrospective recall.

Full story at NIMH

Hyperconnectivity in a brain circuit may predict psychosis

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)-funded scientists have discovered a pattern in the way a brain circuit works that may help predict the onset of psychosis. High levels of chatter, or “hyperconnectivity,” in a circuit involving the cerebellum, thalamus, and cortex emerged as a potential “neural signature” in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study by Tyrone Cannon, Ph.D.of Yale University and colleagues.

The degree of hyperconnectivity within this circuit predicted the length of time it took for an individual to convert from a state of risk to full psychosis – hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thought and behavior. The researchers also found this same pattern of hyperactivity in a separate group of individuals with schizophrenia.

Full story at NIMH

Letter from the Editor: Love your mind

Fairy lights are gracing the shop windows and Michael Bublé is dominating the airwaves with his rendition of “Winter Wonderland.” The holiday season is well and truly in full swing.

“Are you all set for the holidays?”

I’ve been asked this question three times this week — a classic example of festive chitchat in the United Kingdom. The short answer? No.

With fewer than 4 weeks to go, I’ve purchased a total of three gifts, including one box of candy that will undoubtedly be opened prior to its intended date of consumption and will need to be replaced.

Full story at Medical News Today

Older adults’ abstract reasoning ability predicts depressive symptoms over time

Age-related declines in abstract reasoning ability predict increasing depressive symptoms in subsequent years, according to data from a longitudinal study of older adults in Scotland. The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Mental health in later life is a topic of increasing importance given aging populations worldwide,” says researcher Stephen Aichele of the University of Geneva. “Our findings suggest that monitoring for cognitive decrements in later adulthood may expedite efforts to reduce associated increases in depression risk.”

Many adults will experience some degree of cognitive decline in the latter decades of life. Research has also shown that cognitive impairments and depression are correlated in older adults — generally, as cognitive abilities decline, depressive symptoms increase. Yet, researchers have not been able to conclusively determine the direction of causation. That is, does cognitive decline lead to depression, does depression lead to cognitive decline, or do the phenomena mutually reinforce each other?

Full story at Science Daily

Diversity Training Programs Nurture Research Career

“It had never occurred to me to do a Ph.D. It’s nothing I’d ever thought of. I didn’t know anyone who’s done a science Ph.D.,” noted Frances Johnson just weeks before matriculating in a neuroscience doctoral program at the University of Pittsburgh. She was just completing a summer stint as a trainee in a neuroscience lab at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Intramural Research Program on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD.

A U.S. Army veteran and math major at Western Connecticut State University –  who at times paid the bills working as a substitute teacher – Johnson says her interest in understanding the brain was sparked by curiosity about the origins of a friend’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

“What caused something like that?” she asked herself. “I think everybody has this kind of curiosity. We have people in our lives, we have family members – especially around mental health.”

Full story at NIMH

Should Childhood Trauma Be Treated As A Public Health Crisis?

When public health officials get wind of an outbreak of Hepatitis A or influenza, they spring into action with public awareness campaigns, monitoring and outreach. But should they be acting with equal urgency when it comes to childhood trauma?

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests the answer should be yes. It shows how the effects of childhood trauma persist and are linked to mental illness and addiction in adulthood. And, researchers say, it suggests that it might be more effective to approach trauma as a public health crisis than to limit treatment to individuals.

The study drew on the experiences of participants from the Great Smoky Mountains Study, which followed 1,420 children from mostly rural parts of western North Carolina, over a period of 22 years. They were interviewed annually during their childhood, then four additional times during adulthood.

Full story at NPR

Chronic pot use may have serious effects on the brain, experts say

As marijuana legalization builds momentum across the United States — with Michigan becoming the latest state to allow recreational use by adults — researchers are warning that more studies are needed on the long-term effects of chronic pot smoking on the human brain.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, but little is known about its effect on health or how addictive it is.

According to a 2017 poll conducted by Marist College and Yahoo News, more than half of American adults have tried marijuana at least once in their lives, and nearly 55 million of them, or 22 percent, say they use it currently. Close to 35 million are what the survey calls “regular users,” people who say they use marijuana at least once or twice a month.

Full story at NBC News

PTSD symptoms improve when patient chooses form of treatment

A multiyear clinical trial comparing medication and mental health counseling in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder shows that patients who chose their form of treatment — whether drugs or therapy — improved more than those who were simply prescribed one or the other regardless of the patient’s preference.

The study, led by the University of Washington and Case Western Reserve University, was conducted at outpatient clinics in Seattle and Cleveland. It found that both a medication — Sertraline, marketed as Zoloft — and a specific form a therapy known as prolonged exposure were effective in reducing PTSD symptoms during the course of treatment, with improvements maintained at least two years later. But patients who received their choice between the two possible treatments showed greater reduction in symptoms, were more apt to stick to their treatment program and even lost their PTSD diagnosis over time.

The study, published Oct. 19 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, is the first large-scale trial of hundreds of PTSD patients, including veterans and survivors of sexual assault, to measure whether patient preference in the course of treatment impacts the effectiveness of a type of cognitive behavioral therapy and use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a type of antidepressant often prescribed for PTSD.

Full story at Science Daily

Using Facebook to predict depression

New research uses over half a million Facebook status updates to predict depression diagnoses in people at risk.

Depression is one of the most widespread mental health problems in the United States, with over 16 million adults having experienced at least one major depressive episode in their lifetimes.

Worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that unipolar depressive disorders will be “the leading cause of the global burden of disease” by 2030.

Full story at Medical News Today

 

A Brain Scientist Who Studies Alzheimer’s Explains How She Stays Mentally Fit

As a specialist in Alzheimer’s prevention, Jessica Langbaum knows that exercising her mental muscles can help keep her brain sharp.

But Langbaum, who holds a doctorate in psychiatric epidemiology, has no formal mental fitness program. She doesn’t do crossword puzzles or play computer brain games.

“Just sitting down and doing Sudoku isn’t probably going to be the one key thing that’s going to prevent you from developing Alzheimer’s disease,” she says.

Instead of using a formal brain training program, she simply goes to work.

Full story at npr.org