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

Critical receptor involved in response to antidepressants like ketamine

Effective treatment of clinical depression remains a major mental health issue, with roughly 30 percent of patients who do not respond to any of the available treatments. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) have discovered a crucial receptor called mGlu2 that is critical to the mechanism of fast-acting antidepressants such as ketamine when used to treat depression.

This discovery into how this type of receptor in the brain works with fast-acting antidepressants is a critical discovery in treating depression, because existing treatments can take weeks before they are effective. A single dose of ketamine that is lower than the amount required to cause anesthesia within 24 hours can alleviates depression in some treatment-resistant patients.

Todd Gould, MD., Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, together with researchers from the National Institutes of Health Intramural Research Program, discovered that this special type of glutamate receptor interacts with ketamine’s mechanism.

Full story at Science Daily

When neurons are out of shape, antidepressants may not work

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed medication for major depressive disorder (MDD), yet scientists still do not understand why the treatment does not work in nearly thirty percent of patients with MDD. Now, Salk Institute researchers have discovered differences in growth patterns of neurons of SSRI-resistant patients. The work, published in Molecular Psychiatry on March 22, 2019, has implications for depression as well as other psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia that likely also involve abnormalities of the serotonin system in the brain.

“With each new study, we move closer to a fuller understanding of the complex neural circuitry underlying neuropsychiatric diseases, including major depression,” says Salk Professor Rusty Gage, the study’s senior author, president of the Institute, and the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Disease. “This paper, along with another we recently published, not only provides insights into this common treatment, but also suggests that other drugs, such as serotonergic antagonists, could be additional options for some patients.”

Full story at Science Daily

Daily use of high potency marijuana linked to higher rates of psychosis, study finds

Daily cannabis use, especially of the high potency strains, is linked to an increased risk of developing psychosis, according to new research released Tuesday.

The European study, which looked at cannabis use in 11 major cities and Brazil, is the first to show the impact of marijuana use on rates of psychosis, a severe mental condition, in large populations. The link with psychosis was strongest in London and Amsterdam where high potency strains — marijuana which contains over 10 percent THC, the psychoactive component of the drug — are highest and most commonly available.

In Amsterdam, half of all new cases of psychosis were linked with high potency use; in London, one-third of new cases were linked with high potency use.

Full story at NBC News

NIH Study Shows Many Preteens Screen Positive for Suicide Risk During ER Visits

A research team found nearly one-third of youth ages 10 to 12 years screened positive for suicide risk in emergency department settings. As part of a larger study on youth suicide risk screening in emergency departments, researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health, and collaborators sought to explore how frequently preteen youth ages 10 to 12 screened positive for suicide risk. Notably, 7 percent of the preteens who screened positive for suicide risk were seeking help for physical – not psychiatric – concerns. The study appears online March 11 in Hospital Pediatrics.

“Typically, suicidal thoughts and behaviors are seen in older teens. It was troubling to see that so many preteens screened positive for suicide risk, and we were alarmed to find that many of them had acted on their suicidal thoughts in the past,” said Lisa Horowitz, Ph.D., M.P.H., a clinical scientist in the NIMH Division of Intramural Research Programs (DIRP) and an author on the paper. “This study shows that children as young as 10 who show up in the emergency department may be thinking about suicide, and that screening all preteens — regardless of their presenting symptoms — may save lives. Otherwise, they may pass through our medical systems undetected.”

Full story at NIMH

Depression increases risk of early death in older adults

A research team designed a study to investigate the role depression symptoms play in an increased risk of death over time. The team also examined the role heart disease and stroke play in the link between depression symptoms and increased risk of death.

As we age, we become more likely to experience symptoms of depression. Research shows that depression’s symptoms can be linked to a higher risk for death. Yet often, older adults’ symptoms of depression may be missed by healthcare professionals.

What’s more, symptoms of depression have been linked to heart disease and stroke in middle-aged and older adults. Researchers suggest that the depression-heart disease link could play a role in the increased risk of death among older adults who have symptoms of depression. There’s also a known link between depression and deaths from cancer and falls in older adults. These connections might contribute to an increased risk of death for older adults, researchers suggest.

Full story at Science Daily

What to know about marijuana withdrawal

Whether they use marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes, people can develop withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it.

Marijuana, or cannabis, is the “most commonly used illicit drug in the United States,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In recent years, more states have legalized the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana. However, based on a 2018 survey from Washington State, legalization does not seem to have significantly increased marijuana use. That said, marijuana use has been gaining a lot of attention.

Full story at Medical News Today

SCREENS MIGHT BE AS BAD FOR MENTAL HEALTH AS … POTATOES

PSYCHOLOGISTS CAN’T SEEM to agree on what technology is doing to our sense of well-being. Some say digital devices have become a bane of modern life; others claim they’re a balm for it. Between them lies a shadowy landscape of non-consensus: As the director the National Institutes of Health recently told Congress, research into technology’s effects on our thoughts, behaviors, and development has produced limited—and often contradictory—findings.

As if that uncertainty weren’t vexing enough, many of those findings have sprung from the same source: Giant data sets that compile survey data from thousands or even millions of participants. “The problem is, two researchers can look at the same data and come away with completely different findings and prescriptions for society,” says psychologist Andrew Przybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute. “Technological optimists tend to find positive correlations. If they’re pessimists, they tend to find negative ones.”

Full story at Wired

Have researchers found a new risk factor for schizophrenia?

Scientists have located an intriguing link between schizophrenia and the Epstein-Barr virus, a type of herpes virus. Now, they need to determine which way the risk lies.

Schizophrenia, a condition characterized by a confused perception of reality, delusions, and altered behavior, affects more than 21 million people globally.

In a new study, specialists from Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, MD, and the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Townson, MD, found evidence that links schizophrenia with the Epstein-Barr virus.

This is a herpes virus that causes infectious mononucleosis, or glandular fever.

Full story at Medical News Today

Brains of people with schizophrenia-related disorders aren’t all the same

A new multi-site brain imaging study in The American Journal of Psychiatry shows that sub-groups of people use their brains differently when imitating emotional faces — a task that reflects their ability to interact socially. Interestingly, individuals with schizophrenia do not have categorically different social brain function than those without mental illness, but fall into different sub-groups that may respond to different types of treatments. These findings call into question the most common research approaches in mental health.

“We know that, on average, people with schizophrenia have more social impairment than people in the general population,” says senior author Dr. Aristotle Voineskos in the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto. “But we needed to take an agnostic approach and let the data tell us what the brain-behavioural profiles of our study participants looked like. It turned out that the relationship between brain function and social behaviour had nothing to do with conventional diagnostic categories in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).”

Full story at Science Daily