Researchers have shown that a type of magnetic resonance imaging — called neuromelanin-sensitive MRI (NM-MRI) — is a potential biomarker for psychosis. NM-MRI signal was found to be a marker of dopamine function in people with schizophrenia and an indicator of the severity of psychotic symptoms in people with this mental illness. The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health, appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
“Disturbances affecting the neurotransmitter dopamine are associated with a host of mental and neurological disorders, such as schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease,” said Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of NIMH. “Because of the role dopamine plays in these disorders, the ability to measure dopamine activity is critical for furthering our understanding of these disorders, including how to best diagnose and treat them.”
Neuromelanin is a dark pigment created within dopamine neurons of the midbrain — particularly in the substantia nigra, a brain area that plays a role in reward and movement. Neuromelanin accumulates over the lifespan and is only cleared away from cells following cell death, as occurs in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Researchers have found that NM-MRI signal is lower in the substantia nigra of people with Parkinson’s disease, reflecting the cell death that occurs in these patients.
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.
What’s the “next big thing” that could help people with mental illnesses get the treatment and services they need? This important question was the theme of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)’s 24th biennial Mental Health Services Research (MHSR 2018) conference held August 1-2, in Rockville, MD.
“This conference brings together mental health researchers and other experts, trainees, consumers, advocates, and mental health care providers to learn about current research findings and discuss new research that might close the gap between what science shows is most effective and what services people actually receive in real-world settings,” explained Michael Freed, Ph.D., EMT-B., a conference co-chair. “We are thrilled that this year the conference had more presentation proposals, more sessions, and more attendees than ever before. There is clearly a lot of interest in this research.”
Health services research is a multidisciplinary scientific field that examines how to improve people’s access to health care providers and services; how to improve the quality, continuity, and equity of the care they receive; how to most efficiently pay for needed health care; and ultimately, how to improve the symptoms and functioning of people with health conditions. The research considers individual and provider preferences and behavior, innovations in technology, and community, organizational, and systems-level factors to understand how to implement effective practices in care-delivery settings.
Apps that help us deal with our well-being can often be helpful and comforting, but how much should we rely on a mobile application to tell us how to cope with our mental health struggles?
According to new research conducted by the University of Sydney in Australia, there may be some major problems in the way mental health apps are framing mental illness and diagnosing users.
The research, which was recently published by the American Academy of Family Physicians, consisted of a qualitative content analysis of 61 mental health apps across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Michelle Lewis* has experienced a great deal of discrimination against her in the workplace for having a mental illness. In 2016, she suffered suicidal thoughts and knew she needed help. She was diagnosed with bipolar and admitted to a clinic.
“When I was discharged from the clinic, I returned to work as normal. Before my official diagnosis, there were no complaints about my quality of work,” Lewis says. But when she returned to the office she realised something wasn’t right.
She was called into a meeting and asked what was wrong. She believed that because she had worked for the company for six months, she assumed she could be honest.
Approximately 102 million Americans work in the service industry, according to the Pew Research Center, filling critical positions in restaurants, salons and transportation. In many cases, these jobs offer base pay at rates up to 71 percent lower than federal minimum wage, with the expectation that tips, which are highly unpredictable, will make up the difference.
However, service workers who rely on tips are at greater risk for depression, sleep problems and stress compared with employees who work in non-tipped positions, according to a study published today in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The analysis is based on data from a nationwide health study that followed thousands of participants from adolescence into adulthood.
“The higher prevalence of mental health problems may be linked to the precarious nature of service work, including lower and unpredictable wages, insufficient benefits, and a lack of control over work hours and assigned shifts,” said lead author Sarah Andrea, M.P.H., a Ph.D. candidate in epidemiology at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. “On average, tipped workers are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty relative to untipped workers.”
NIMH-funded researchers are connecting the dots between inflammation in a pregnant human mother and possible effects on her young child’s developing brain. So far, they have linked high levels of maternal inflammation during pregnancy to reduced brain circuit communications and altered long-distance brain wiring at birth, poorer cognitive function at one year – and to reduced impulse control and working memory at two years.
Inflammation and mental illness
Inflammation is part of the body’s normal defense against environmental insults, such as infections. In addition, the body can mount inflammatory responses to a host of factors, including obesity, diet, drugs (e.g., smoking), maternal depression, poverty, and stress.
Four out of five teenage girls who have been sexually assaulted are suffering from crippling mental health problems months after their attack, new research has found.
Victims were found to have anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other serious conditions four to five months after being assaulted.
Experts said the findings confirmed that becoming a victim of abuse in childhood can lead to mental health issues that can persist into adulthood and last a lifetime.
The study involved 137 girls aged between 13 and 17 – average age 15.6 years – who were assaulted between April 2013 and April 2015. It was undertaken by academics from University College London (UCL) and specialist staff from King’s College hospital NHS trust who work in three sexual assault referral centres around the capital, where the victims were treated.
Stressful situations affect the brain and body differently in people with schizophrenia compared to people without the mental illness or individuals at high risk for developing psychosis, a new CAMH study shows. The relationship between two chemicals released when people experienced stress — one released in the brain and the other in saliva — differs in people with schizophrenia. The discovery, recently published in the journal Brain, may provide clues into how to act early to prevent schizophrenia.
“We found a disrupted stress response in people with schizophrenia, which did not occur in either healthy individuals or people at clinical high risk for developing psychosis,” says Dr. Christin Schifani, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Research Imaging Centre in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute, and lead author of the study.
As most people with schizophrenia experience psychosis, identifying differences between people at high risk for psychosis and those with schizophrenia may shed light on how schizophrenia develops and ways to prevent its onset.
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.