Networks of brain activity predict vulnerability to depression

Tapping into the electrical chatter between different regions of the brain may provide a new way to predict and prevent depression, according to new research by Duke University neuroscientists and electrical engineers.

The researchers found different networks of electrical brain activity in mice that were more susceptible to developing depression-like symptoms following stressful events than in more resilient mice.

If replicated in humans, these results could be the first step toward a test to predict a person’s vulnerabilty to developing mental illnesses like depression.

Full story at Science Daily

Mental Illnesses by the Numbers

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has launched a redesigned Statistics section on its website that features interactive data visualization tools and sharing capabilities. The section also features improved organization, navigation, and accessibility. The goal: To help people understand the impact of mental illnesses.

“There is power in numbers,” said Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of NIMH. “Mental illnesses affect tens of millions of people in the United States and across the globe each year. Each of these individuals has a singular, compelling story that conveys an understanding of the depth of suffering. Statistics build on this foundation by helping us better understand the broader scope and impact of mental illnesses on society.”

Full story at NIMH

People with mental illness reoffend less if on specialty probation

Each year, some 2 million people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses are arrested for various crimes, inadvertently turning the U.S. correctional system into the nation’s primary provider of inpatient psychiatric care.

But an eight-year study led by the University of California, Berkeley, offers a solution.

Researchers studied the supervision and outcomes of 359 offenders with mental illness, comparing those who had been placed on traditional probation against those on “specialty mental health probation,” a program in which probation officers with mental health expertise use a more individualized, treatment-oriented approach.

Full story at Science Daily

Resilience affects whether childhood trauma results in harmful gene response

In a first-ever study to identify how trauma affects gene expression among child soldiers, a Duke researcher and colleagues found resilience to be a key factor in determining individual response at the molecular level.

Previous research has shown that chronic exposure to trauma is associated with an increase in pro-inflammatory gene expression and a decrease in antibodies and antiviral responses in immune cells. Those molecular responses have been linked to cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, infections and mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

Brandon Kohrt, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and global health at Duke, and colleagues conducted a five-year longitudinal study of former child soldiers exposed to the trauma of a decade-long civil war in Nepal. The findings were published during the week of July 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Full story of childhood trauma and gene responses at Science Daily