CMU and Pitt brain imaging science identifies individuals with suicidal thoughts

Researchers led by Carnegie Mellon University’s Marcel Just and the University of Pittsburgh’s David Brent have developed an innovative and promising approach to identify suicidal individuals by analyzing the alterations in how their brains represent certain concepts, such as death, cruelty and trouble.

Suicidal risk is notoriously difficult to assess and predict, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young adults in the United States. Published in Nature Human Behaviour, the study offers a new approach to assessing psychiatric disorders.

“Our latest work is unique insofar as it identifies concept alterations that are associated with suicidal ideation and behavior, using machine-learning algorithms to assess the neural representation of specific concepts related to suicide. This gives us a window into the brain and mind, shedding light on how suicidal individuals think about suicide and emotion related concepts. What is central to this new study is that we can tell whether someone is considering suicide by the way that they are thinking about the death-related topics,” said Just, the D.O. Hebb University Professor of Psychology in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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Increased brain acidity in psychiatric disorders

Your body’s acid/alkaline homeostasis, or maintenance of an adequate pH balance in tissues and organs, is important for good health. An imbalance in pH, particularly a shift toward acidity, is associated with various clinical conditions, such as a decreased cardiovascular output, respiratory distress, and renal failure. But is pH also associated with psychiatric disorders?

Researchers at the Institute for Comprehensive Medical Science at Fujita Health University in Japan, along with colleagues from eight other institutions, have identified decreased pH levels in the brains of five different mouse models of mental disorders, including models of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. This decrease in pH likely reflects an underlying pathophysiology in the brain associated with these mental disorders, according to the study published August 4th in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Full story at Science Daily

Neurons’ faulty wiring leads to serotonin imbalance, depression-like behavior in mice

Columbia scientists have identified a gene that allows neurons that release serotonin — a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and emotions — to evenly spread their branches throughout the brain. Without this gene, these neuronal branches become entangled, leading to haphazard distribution of serotonin, and signs of depression in mice. These observations shed light on how precise neuronal wiring is critical to overall brain health, while also revealing a promising new area of focus for studying psychiatric disorders associated with serotonin imbalance — such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and autism.

The findings were published in Science.

“By pinpointing the genes that guide the organization of neurons, we can draw a line between changes to those genes, and the cellular, circuitry and behavioral deficiencies that can occur as a result,” said Tom Maniatis, PhD, a principal investigator at Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, the Isidore S. Edelman Professor and Chair of department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center and the studys’ senior author.

Full story of faulty wiring leads to depression like behavior at Science Daily

Personality traits, psychiatric disorders linked to specific genomic locations

A meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) has identified six loci or regions of the human genome that are significantly linked to personality traits, report researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine in this week’s advance online publication of Nature Genetics. The findings also show correlations with psychiatric disorders.

“Although personality traits are heritable, it has been difficult to characterize genetic variants associated with personality until recent, large-scale GWAS,” said senior author Chi-Hua Chen, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Radiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Full story of psychiatric disorders linked to genomic locations at Science Daily

Scientists discover molecular link between psychiatric disorders and type 2 diabetes

There may be a genetic connection between some mental health disorders and type 2 diabetes. In a new report appearing in the February 2016 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists show that a gene called “DISC1,” which is believed to play a role in mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and some forms of depression, influences the function of pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

“Studies exploring the biology of disease have increasingly identified the involvement of unanticipated proteins–DISC1 fits this category,” said Rita Bortell, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Diabetes Center of Excellence at the Universityof Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts. “Our hope is that the association we’ve found linking disrupted DISC1 to both diabetes and psychiatric disorders may uncover mechanisms to improve therapies, even preventative ones, to alleviate suffering caused by both illnesses which are extraordinarily costly, very common, often quite debilitating.”

Full story of psychiatric disorders and type 2 diabetes at Science Daily

Long-term study links common psychiatric disorders with increased risk of violent reoffending in ex-prisoners

Ex-prisoners with common psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder (manic-depressive disorder) and alcohol and drug abuse are substantially more likely to commit a violent crime after release than other prisoners, according to new research published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal. The study of almost 48000 ex-prisoners suggests that diagnosed psychiatric disorders are potentially responsible for up to a fifth of violent reoffending by former male prisoners and two-fifths by female ex-prisoners.

“One in seven prisoners have a psychotic illness or major depression and around one in five enter prison with clinically significant substance abuse disorders. As these disorders are common and mostly treatable, better screening and mental health services before and after release are essential to prevent future violence and improve both public health and safety,” says Seena Fazel, lead author and Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at the University of Oxford in the UK.

Full story of ex-prisoners and psychiatric disorders at Science Daily