Pediatric psychiatrist Sujartha Ramakrishna describes a planned University of Wisconsin psychiatric experiment “to discover new therapies by dissecting and analyzing the brains of baby monkeys who have been intentionally traumatized.” Is such an experiment ethical, Ramakrishna asks in The Cap Times — and can it possibly lead to anything truly helpful? (more…)
“Is this the future of medicine?” asks Stephen Armstrong in the British Medical Journal. “Little Artie has been left at the doorstep of his grandma’s house—a spooky mansion filled with shadows. His grandma has been taken, and only he can save her. As he moves through corridors and darkened rooms, terrifying shapes loom above him. His only friend is Teru the Magical Hat, who shines more brightly the calmer Artie becomes. If Artie panics, however, Teru dims and the darkness grows.” (more…)
Two psychologists writing for Scientific American Mind review some of the evidence base for the impacts of mindfulness meditation on problematic psychological states. They conclude that the ancient techniques “hold promise as remedies for depression and possibly anxiety” and are actually “potent” in preventing relapses in the chronically depressed. (more…)
Upon reviewing all of GlaxoSmithKline’s data from both published and unpublished trials of the antidepressant paroxetine, researchers found the drug provided almost no benefits over placebo for either depression or anxiety, according to a study in PLOS One. Discuss →
Children who received no treatment for their diagnosed anxiety disorder faired better over the long term than did those who chose to take Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), according to a study in Brain and Behavior. In addition, regardless of being treated or not, about half of the people in both groups were generally fairing better at the time of the long-term follow-up. Discuss →
Bacteria in the human gut influence food cravings, diseases and moods, according to a review of current scientific evidence published in BioEssays. In a press release, researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University and University of New Mexico stated that “microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on.” The researchers focused mainly on evidence that gut bacteria can influence food choices and physical diseases, but also cited studies showing impacts on moods such as irritability and anxiety. Discuss →
Physical exercise and a yogic technique of progressive muscle tensing and relaxing have the power to alter people’s visual perceptions on a classic anxiety test, according to a study in PLOS One. Previous research has shown that people who are feeling socially anxious perceive point-light displays of ambiguous human figures as facing threateningly towards them more often than facing away. The study by Adam Heenan, a Queen’s University PhD candidate in psychology, found that people regarded these figures as less threatening after brief engagement in exercise or muscle relaxation. Discuss →
Researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital analyzed data from 4297 children surveyed over 3 time points (fifth, seventh and tenth grades) to find that bullying is associated with worse mental and physical health. The article, published this week in Pediatrics, showed that bullying, especially when chronic, resulted in greater depression, anger and anxiety, and lower self-worth.
This TED Talk sheds new light on stress. “… While stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.”
The traumagenic neurodevelopment model of psychosis, introduced in 2001, highlighted similarities between brain abnormalities found both in people who have been abused and those who are diagnosed with schizophrenia – at the time a radical shift in thinking. This article in Neuropsychiatry by John Read, Roar Fosse, Andrew Moskowitz, and Bruce Perry reviews the research findings since then, and finds that both direct and indirect support for the model has grown.
Research on neurochemicals associated with moods in mice and rats finds that, while less depression-like behavior was observed in those receiving fluoxetine (Prozac) administration in adolescence (compared to those receiving a placebo), sensitivity to anxiety was more pronounced in adulthood. The study, appearing in the Journal of Neuroscience, shows “the complexity of drug and intracellular manipulations in the immature brain,” according to the authors.
When I lived in Massachusetts I taught yoga and led writing groups for alternative mental health communities. While the organizations I worked for were alternative, many of the students and participants were heavily drugged with psychiatric pharmaceuticals. There was one skinny teenager I’d never have forgotten who listed the drugs he was on for me once in the yoga room after class: a long list of stimulants, neuroleptics, moods stabilizers; far too many drugs and classes of drugs to remember. I was at the housewarming party of an old friend, and who should walk in but that boy who used to come to my yoga classes and writing groups religiously. And he was no longer a boy; he was now a young man. “I’m thinking yoga teacher,” he said. I nodded. Did he remember where? “I’m not stupid,” he said, as if reading my mind. “I’m not on drugs anymore. I’m not stupid anymore.” Full Article →
MintPress reports that over half of America’s foster children are on some form of psychiatric medication, and tells the story of some for whom the medication was an inappropriate response to understandable emotions.
Since I left the psychiatric prescribing trenches and came south for the winter, I’ve been staying in a beach town within driving distance of a technology metropolis. I take breaks from my writing and walk to the beach. There, I meet and talk with the winners of the American dream. They are intelligent, highly educated and financially successful. They take their beach vacations here. Full Article →
In a study of 6,767 reports of antidepressant trials in juveniles treated for depressive and anxiety disorders, the risk of psychopathological behavioral or mood elevation was 3.5x greater with antidepressants than with placebo. The authors (which include Giovanni Fava of the University of Bologna and Ross Baldessarini of Harvard Medical School) urge “particular caution and monitoring for potential risk of future bipolar disorder.”
A North Carolina study of 1,420 participants finds higher rates of agoraphobia (4.6x), generalized anxiety disorder (2.7x), and panic disorder (3.1x) among victims of bullying. Among those who had been both bullies and victims, the study found higher rates of depression (4.8x), panic disorder (14.5x), agoraphobia (26.7x) and suicidality (18.5x) in both childhood and young adulthood. Results appeared in JAMA Psychiatry.
Eminent developmental psychologist Jerome Kagan, in an interview with Spiegel, accuses the mental-health establishment and pharmaceutical companies of incorrectly classifying millions as mentally ill out of self-interest and greed. “That is the history of humanity: Those in authority believe they’re doing the right thing, and they harm those who have no power,” Kagan says.
Researchers from Belgium and the Netherlands, publishing online June 20 in Neuroscience, found that prenatal fluoxetine (Prozac) differentially affected the development of glucocorticoid receptors in male (but not female) rats. This response to SSRI medications “may differentially alter the capacity of the hippocampus to respond to stress.”
A study of 566 families with 1416 bipolar-disordered members, and 675 families with 1726 depressed members by researchers from Johns Hopkins and the University of Iowa, published in Psychological Medicine‘s July issue finds that the comorbidity of these disorders with OCD, panic disorder and specific phobia is “at least partly due to familial factors, which may be of relevance to both phenotypic and genetic studies of co-morbidity.”
Researchers from the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre of King’s College’s Institute of Psychiatry in London, publishing in the Journal of Affective Disorders, review the literature on ADHD and bipolar disorder. The boundaries between the two are blurred, they say, and “comorbidity and family studies appear to show that the two disorders occur together and aggregate in families at higher than expected rates. Furthermore close inspection of results from population studies reveals heightened co-occurrence of ADHD and BD even in the context of high comorbidity commonly noted in psychopathology. These results point towards a meaningful association between ADHD and BD, going beyond symptomatic similarities.”
Researchers from the universities of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Illinois and New Orleans collected MRI scans and assessments of executive functioning and stress exposure from 61 children aged 9 to 14. Smaller volumes in the prefrontal cortex, specifically the anterior cingulate cortex, were associated with both cumulative life stress and impaired memory. Results are in the June issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
Data drawn from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project show that children raised in institutions in Romania exhibit elevated symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, depression, and disruptive behavior compared with controls. Researchers from Harvard, the University of Maryland and Tulane also found disrupted brainwave patterns consistent with with risk for psychopathology. Exposure to early life deprivation, the authors write, may contribute to abnormal patterns of neurodevelopment generated by adverse rearing environments. The study is available online from the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic, discusses the disturbing effects of psychotropic drugs prescribed for children. Such medications, used for ADHD, depression, and anxiety, for example, have become commonplace over the past 30 years. This practice profoundly alters the lives of the children, and so now we, as a society, urgently need to address this question: do the medications help the children thrive and grow up into healthy adults? Or does this practice do more harm than good over the long term. Robert Whitaker emphasizes two things: first, the need for an objective, evidence-based approach to evaluating these drugs; and second, the need for better public understanding of how these medications work.
The Marine Corps Times writes of a dramatic increase in prescriptions of psychiatric medication for children of active-duty military personnell during their parents’ deployment and re-integration; a trend seen as contributing to a rise of suicides among military children. “The psychiatrist never once told me Celexa was a risk” said one parent, “I didn’t find out the seriousness until after he died.”
In response to pressure over the 40-fold increase of bipolar diagnoses in children, many of which are being reviewed and dropped in retrospect, the APA has proposed a new, potentially more transient “disruptive mood dysregulation disorder” that would apply to children with chronic irritability and recurrent temper outbursts, and would ostensibly be treated with antidepressants instead of antipsychotics. The proposal, according to the Boston Globe, has brought new scrutiny to Joseph Biederman,who argued that chronic irritability can be interpreted as juvenile mania.