Chapter 16. Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders

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By Pam Belluck Jennifer Caldwell was active and energetic, working two jobs and taking care of her daughter and her parents, when she developed a bacterial infection that was followed by intense lightheadedness, fatigue and memory problems. That was nearly a decade ago, and she has since struggled with the condition known as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME/CFS. Ms. Caldwell, 56, of Hillsborough, N.C., said she went from being able to ski, dance and work two jobs as a clinical research coordinator and a caterer to needing to stay in bed most of every day. “I haven’t been right since, and I haven’t worked a day since,” said Ms. Caldwell, whose symptoms include severe dizziness whenever her legs are not elevated. The condition has also “messed me up cognitively,” she said. “I can’t read something and comprehend it very well at all, I can’t remember new things. It’s kind of like being in a limbo state. That’s how I describe it, lost in limbo.” Seven years ago, the National Institutes of Health began a study of patients with ME/CFS, and Ms. Caldwell became one of 17 participants who engaged in a series of tests and evaluations of their blood, bodies and brains. Findings from the study, which was published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications, showed notable physiological differences in the immune system, cardio-respiratory function, gut microbiome and brain activity of the ME/CFS patients compared with a group of 21 healthy study participants. Medical experts said that even though the study was a snapshot of a small number of patients, it was valuable, partly because ME/CFS has long been dismissed or misdiagnosed. The findings confirm that “it’s biological, not psychological,” said Dr. Avindra Nath, the chief of infections of the nervous system at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, who led the study. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Neuroimmunology; Depression
Link ID: 29157 - Posted: 02.22.2024

By Matt Richtel Growing numbers of children and adolescents are being prescribed multiple psychiatric drugs to take simultaneously, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland. The phenomenon is increasing despite warnings that psychotropic drug combinations in young people have not been tested for safety or studied for their impact on the developing brain. The study, published Friday in JAMA Open Network, looked at the prescribing patterns among patients 17 or younger enrolled in Medicaid from 2015 to 2020 in a single U.S. state that the researchers declined to name. In this group, there was a 9.5 percent increase in the prevalence of “polypharmacy,” which the study defined as taking three or more different classes of psychiatric medications, including antidepressants, mood-stabilizing anticonvulsants, sedatives and drugs for A.D.H.D. and anxiety drugs. The study looked at only one state, but state data have been used in the past to explore this issue, in part because of the relative ease of gathering data from Medicaid, the health insurance program administered by states. At the same time, some research using nationally weighted samples have revealed the increasing prevalence of polypharmacy among young people. One recent paper drew data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and found that in 2015, 40.7 percent of people aged 2 to 24 in the United States who took a medication for A.D.H.D. also took a second psychiatric drug. That figure had risen from 26 percent in 2006. The latest data from the University of Maryland researchers show that, at least in one state, the practice continues to grow and “was significantly more likely among youths who were disabled or in foster care,” the new study noted. Mental health experts said that psychotropic medications can prove very helpful and that doctors have discretion to prescribe what they see fit. A concern among some experts is that many drugs used in frequently prescribed cocktails have not been approved for use in young people. And it is unclear how the simultaneous use of multiple psychotropic medications affects brain development long-term. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29152 - Posted: 02.20.2024

Rhitu Chatterjee In recent years, there's been growing interest in psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in "magic mushrooms" or "shrooms" as a potentially beneficial therapy for mental health conditions. At the same time, drug busts of mushrooms went way up between 2017 and 2022, and the amount of the psychedelic substance seized by law enforcement more than tripled, according to a new study. "What I think the results indicate is that shroom availability has likely been increasing," says Joseph Palamar, an epidemiologist at NYU Langone Health and the main author of the new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Sponsor Message The findings come at a time when there's a "psychedelic renaissance" happening in the country, says Dr. Joshua Siegel of Washington University in St. Louis, who wasn't involved in the new study. There's growing public and scientific interest in psychedelics' potential therapeutic effects on various mental and behavioral health issues, says Siegel, who also studies how psychedelics affect the human brain. At the same time, a small number of states have already decriminalized psychedelic drugs, and many more are looking into doing the same. The new study is "an important part of the bigger picture of where we are headed as a nation" with psychedelics, says Siegel. "It's important to understand what's happening in terms of the health care side of things. It's important to understand what's happening recreationally and legally." The new study found that the total amount of mushrooms seized by law enforcement across the country went from nearly 500 pounds in 2017 to more than 1,800 pounds in 2022. The largest amount (42.6% of total) seized was in the West, followed closely by the Midwest (41.8%). © 2024 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Depression
Link ID: 29141 - Posted: 02.08.2024

By Ernesto Londoño Seizures of psychedelic mushrooms across the nation by law enforcement officials have increased significantly in recent years as attitudes regarding their use have grown more permissive, according to a government-funded study released Tuesday. Researchers found that law enforcement officials confiscated 844 kilos of mushrooms containing psilocybin in 2022, an increase of 273 percent from 2017. Psilocybin is the psychoactive component in the fungi commonly known as magic mushrooms. Officials at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which commissioned the study, said that the increase in seizures of magic mushroom reflected rising use of the drugs, rather than an indication that counternarcotics officials were pursuing the substances more aggressively than before. The marketplace for magic mushrooms, which are illegal under federal law, has boomed in recent years as several clinical studies have shown that they may be effective as therapies to treat depression and other serious conditions. But many medical professionals say they worry that the hype surrounding psychedelics has moved faster than the science. Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the N.I.D.A, said that preliminary clinical studies had shown that psychedelics might one day become an important tool for the treatment of psychiatric disorders, including addiction to other drugs. But she said she worried that many people were self-medicating with psychedelics. “Psychedelic drugs have been promoted as a potential cure for many health conditions without adequate research to support these claims,” Dr. Volkow said. “There are people who are very desperate for mental health care, and there are businesses that are very eager to make money by marketing substances as treatments or cures.” © 2024 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Depression
Link ID: 29130 - Posted: 02.06.2024

Dawn Megli In late 2022, Sarah Gutilla's treatment-resistant depression had grown so severe that she was actively contemplating suicide. Raised in foster care, the 34-year-old's childhood was marked by physical violence, sexual abuse and drug use, leaving her with life-threatening mental scars. Out of desperation, her husband scraped together $600 for the first of six rounds of intravenous ketamine therapy at Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles, which administers the generic anesthetic for off-label uses such as treating depression. When Gutilla got into an Uber for the 75-mile ride to Los Angeles, it was the first time she had left her home in Llano, Calif., in two years. The results, she says, were instant. "The amount of relief I felt after the first treatment was what I think 'normal' is supposed to feel like," she says. "I've never felt so OK and so at peace." For-profit ketamine clinics have proliferated over the past few years, offering infusions for a wide array of mental health issues, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety. Although the off-label use of ketamine hydrochloride, a Schedule III drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration as an anesthetic in 1970, was considered radical just a decade ago, now between 500 and 750 ketamine clinics have cropped up across the United States. Market analysis firm Grand View Research pegged industry revenues at $3.1 billion in 2022, and it projects them to more than double to $6.9 billion by 2030. Most insurance doesn't cover ketamine for mental health, so patients must pay out-of-pocket. While it's legal for doctors to prescribe ketamine, the FDA hasn't approved it for mental health treatment, which means that individual practitioners develop their own treatment protocols. The result is wide variability among providers, with some favoring gradual, low-dosage treatments while others advocate larger amounts that can induce hallucinations, as the drug is a psychedelic at the right doses. "Ketamine is the Wild West," says Dustin Robinson, the managing principal of Iter Investments, a venture capital firm specializing in hallucinogenic drug treatments. © 2024 npr

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 29129 - Posted: 02.03.2024

By Sandra G. Boodman On the day after Christmas 2021, Abigail Aguilar, 18, and nearly three months pregnant, walked into her mother’s bedroom and in a flat, emotionless voice announced, “Mom, I’m going to slit my throat.” For weeks Quintina Sims had grappled with her daughter’s increasingly bizarre and frightening behavior. Aguilar had also been plagued by unremitting nausea, splitting headaches and weakness so severe her stepfather sometimes had to carry her to the bathroom. Doctors had largely brushed off her symptoms as the normal manifestations of early pregnancy. Aguilar’s threat triggered a cascade of events that would end in a hospital 130 miles south of her Kern County, Calif., home where doctors mobilized in an effort to discover what was making the previously healthy teenager so sick. After treatment after treatment failed, Sims, now 42, would be called upon to make what she called “the hardest decision of my life” — one that appears to have saved her daughter. Aguilar, who will turn 21 in a few weeks, is now working full time as a preschool teacher’s assistant and studying child development at a community college. She remembers very little of her harrowing six-week stay at Loma Linda University Medical Center, but says the months she spent recovering proved to be clarifying. “It made me realize that I had to value my life a lot more,” Aguilar said. “And I learned that my family was always going to be there for me.” An unexpected surprise In the fall of 2021, Aguilar, a recent high school graduate, was living with her grandparents in Los Angeles, working in a movie theater and going to college part time. In October, she discovered she was pregnant; the baby was due in July 2022. “It was a surprise,” she recalled. Aguilar, who was unmarried, struggled with what to do. She decided to have the baby, a decision her mother supported. “At first everything was fine,” Aguilar said.

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 29112 - Posted: 01.23.2024

Ian Sample Science editor From Cain and Abel and the Brothers Karamazov to Cinderella, the warmth and support provided by siblings has hardly been taken for granted. Now, researchers have found that children who moan about their brothers and sisters may have good reason to complain: the more siblings teenagers have, the more it hits their happiness, they claim. A study of secondary schoolchildren in the US and China found that those from larger families had slightly poorer mental health than those from smaller families. The greatest impact was seen in families with multiple children born less than a year apart. Doug Downey, a professor of sociology at Ohio State University, said previous work in the field had revealed a mixed picture of positives and negatives for children with more siblings, adding that the latest results “were not a given”. The researchers asked 9,100 eighth graders in the US and 9,400 in China, with an average age of 14, a range of questions about their mental health, though the specific questions varied between the countries. In China, the teenagers with no siblings fared best for mental health. In the US, children who had no siblings or only one were found to have similar mental health. Overall, mental health was worse the more siblings the teenagers had, with greater impacts seen for teenagers with older siblings, and when brothers and sisters were closely spaced in age. Writing in the Journal of Family Issues, Downey and his colleagues argue that the findings are in line with the “resource dilution” explanation, the driving force behind the unwritten formula that states that the number of balls dropped rises, sometimes dramatically, with the number of siblings born. © 2024 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Depression; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29101 - Posted: 01.16.2024

By Meryl Davids Landau When Brian Meyer received a Stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis three years ago at age 62, he was determined to make the most of his remaining years. He immediately retired from a decades-long career in the grocery business and took every opportunity to hike, camp and — his all-time favorite — fish for salmon. Brian and his wife, Cheryl, regularly visited their two grown children and three grandsons and spent time with their many friends. But it was sometimes hard to keep his mind off his pain and the reality that life was nearing an end. “It tugs at the heart all the time,” Meyer, from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, said in August. A calm person by nature, he found his anxiety skyrocketing. By November, though, despite a new, highly aggressive liver cancer that shrank his prognosis to months or weeks, Meyer felt calm much of the time. The prime reason: a 25-milligram dose of the psychedelic drug psilocybin he had taken several months earlier, due to a Canadian program being watched elsewhere for the emotional benefits it may offer people nearing death. In mid-August, Meyer and nine other people with terminal cancers had gathered in two rooms, and there, lying on plush floor mats with blankets covering their bodies, their eyes covered by sleeping masks and music piped in over headphones, they swallowed the psilocybin capsules. The consciousness-altering drug, administered by the nonprofit Vancouver Island wellness center Roots to Thrive, set Meyer and the others on a six-hour journey of fantastical images and thoughts. The hope was that this “trip” would lead to lasting improvements in mood and lessen their angst around death. It was accompanied by weeks of Zoom group therapy sessions before and after, along with an in-person gathering the evening before for a medical clearance and the opportunity for participants and their spouses to meet in person.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 29100 - Posted: 01.16.2024

By Elissa Welle Many of the physicians who worked on the current diagnostic and treatment guidelines for psychiatric conditions in the United States have financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, according to a study published today in The BMJ. Nearly 60 percent of the 92 U.S.-based physicians who shepherded the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) accepted industry payments totaling $14.2 million during the three years prior to working on the manual, the study shows. The results raise questions about systemic “economies of influence” over a document used by public health officials, health insurance plans and drug regulators, says lead investigator Lisa Cosgrove, professor of counseling and school psychology and a faculty fellow at the Applied Ethics Center at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “Financial conflicts of interest, industry ties don’t point to wrongdoing — we’re not saying that people did anything wrong consciously,” Cosgrove says. “It’s just implicit bias.” DSM-5-TR decision-makers were not allowed to receive more than $5,000 from industry, according to a statement to The Transmitter by a spokesperson for the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which published the DSM-5-TR in March 2022. And an independent committee reviewed financial and non-financial disclosures for all other contributors to the revision. The text revision centered on literature searches to incorporate new scientific findings since the publication of the DSM-5 in 2013, the spokesperson wrote. “Any rare, minor instances of content that connected a diagnosis to a therapy were omitted from DSM-5-TR,” the spokesperson wrote. “No content was found in the submitted text that related to a specific treatment for which industry funding may have been provided for related research.” © 2023 Simons Foundation.

Keyword: Depression; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 29096 - Posted: 01.13.2024

By Tim Vernimmen It is increasingly well understood that the countless microbes in our guts help us to digest our food, to absorb and produce essential nutrients, and to prevent harmful organisms from settling in. Less intuitive — perhaps even outlandish — is the idea that those microbes may also affect our mood, our mental health and how we perform on cognitive tests. But there is mounting evidence that they do. For nearly two decades, neuroscientist John Cryan of University College Cork in Ireland has been uncovering ways in which intestinal microbes affect the brain and behavior of humans and other animals. To his surprise, many of the effects he’s seen in rodents appear to be mirrored in our own species. Most remarkably, research by Cryan and others has shown that transplanting microbes from the guts of people with psychiatric disorders like depression to the guts of rodents can cause comparable symptoms in the animals. These effects may occur in several ways — through the vagus nerve connecting the gut to the brain, through the influence of gut bacteria on our immune systems, or by microbes synthesizing molecules that our nerve cells use to communicate. Cryan and coauthors summarize the science in a set of articles including “Man and the Microbiome: A New Theory of Everything?,” published in the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. Cryan told Knowable Magazine that even though it will take much more research to pin down the mechanisms and figure out how to apply the insights, there are some things we can do already. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Keyword: Depression; Stress
Link ID: 29091 - Posted: 01.11.2024

Pam Belluck A research team analyzed records of nearly a million women in Sweden’s national medical registries from 2001 through 2017, comparing 86,551 women who had perinatal depression with 865,510 women who did not. The groups were matched by age and year they gave birth. In two studies, the team found that depression that begins in pregnancy or soon after can have troubling implications for as long as 18 years. One study, published on Tuesday in JAMA Network Open, found that women with perinatal depression had three times the risk of suicidal behavior, defined as attempted or completed suicide, than women who did not experience perinatal depression. Risks were greatest in the year following their diagnosis, but, while they lessened over time, years later the risks were still twice as high compared with women without the disorder. The other study, published on Wednesday in BMJ, found that women with perinatal depression were more than six times at risk of dying by suicide as those without that diagnosis. The number of suicides was small, but it accounted for a large share of the deaths of women diagnosed with perinatal depression: 149 of the 522 deaths in that group, or 28.5 percent. For women without perinatal depression, there were 117 suicides out of 1,568 deaths or 7.5 percent. Suicide was a major reason women with perinatal depression were twice as likely to die from any cause over the 18-year period of the study compared with women without the disorder. The researchers also compared more than 20,000 women with perinatal depression to their biological sisters who gave birth during the same time frame and did not have the disorder. The risk of suicidal behavior for the sisters with perinatal depression was nearly three times that of their sisters without the diagnosis — almost as high as the difference between women with the illness and those without it to whom they were not related. That suggests depression plays a greater role in these outcomes than genetics or childhood environment, the researchers wrote. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 29089 - Posted: 01.11.2024

By Christina Jewett and Benjamin Mueller In early 2020, the Food and Drug Administration responded to decades of escalating concerns about a commonly prescribed drug for asthma and allergies by deploying one of its most potent tools: a stark warning on the drug’s label that it could cause aggression, agitation and even suicidal thoughts. The agency’s label, which was primarily aimed at doctors, was supposed to sound an alert about the 25-year-old medication, Singulair, also known by its generic name, montelukast. But it barely dented use: The drug was still prescribed to 12 million people in the United States in 2022. Children face the greatest risks of the drug’s ill effects, and while usage by minors did decline, it was still taken by 1.6 million of them — including Nicole Sims’s son. Ms. Sims had no idea why, at 6, her son started having nightmares and hallucinations of a woman in the window. When he told her that he wanted to die, Ms. Sims went online, desperate for answers. Only then did she learn about the F.D.A. warning. She also found a Facebook support group with 20,000 members for people who had experienced side effects of the drug. Members of the group recounted a haunting toll that they linked to the drug with the help of peers, not their doctors. “It’s a mental health crisis that nobody is recognizing,” said Anna Maria Rosenberg, an administrator of the group. The F.D.A.’s handling of Singulair illustrates systemic gaps in the agency’s approach to addressing troubling side effects from medicines approved long ago — and to warning the public and doctors when serious issues arise. The agency had flagged the 2020 warning label, known as a “boxed warning,” to physicians’ groups, but it had not required that doctors be educated about the drug’s side effects. Federal regulators in 1998 initially dismissed evidence that emerged during the approval process about the drug’s potential to affect the brain and did not revise their assessment until two decades later. The F.D.A. was slow to alert the public as reports of psychiatric problems surfaced, highlighting deficiencies of a drug-monitoring system that puts the onus on drugmakers to report problems. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 29087 - Posted: 01.09.2024

By Bill Sullivan Schizophrenia can produce persistent delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking. The precise cause is unknown but seems to involve a combination of genetics and environmental risk factors. One environmental factor may be an infectious agent, such as the common parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis. Since cats can transmit Toxoplasma to humans, scientists have been investigating whether there is a link between cat ownership and schizophrenia. Many studies have tried to answer this question over the past 50 years; some studies show an association, but others do not. Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia recently reanalyzed all these studies to determine the current consensus. What Is Toxoplasma? Toxoplasma is a single-celled parasite that infects all warm-blooded animals, including up to one-third of the human population. Cats are the only animals that support the sexual stage of the parasite’s life cycle, which culminates in the expulsion of infectious parasites in the feces. These fecal parasites are housed in sturdy containers called oocysts, which are stable in the environment for years and can spread the infection to a new individual if inhaled or ingested. In addition to litter boxes, people can pick up oocysts wherever a cat may have defecated, for example in the yard, sandbox, or garden (including unwashed fruits and vegetables). Oocysts have also made their way into streams and seawater, where they can infect people though shellfish. Up to 40 million people in the U.S. are infected with Toxoplasma. While a healthy immune system can control the parasite’s growth, it cannot get rid of the infection entirely. Toxoplasma parasites remain in the brain and other tissues as latent cysts, which can resume growth if the immune system is weakened.

Keyword: Schizophrenia
Link ID: 29084 - Posted: 01.09.2024

By Max Kozlov Shredded iboga root, the main ingredient in the psychedelic drug ibogaine, is prepared for use in a traditional ceremony in Gabon.Credit: Rachel Nuwer Psychedelic drugs such as MDMA and psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound found in magic mushrooms, have promised to revolutionize psychiatric treatments. Now, a small trial in military veterans suggests that a lesser-known, potent psychedelic drug called ibogaine could be used to treat traumatic brain injury (TBI). One month after ibogaine treatment, the veterans reported that TBI symptoms such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression had decreased by more than 80%, on average1. “The drug seems to have a broad, dramatic and consistent effect,” says Nolan Williams, a neuroscientist at Stanford University in California and a co-author of the study. The results of the trial, which did not include a control group, are published today in Nature Medicine. These data support launching rigorous trials to test the drug, says Alan Davis, a clinical psychologist at the Ohio State University in Columbus. However, they note that MDMA and psilocybin, which are already in late-stage trials, will be “much better candidates for meeting the needs of this community”. Ibogaine will require years of study to determine its efficacy and safety, Davis says. Warfare’s lasting effects Ibogaine is made from the bark of a shrub (Tabernanthe iboga) native to Central Africa, where it is used for ceremonial purposes. Researchers have tended to shy away from exploring the use of ibogaine for the treatment of conditions other than opioid dependence and withdrawal2, because it is tightly regulated in many countries and can cause fatal heartbeat irregularities, says Maria Steenkamp, a clinical psychologist who studies PTSD in veterans at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City. But the available therapies for PTSD and other conditions don’t help everybody, Steenkamp says. “We are desperately in need of new interventions.” © 2024 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Stress; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 29082 - Posted: 01.06.2024

By Rodrigo Pérez Ortega Politically and ethically fraught, research into what leads to bisexual behavior or exclusive homosexuality typically sparks controversy. The latest study, published today in Science Advances, is no exception. By mining a DNA database of some 450,000 people in the United Kingdom, a research team has concluded that the genes underlying bisexual behavior are distinct from those driving exclusive same-sex behavior, and may be intertwined with a propensity for taking risks. This connection to risk-taking, the authors suggest, may also explain why men with a history of bisexual behavior still have a reasonably high number of offspring, albeit fewer than heterosexual men, possibly explaining why the genes driving such sexual behavior have persisted. The work has drawn a mix of strong reactions. Some scientists called the findings valuable, whereas others found fault with the underlying data. Still others argued the research could potentially stigmatize sexual minorities. The result that bisexuality is tied with risky behavior, some scientists say, could be used by others to discriminate against, and further perpetuate false narratives about, bisexual people. However, study co-author Jianzhi Zhang, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Michigan (UM), counters that the association between bisexual behavior and risk-taking “is an empirical observation. … We hold no moral judgement on risk-taking and believe [it] has pros and cons (depending on the situation), as almost any trait.” He also pushes back at the idea such research should be taboo or off limits. “We should welcome more studies of bisexuality and homosexuality. … This is partly a biological question, so we should understand it.” From one stark evolutionary perspective, sex without the prospect of producing children could be seen as waste of time and energy—behavior that might be selected against. Yet population surveys have consistently found that about 2% to 10% of people engage in sex with others of the same sex. Studies of twins have suggested such sexual activity is at least partly heritable, and therefore has a genetic component. And scientists have proposed several evolutionary theories explaining why same-sex sexual behavior may persist.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 29080 - Posted: 01.06.2024

By Gina Kolata People taking the wildly popular drugs Ozempic, to treat diabetes, and Wegovy, to combat obesity, are slightly less likely to have suicidal thoughts than people who are not taking them, researchers reported on Friday. Millions of people take Ozempic and Wegovy, which are considered to be among the biggest blockbusters in medical history. But last year a European drug safety agency said it was investigating whether the drugs cause suicidal thoughts. The new study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, was funded by the National Institutes of Health and used a huge population. The findings provide data that may potentially reassure people who take the drugs. Novo Nordisk, maker of the drugs, had no role in the study, and the study’s investigators had no conflicts of interest. The investigators used anonymized electronic health records from a database of 100.8 million people. That allowed them to look at two groups: 240,618 who were prescribed Wegovy or other weight loss drugs, and 1,589,855 who were prescribed Ozempic or other medicines to lower their blood sugar. Suicidal thoughts were included in patients’ records as part of routine monitoring of their health. The investigators compared the incidence of suicidal thoughts in people who were taking the drugs with the incidence among similar people who were not taking them but were taking other weight loss and anti-diabetes medications. They also asked if there was an increase in the recurrence of suicidal thoughts among those taking the drugs who had previously reported thoughts of suicide. The database’s size allowed the researchers to look at subgroups such as sex, race and age groups. “No matter how hard we tried we did not see any increased risk,” said Rong Xu, director of the Center for Artificial Intelligence in Drug Discovery at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Dr. Xu conceived the study and interpreted the data with Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. But it was an observational study, so it is impossible to draw conclusions about cause and effect. Such studies can only show associations. “More studies are absolutely needed,” Dr. Volkow said. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity; Depression
Link ID: 29078 - Posted: 01.06.2024

By April Dembosky Every year, an estimated 100,000 young adults or adolescents in the U.S. experience a psychotic episode. Only 10-20% of them gain access to the holistic treatment approach recommended by the National Institute of Mental Health as the gold standard of care for early psychosis, due to lack of space or because insurance won't cover it. Illustration by Anna Vignet/KQED After M graduated from high school in California, she got a job at a fast food restaurant making burgers. Her coworkers were chatting over the fryer one day when M got a weird feeling, like somehow they knew what she was thinking. It was like her coworkers could read her mind and were discussing her thoughts with each other. "I was like, are they talking about burgers or are they talking about me?" says M, now 21. NPR has agreed to identify M by her middle initial because she fears the stigma around her mental illness could disrupt her career path. There was one coworker in particular, a guy she had a crush on, and she was pretty sure he was watching her. She suspected he hacked into her phone so he could listen to her conversations, find out where she was and follow her around. If she was walking down the street, or hanging out in the park, she saw him. Her mom remembers M wanted to sleep with the lights on, repeatedly asking her through the night, "Mom, is someone here?" One day, her mom said M got so paranoid, so scared, she locked herself in the bathroom and just screamed and screamed and screamed. Her mom wanted to call for help. But she didn't have a job at the time. This was about a year into the pandemic, and the hotel where M's mom worked had been closed since the first lockdown. When she lost her job, she lost her family's health benefits, too. "My husband was like, 'What is that going to cost?'" her mom remembers. © 2024 npr

Keyword: Schizophrenia
Link ID: 29076 - Posted: 01.03.2024

By Elizabeth Svoboda Esther Oladejo knew she'd crossed an invisible boundary when she started forgetting to eat for entire days at a time. A gifted rugby player, Oladejo had once thrived on her jam-packed school schedule. But after she entered her teenage years, her teachers started piling on assignments and quizzes to prepare students for high-stakes testing that would help them to qualify for university. As she devoted hours on hours to cram sessions, Oladejo's resolve began to fray. Every time she got a low grade, her mood tanked—and with it, her resolve to study hard for the next test. “Teachers [were] saying, ‘Oh, you can do much better than this,’” says Oladejo, now 18, who lives in Merseyside, England. “But you're thinking, ‘Can I? I tried my best on that. Can I do any more than what I've done before?’” One morning, as Oladejo steeled herself for another endless day, her homeroom teacher passed out a questionnaire to the students, explaining that it would help assess their moods and well-being. Oladejo filled it out, her mind ticking forward to her upcoming classes. Soon after that, someone called to tell her she'd been slotted into a new school course called the Blues Program. Developed by Oregon Research Institute psychologist Paul Rohde and his colleagues at Stanford University, the program—a six-week series of hour-long group sessions—teaches students skills for managing their emotions and stress. The goal is to head off depression in vulnerable teens. Although Oladejo didn't know it at the time, her course was one in an expanding series of depression prevention programs for young people, including Vanderbilt University's Teens Achieving Mastery Over Stress (TEAMS); the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Resiliency Program; Happy Lessons, developed by Dutch social scientists; and Spain's Smile Program. The growing global interest in depression prevention is helping to establish the efficacy of a range of programs in diverse settings. © 2023 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN,

Keyword: Depression; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29066 - Posted: 12.27.2023

Ian Sample Science editor Human tears carry a substance that dampens down aggression, according to researchers, who believe the drops may have evolved over time to protect wailing babies from harm. Sniffing emotional tears from women reduced male aggression by more than 40% in computerised tests, and prompted corresponding changes in the brain, though the scientists behind the study think all human tears would have a similar effect. “The reduction in aggression was impressive to us, it seems real,” said Noam Sobel, a professor of neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. “Whatever is in tears actually lowers aggression.” Charles Darwin puzzled over the point of weeping. Writing in The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals in 1872, the great naturalist declared sobbing as “purposeless as the secretion of tears from a blow outside the eye”. But in the 150 years since, researchers have proposed all manner of roles, from signalling vulnerability and helplessness to clearing bacteria from the eyes. Previous work at Sobel’s lab found that sniffing women’s tears reduced male testosterone but it was unclear whether this affected behaviour. In animals, the picture is clearer: subordinate mole rats, for example, cover themselves in tears to protect themselves from aggressors. For the latest study, Dr Shani Agron and others in Sobel’s lab collected tears rolling down women’s faces as they watched sad movies. The researchers did not specifically advertise for female tear donors but nearly all who came forward were women, of whom six were selected because they produced tears in such quantities. The experiments involved 31 men who sniffed either saline or women’s tears before having swabs dabbed with the droplets stuck to their upper lip. The men then took part in a computerised game used in psychology to provoke aggressive behaviour by unfairly deducting players’ points. © 2023 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Aggression; Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 29063 - Posted: 12.22.2023

Perspective by Michael Varnum and Ian Hohm A growing body of research in psychology and related fields suggests that winter brings some profound changes in how people think, feel and behave. The natural and cultural changes that come with winter often occur simultaneously, making it challenging to tease apart the causes underlying these seasonal swings. Live well every day with tips and guidance on food, fitness and mental health, delivered to your inbox every Thursday. We recently conducted an extensive survey of these findings with research colleagues Alexandra Wormley, a social psychologist at Arizona State University, and Mark Schaller, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia. Wintertime blues and a long winter’s nap Do you find yourself feeling down in the winter months? You’re not alone. As the days grow shorter, the American Psychiatric Association estimates that about 5 percent of Americans will experience a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. People experiencing SAD tend to have feelings of hopelessness, decreased motivation to take part in activities they generally enjoy, and lethargy. Even those who don’t meet the clinical threshold for this disorder may see increases in anxiety and depressive symptoms. Scientists link SAD and more general increases in depression in the winter to decreased exposure to sunlight, which leads to lower levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Consistent with the idea that sunlight plays a key role, SAD tends to be more common in more northern regions of the world, such as Scandinavia and Alaska, where the days are shortest and the winters longest. Humans, special as we may be, are not unique in showing some of these seasonally linked changes. For instance, our primate relative the Rhesus macaque shows seasonal declines in mood.

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Depression
Link ID: 29043 - Posted: 12.13.2023