Archive for April, 2011
“I’m an introvert…I love being by myself, love being outdoors, love taking a long walk with my dogs and looking at the trees,flowers,the sky.” — Audrey Hepburn
Place: Washington, DC | Agency: ANI
A team of researchers from the CHUM Research Centre (CRCHUM) has for the first time ever identified a new gene that predisposes people to both autism and epilepsy.
Led by the neurologist Patrick Cossette, the research team found a severe mutation of the synapsin gene (SYN1) in all members of a large French-Canadian family suffering from epilepsy, including individuals on the autism spectrum.
This study also includes an analysis of two cohorts of individuals from Quebec, which made it possible to identify other mutations in the SYN1 gene among 1% and 3.5% of those with autism and epilepsy, while several carriers of the SYN1 mutation displayed symptoms of both disorders.
“The results show for the first time the role of the SYN1 gene in autism, in addition to epilepsy, and strengthen the hypothesis that a deregulation of the function of synapse because of this mutation is the cause of both conditions,” noted Cossette, who is also a professor with the Faculty of Medicine at the Université de Montreal.
Until now, no other genetic study of humans has made this demonstration,” he added.
The different forms of autism are often genetic in origin and nearly a third of people with autism also suffer from epilepsy. The reason for this comorbidity is unknown.
The synapsin gene plays are crucial role in the development of the membrane surrounding neurotransmitters, also referred to as synaptic vesicles. These neurotransmitters ensure communication between neurons.
Although mutations in other genes involved in the development of synapses (the functional junction between two neurons) have previously been identified, this mechanism has never been proved in epilepsy in humans until the present study.
The results of the study were published in the latest online edition of Human Molecular Genetics.
Gene linked to severity of autism found
The gene, GRIP1 (glutamate receptor interacting protein 1), is a blueprint for a traffic-directing protein at synapses â€” those specialized contact points between brain cells across which chemical signals flow.
Identified more than a decade ago by Richard L. Huganir, professor and director of the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, GRIP1 regulates how fast receptors travel to a cell’s surface, where they are activated by a brain-signaling chemical called glutamate, allowing neurons to communicate with one another.
The new study, which tracked two versions of GRIP1 in the genomes of 480 people with autism, and lends support to a prevailing theory that autism spectrum disorders (ASD), molecularly speaking, reflect an imbalance between inhibitory and excitatory signaling at synapses.
Using 10 mice genetically engineered to lack both normal and mutant GRIP proteins, researchers watched what happened when each animal was put into a box where it could choose between spending time with a mouse it hadn’t encountered before, or an inanimate object. They compared the behaviors of these mice with 10 normal mice put into the same social situation. Mice lacking both GRIP1 and GRIP2 spent twice as much time as wild-type (normal) mice interacting with other mice as they did with inanimate objects.
“These results support a role for GRIP1 in social behavior and implicate its variants in modulating autistic behavior,” Wang said.
Finally, the team looked at the behavioural analyses of individuals in two families, each with two autistic brothers, and correlated their scores on standard diagnostic tests that assessed social interaction with their genotypes for GRIP1 variants.
In one family, the brother with two copies of the GRIP1 mutant variety scored lower on social interaction tests than his brother who had only one copy of the GRIP1 variant. The boys’ mother, although not diagnosed as autistic, had a history of restricted interests, poor eye contact and repetitive behavior. Tests showed she also carried one copy of the variant.
In a second family, the autistic brother with one copy of the GRIP1 variant had lower social interaction scores than his autistic sibling without a GRIP1 variant.
Because the GRIP1 gene resides in synapses where other genes also implicated in autism have been found, this location is potentially important in terms of clinical relevance, said Huganir.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Individuality, Diversity, Equality, Achievement
Linking job seekers with vacancies in work related to autism, Aspergers and ASDs
Our objective is to promote awareness to AD/HD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and to provide information and as much free practical help as we can to those affected by the condition, both adults and children, their families in the UK and around the World via this website.
The murder of a man she didn’t even know changed the landscape of Kay’s life. For the police and the murder victim’s partner, it was the neurological landscape of Kay’s mind that proved a challenge. Seattle provides the backdrop for this story of two people working together despite their differences, finding the way to solve the mystery and live with Charlie’s death.
“A main character in the book is an autistic and faceblind woman. This
is not a profit-making venture. What I want the book to do is be part of the
increase in authentic (individual, unique) autistic characters out there in the
literary culture.” Jane Meyerding
I love it when I read a study that confirms what I’ve been feeling or thinking. Psych Central’s Senior New Editor Rick Nauert discussed a few days ago a new study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior that says women find it especially stressful to receive work-related communication at home, even when the phone calls or emails are within the working hours they defined.
Much more so than men.
Meaning, if the boss emails or calls a guy, even if it’s outside normal working hours, the typical male doesn’t think much of it, takes care of it, no problem. A woman? Even it happens within 9 to 5, she frets a little.
Think long and hard, even if you aren’t Catholic.
And here it is again … Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
Boy do I know that feeling. Because even though my role right now is to be the breadwinner, the “man” of the family, and my husband Eric is doing the majority of the homework, shuffling to sports, parent-teacher meetings, and household stuff (well, I have to admit, I never really succeeded at cooking anything edible), that message somehow doesn’t get to my prefrontal cortex. The only message I hear is: You are their mother. They need you. You should be with them right now. You are selfish in trying to work.
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on April 5, 2011
For many men, the stress of not having a job may be greater than the stress associated with employment. New research shows unemployment can hasten death among men by a striking 63 percent.
Practically, in today’s turbulent economic times, recently laid-off men may benefit from aggressive cardiovascular screening and interventions aimed at reducing risk-taking behaviors.
Dr. Eran Shor, a sociologist from McGill University, reached these conclusions by surveying existing research covering 20 million people in 15 (mainly Western) countries, over the last 40 years.
The structure of the health care system (U.S. vs. Canadian vs. UK and others) did not influence mortality rate as the correlation between unemployment and a higher risk of death was the same in all the countries.
“Until now, one of the big questions in the literature has been about whether pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or heart problems, or behaviors such as smoking, drinking or drug use, lead to both unemployment and a greater risk of death,” Shor said.
The Psychological Impact Of Being Out Of Work
Article Date: 03 Apr 2011 – 3:00 PDT
When the unemployed complain of fighting an uphill battle to reenter the job market, believe them.
Through a series of simple experiments, researchers from UCLA and the State University of New York-Stony Brook found that out-of-work Americans face discrimination that is unrelated to their skills sets or to the conditions of departure from their previous jobs.
“We were surprised to find that, all things being equal, unemployed applicants were viewed as less competent, warm and hireable than employed individuals,” said lead researcher Geoffrey Ho, a doctoral student in human resources and organizational behavior at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. “We were also surprised to see how little the terms of departure mattered. Job candidates who said they voluntarily left a position faced the same stigma as job candidates who said they had been laid off or terminated.”
The findings will be presented at an April 10 conference on unemployment at UCLA.
Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/221063.php
Imagine you divided everyone in the world into two psychological groups. You put all the optimists on one side and all the pessimists on the other (let’s leave the realists aside for now).
Amongst the optimists the conversation would all be about fantastic plans for the future and how things can only get better.
Meanwhile the pessimists are having what might seem to the optimists like a depressing discussion. Far from working out how to make their dreams come true, they’re worrying about all the things that might go wrong. They’re worried that even the things they have will be taken away from them by some cruel twist of fate.
To the optimists, the pessimists seem too down on everything, always just a little too keen to pour cold water on any exciting plans.
To the pessimists, though, the optimists are out of touch with reality. Can’t they see what a nasty, cruel and accident-prone world we live in? They are deluding themselves!
Which is better?
Over the years psychologists have examined many aspects of pessimism and optimism. They’ve wondered whether there are more optimists or pessimists. And they’ve tried to find out which approach is ‘better’. Naturally both camps are fascinated to see which way this one goes.
In fact there’s good news for all. There are some advantages to optimism like it seems to make people feel better about life. But there are also advantages for pessimism in that thinking the worst helps some pessimists cope better with the world.
But we should be less concerned with which is ‘better’ or which camp is larger and more interested in why people see the world in such different ways in the first place.
After all, when an extreme optimist talks to an extreme pessimist, it’s like they come from two completely different worlds. How do people come to be polarized in this way?
The science of intimate relationships has identified specific behaviors of partners that succeed in creating mutually enriching marriages.
Partners who think and act in certain ways nearly guarantee themselves love relationships in which they feel fulfilled, loved and appreciated.
First, the good news is both you and your partner are wired for love, your body’s health depends on it. Second, you are wired to release of a certain love hormone, Oxytocin, the chemical known as the “cuddle hormone,” in response to certain behaviors.
Feeling loved and secure has everything to do with knowing how to create an Oxytocin response that makes you and your partner feel loved and secure.
What about couples that don’t currently have Oxytocin response patterns in place?
“No, problem,” says neuroscience. Because of the brain’s neural “plasticity,” a lifelong ability to grow and develop new neural circuitry, partners can learn to rewire their own and their partner’s love patterns, even late in life.
In a groundbreaking book on the subject of healing marriage relationships, “Emotional Intelligence in Couples Therapy, Dr. Brent J. Atkinson presents a tour of some of the most revolutionary findings from neuroscience and the science of intimate relationships, such as the work of Dr. Antonio Damasio on emotion and behavior and the groundbreaking work of Dr. John Gottman on “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail.”
According to Dr. Atkinson, he sums it up with five “prerequisite” groups of skills that predict relationship success. The five skill sets are as follows:
1. Partners use a ‘soft start-up’ when bringing up an issue.
A ‘soft startup’ refers to how partners communicate verbally and nonverbally, when they bring up issues, share a frustration, or express their dissatisfaction. In contrast to a ‘harsh startup,” a soft startup takes an approach that is firm yet tactful and gentle. It allows partners to express any dislikes or upsets without attacking the other’s character.
They do not sugarcoat or beat around the bush, yet avoid talking down, or making disapproving or judgmental comments, like the plague. Here are examples of a ‘soft’ and ‘harsh” startup:
What Defensiveness Means in a Couple Relationship – And the Formula to Create a Safe Haven For Your Love
Recent research on the brain reminds us that all communications, regardless how they are delivered, are attempts to emotionally connect. As it turns out, we are wired for love and empathic connection.
What does it mean when you or your partner react defensively? For one, it means your brains are working the way they’re designed to work.
In Hold Me Tight, research expert on intimacy, Dr. Susan Johnson, states it makes sense scientifically that couples fight over silly things. Beneath the content of what partners say to one another in fights, each wants to be assured of their value in relation to the other.
Partners are asking three core questions that connect to both our deepest yearnings and our deepest fears as human beings:
Are you accessible when I try to reach out to you?
Will you be responsive to my needs?
Are you engaged in this relationship?
In other words, beneath the content of words spoken in fights, partners are looking for answers to questions of: Are you there for me? Are you emotionally present? Do you see, value and love me?
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 14, 2011
A new finding suggests our view of the intimacy of other couples’ relationships is influenced by the brain chemical serotonin.
University of Oxford scientists studied healthy adult volunteers and discovered that when the activity of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood, is low then the adult rated couples in photos as being less “intimate” and less “romantic’” than those with normal serotonin activity.
The results raise the possibility that lower serotonin activity in people with depression and other psychiatric conditions could contribute to changes in the way they perceive personal relationships.
The Medical Research Council-funded study is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
“Serotonin is important in social behavior, and also plays a significant role in psychological disorders such as depression,” said Professor Robert Rogers of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University, who led the research.
“We wanted to see whether serotonin activity influences the judgments we make about peoples’ close personal relationships.”
Problems with social relationships, and a feeling of social isolation, are a feature of depression in some people. It is possible that alterations in brain systems — such as serotonin — contribute to these difficulties by changing the way people think about relationships with partners.
Such understanding is important as supportive close relationships are known to protect against the development of mental illnesses and to promote recovery in those affected by psychiatric conditions.
The opposite is also true: dysfunctional relationships can be triggers for those at risk of these conditions.
Learning to Trust: Opening to Your Life
For the most part I would say many of us suffer from a massive lack of self-trust. Trust is born while we’re in the womb and during our early years of life. The more our parents attuned to us, listened to and validated how we were feeling, the more we cultivated the ability to trust ourselves and the people around us. The opposite of this may have been growing up with parents who seemed indifferent, neglecting or abandoning. When this happens it becomes difficult to trust ourselves and others. Even if you think you had a “great childhood” you may still have difficulty trusting yourself, so how do we cultivate trust?
This is where I am a big believer in learning how to cultivate a welcoming and caring relationship to the difficult parts of ourselves. For many people, it may be easy to go with the flow when we’re feeling well, but when shame, anger, sadness, or fear arises, forget about it. We’ll do all that we can to get away from it because we don’t trust that we can tolerate it.
The more we run, the more that feeling sticks around.
David Richo wrote a book called Daring to Trust and part of the book speaks to using mindfulness as a path toward learning how to Trust and believe in ourselves. He says:
“All of us have been lied to, deceived, or let down in some way. Yet we can remain heart-centered while proceeding with caution, and we can develop the greater resilience in the face of life’s inevitable rejections and disappointments.”
Richie Davidson, PhD says resilience is the maintenance of high level of affect in the face of adversity. This means not getting swept up the in the storms of the unpleasant events of our lives.
How do we cultivate the ability to trust ourselves to do this?
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 16, 2011
Closeness or familiarity with others is not necessarily linked to strong communication skills.
In fact, married people may think they communicate well with their partners, but psychologists have found that they don’t always convey messages to their loved ones as well as they think.
And, in some cases, the couples communicate no better than strangers.
The same communication problem also is true with close friends, a recent study has found.
“People commonly believe that they communicate better with close friends than with strangers. That closeness can lead people to overestimate how well they communicate, a phenomenon we term the ‘closeness-communication bias,’” said Boaz Keysar, Ph.D., a professor in psychology at the University of Chicago.
Keysar’s colleague Kenneth Savitsky, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Williams College, devised an experiment resembling a parlor game to study the issue. In it, two sets of couples sat in chairs with their backs to each other and tried to discern the meaning of each other’s ambiguous phrases. In all, 24 married couples participated.
The researchers used phrases common in everyday conversations to see if the spouses were better at understanding phrases from their partners than from people they did not know. The spouses consistently overestimated their ability to communicate, and did so more with their partners than with strangers.
“A wife who says to her husband, ‘it’s getting hot in here,’ as a hint for her husband to turn up the air conditioning a notch, may be surprised when he interprets her statement as a coy, amorous advance instead,” said Savitsky, who is lead author of the paper, published in the January issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
“Although speakers expected their spouse to understand them better than strangers, accuracy rates for spouses and strangers were statistically identical. This result is striking because speakers were more confident that they were understood by their spouse,” Savitsky said.
I don’t think I realized just how insecure I was until I joined Facebook two years ago. I thought the 12 or so years of therapy would have resulted in a more evolved woman. But here’s the truth: every time I lose a friend on Facebook I take it personally.
Yes, that is ridiculous. I know. But I still feel the blow.
I try not to remember the number of friends I have when I go to bed at night, but somehow it sticks—unlike every phone number I’ve tried to memorize. So, upon logging on to Facebook every morning, I immediately notice that I lost two friends overnight. While I was sleeping!
What especially irks me is when I lose three friends right after I post something. Now I know that it probably has nothing to do with the content of my post, but it’s the same punch in the gut that I feel when I read an unkind comment on one of my posts: “You are the most self-absorbed, clueless, bad writer I’ve ever come across…”
Maybe a stage-four people-pleaser who wants to be liked by everyone in this world should not live her life out loud for everyone to comment on or to vote as friend-worthy or not. Maybe I should become an accountant and live a secret life and stay away from all kinds of social network sites. However, I think the easier thing for me to do is to grow a thicker skin. Because I did attempt to change my career earlier this year and, while it was admittedly nice to be free from the public criticism, I felt as though I was missing out on the fun. I missed blogging. I missed Facebook. I even missed Twitter!
Clearly most people are more selective than I am when they friend folks on Facebook. A friend of mine won’t allow anyone from her high school, because she just doesn’t want to go back there. Others keep their circle of friends to only those people that they are still in touch with today, the same group that would receive a Christmas card.
I have John Paul II and Jesus among my friends!
Does the Internet Promote or Damage Marriage?
April 1, 2011
By Therese J. Borchard
Does Facebook lead to infidelity? Some statistics say so. I will be participating in a webinar on April 4 at 5 p.m. hosted by PBS/This Emotional Life that explores this topic. To prepare, and to get your feedback, I recently posted a blog on Psych Central about marriage and the internet. I have excerpted a few paragraphs here. You can read the whole post here.
Here’s my honest opinion, after reading hundreds of comments and emails from people who have been involved in online relationships or emotional affairs as well as the responses on the discussion boards of the Emotional Affairs support group on Beliefnet’s community site:
Although the internet and social media can foster intimacy in a marriage, it seems to do more harm than good. Of all the comments I’ve read, 90 percent of the opposite-sex relationships that were damaging to the marriage happened online.
Now I am no relationship expert. If I were I’d be able to sustain a dozen or so friendships with men online. But the only male friendships that I’ve been able to continue through the years–ones that are actually strengthened by our online dialogue–are those where there is at least 30 years difference between us. Their average age is 75. One is a priest, one an ex-priest, and one a deacon. See a pattern?
In the 15 years that I have been married, I have met a handful of men that I liked and admired, with whom I shared interests and a sense of humor. Had one or two been women, I’m sure they would have become my best friends. However, on some level, I knew that a closer bond was somehow inappropriate, or disrespectful to my marriage. It’s a source of frustration for me. Because the correspondence gave me great joy, like it does with my female friends.
But there is no getting around the opposite-sex thing … the “When Harry Met Sally” problem.
I can say that having read more than 500 descriptions of emotional affairs, both on the comboxes of my posts and on the discussion boards of the Emotional Affair support group. Most of the these relationships start out benign: an email from a guy you knew in college, friending an ex-boyfriend on Facebook (as suggested by Facebook: “people you might know!”), getting to know a co-worker better online. But the relationship can take a dangerous turn very quickly if you’re not careful, and even more easily if you are doing most of the talking behind a computer. Because you don’t have any non-verbals with which to interpret statements. What a person could very easily say over coffee comes off way wrong in an email. And what she would never say over coffee, she does in an email because she gets to hide behind her computer.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to talk to someone of the opposite sex online. I have many male acquaintances and co-workers. But I think only a minority of folks can handle an intense, intimate relationship with a person of the opposite sex without it getting in the way of marriage. And maybe the failure rate is so high among my readers because most of them suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or addictions. For those guys, it’s even harder.
Sexual Monogamy Does Not “Lead” to Happiness
Teens Who Choose Music Over Books Are More Likely to Be Depressed, Study Finds
ScienceDaily (Apr. 4, 2011) — Adolescents who spend more time listening to music are far more likely to have major depressive disorder, while young people who spend more time reading books are far less likely to have such a diagnosis, according to a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study published in the April edition of the journal Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
The findings add to the growing body of research linking emotional health to media exposure. The study was unique in that it was one of the first to measure media exposure using an intensive “real-life” methodology called ecological momentary assessment, in which the behaviors of study participants are repeatedly sampled in real time. The method is more reliable than standard surveys and helped researchers recognize this large association between exposure to music and depression, said Brian Primack, M.D., Ed.M., M.S., assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at Pitt’s School of Medicine, who led the study.
Antidepressants Linked to Thicker Arteries
ScienceDaily (Apr. 2, 2011) — Antidepressant use has been linked to thicker arteries, possibly contributing to the risk of heart disease and stroke, in a study of twin veterans. The data is being presented on April 5 at the American College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans.
Depression can heighten the risk for heart disease, but the effect of antidepressant use revealed by the study is separate and independent from depression itself, says first author Amit Shah, MD, a cardiology fellow at Emory University School of Medicine. The data suggest that antidepressants may combine with depression for a negative effect on blood vessels, he says. Shah is a researcher working with Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.
The study included 513 middle-aged male twins who both served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Twins are genetically the same but may be different when it comes to other risk factors such as diet, smoking and exercise, so studying them is a good way to distill out the effects of genetics, Shah says.
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 31, 2011
It is no surprise that researchers have discovered that depression erodes intimate relationships.
Depression breeds feelings of loneliness and withdrawal. So when your partner in a relationship is feeling depressed, it can be as though he or she is not even there.
Israeli researchers determined depression impairs the ability of a partner to accurately perceive the others’ thoughts and feelings.
Depression impairs what psychologists call “empathic accuracy.” Depression can also exacerbate alienation, depression, and the cycle by which they feed each other.
The investigators studied these dynamics in relationships, particularly the role of gender.
Their study will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The study revealed a surprising dynamic: “It’s called the partner effect,” said Reuma Gadassi, lead author and a psychology graduate student at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“Women’s depression affects their own accuracy. But it also affected their partner’s accuracy negatively.”
You know it’s not good when one of the most prestigious pediatric journals, Pediatrics, can’t differentiate between correlation and causation.
And yet this is exactly what the authors of a “clinical report” did in reporting on the impact of social media on children and teens. Especially in their discussion of “Facebook depression,” a term that the authors simply made up to describe the phenomenon observed when depressed people use social media.
Shoddy research? You bet. That’s why Pediatrics calls it a “clinical report” — because it’s at the level of a bad blog post written by people with a clear agenda. In this case, the report was written by Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, Kathleen Clarke-Pearson and the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media (2011).
What makes this bad a report? Let’s just look at the issue of “Facebook depression,” their made-up term for a phenomenon that doesn’t exist.
The authors of the Pediatrics report use six citations to support their claim that social media sites like Facebook actually cause depression in children and teens. Four of the six citations are third-party news reports on research in this area. In other words, the authors couldn’t even bother with reading the actual research to see if the research actually said what the news outlet reported it said.
Depression Needs A Second Opinion
Article Date: 12 Mar 2011 – 1:00 PST
As he struggled for decades with a depression that often left him despondent, Eric Wilson never thought to get a second opinion.
“This might be true of many of us,” he said. “We feel we have more ownership of what we see as our body and physical health so, if a doctor gives me a diagnosis I don’t like, I’m likely to get a second opinion. It just wasn’t the same for mental health.”
After decades of broken relationships, multiple flirtations with suicide, and manic highs and lows, he received his final and accurate diagnosis of bipolar II mixed. This form of bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose because its sufferers often are highly functioning and extremely productive. The highs can masquerade as general happiness. The difficulty is when the mood swings drastically and uncontrollably.
Researchers have found that as many as 69 percent of initial diagnoses of people with bipolar disorder were incorrect, underlining the importance of seeking a second opinion. With bipolar, the wrong medication can have devastating effects, plunging a patient into a deeper depression or into rapid cycles of highs and lows.
Wilson describes his journey from a dangerously moody teen to happily married father in “The Mercy of Eternity.” He credits the loving persistence of his wife and the wonder of his daughter for pushing him beyond that first incorrect diagnosis of his disease.
He is sure he would never have sought additional help on his own.
Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/218993.php
Depression May Increase the Risk of Kidney Failure
ScienceDaily (Mar. 11, 2011) — Depression is associated with an increased risk of developing kidney failure in the future, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology (CJASN). Approximately 10% of the US population will suffer from depression at some point during their lifetime.
Lead investigator, Dr. Willem Kop (Department of Medical Psychology and Neuropsychology at the University of Tilburg, the Netherlands) and colleagues studied 5,785 people from four counties across the United States for 10 years. The participants were 65 years and older and not yet on dialysis. They completed a questionnaire measuring depressive symptoms and a broad range of medical measurements, including estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) and risk factors for kidney and heart diseases. The investigators examined whether depression predicted the onset of kidney disease or other medical problems in which the kidneys play a critical role.
According to the results, depression coincided with the presence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and was 20% more common in individuals with kidney disease than those without kidney disease. The study shows that depression predicted subsequent rapid decline in kidney function, new onset clinically severe kidney disease (or end-stage renal disease), and hospitalizations that were complicated by acute kidney injury. When the investigators corrected for the long-term effects of other medical measures, the predictive value of depression for hospitalizations with acute kidney injury remained high.
Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Jill Bialosky, author of the new book History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life, in which she brilliantly weaves together her sister’s inner life and brings an awkward but essential topic of discussion out of the shadows.
1. If you could have readers leave with one piece of truth about suicide, what would it be?
Jill: Suicide is a multi-faceted, complex event and though there may be a present catalyst that triggers it, ultimately it is a psychological drama that happens within the mind of a suicidal individual resulting from intense inner pain. This is a theory developed by Dr. Edwin Shneidman, one of the leading figures in the study of suidiology and it is the one theory that makes sense to me.
We must recognize the inner pain of someone who is suicidal as quickly as possible. One of the conundrums is that those who are suffering deeply tend to isolate themselves and disguise their inner pain to protect loved ones. We must look for warning signs and be not afraid to ask.
2. Why don’t we have the language we need to talk about suicide? How can we develop one?
Jill: Suicide is still a taboo subject. People are uncomfortable talking about it. Suicides are particularly painful for family and loved ones to process because of overwhelming feelings of shock, guilt, shame, anger and responsibility survivors of suicides experience. Suicide taps into fears about recognizing the fragility of human existence, worry and feelings of helplessness in the face of those we love who are suffering. With that said, we need to begin to raise the veil and open the dialogue.
Check out the book at Amazon.com: History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life.
If you’re thinking of suicide, please read this first.
Wealth is of the Heart & Mind, Not The Pocket
So here we go. Many of these stats I assembled from the book Understanding Depression by J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., MD, Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Others I picked in articles here and there.
Depression and Gender
More women are depressed than men because women have more to be depressed about than men. Kidding, of course. But I still don’t understand how our gender got stuck with labor pains and all that. Almost one in five women in the US will have one or more episodes of clinical depression, which is TWO or THREE times the rate of depressive illness that men have.
Some say the discrepancy can be attributed to all the mood-altering hormonal effects of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, childbirth, infertility, and/or contraceptives. Based on the Armageddon that happened to me around childbirth, I’d give that theory a thumbs up. That, and I have to track my menstrual cycle because I’ve been known to go off on people a day or two before my period. However, men’s depression has been crawling up to meet us lately with the recession cutting more male jobs than female jobs. Naddy naddy boo boo.
Married men have lower rates of depression than single men, but not so for married women. (I have my theories but consider myself very lucky so I won’t go into them.) Women who are married are no better off than women who are widowed, divorced, or single (never been married).
Age and Depression
Before age 13 depression is fairly uncommon in both girls and boys. The biggest factor for severe depressive illness in children appears to be genetic. Both parents of severely depressed children often have depression.
When you are a recovering drunk, you don’t have a ton of options at parties. I used to be an avid Diet Coke drinker. But last summer my sister scared the, well you know what, out of me when she started talking about what aspartame can do to your system. I am chemically sensitive as it is, and many of you are, too, probably — which is why I don’t drink alcohol and gave up smoking.
But I was curious if Diet Coke was really that dangerous. I did some research, and as you well know, every paranoia will be confirmed eventually by some article on the web.
Tai Chi Beats Back Depression in the Elderly, Study Shows
ScienceDaily (Mar. 20, 2011) — The numbers are, well, depressing: More than 2 million people age 65 and older suffer from depression, including 50 percent of those living in nursing homes. The suicide rate among white men over 85 is the highest in the country — six times the national rate.
And we’re not getting any younger. In the next 35 years, the number of Americans over 65 will double and the number of those over 85 will triple.
So the question becomes, how to help elderly depressed individuals?
Researchers at UCLA turned to a gentle, Westernized version of tai chi chih, a 2,000-year-old Chinese martial art. When they combined a weekly tai chi exercise class with a standard depression treatment for a group of depressed elderly adults, they found greater improvement in the level of depression — along with improved quality of life, better memory and cognition, and more overall energy — than among a different group in which the standard treatment was paired with a weekly health education class.
The results of the study appear in the current online edition of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 16, 2011
For many teens, acne is a much bigger problem than a facial blemish. New research finds that depression and other psychological disorders may be more prevalent in adolescent acne patients.
Steve Feldman, M.D., a professor of dermatology at from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, conducted a systematic review of the published research literature to arrive at this conclusion. They found that while most teenagers consider acne to be a cosmetic problem, many others report that acne has a significant impact on their self-esteem and quality of life, often leading to anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
“With this study, we found that acne is more than skin deep for those aged 13 to 18,” Feldman said. “Depending on how the patient feels about it, acne can have a potentially large and negative impact on their lives or it can have a small affect.”
In a New Zealand study cited by the authors, for example, greater severity of acne correlated with more depressive symptoms. And problem acne was associated with an increase in frequency of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
As a result, Feldman said the presence of these psychological disorders “should be considered in the treatment of acne patients when appropriate.”
Depression Drugs — SSRIs — May Reorganize Brain Plasticity, New Research Suggests
ScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2011) — Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) such as Prozac are regularly used to treat severe anxiety and depression. They work by immediately increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain and by causing long term changes in brain function. However it can take weeks of treatment before a patient feels any effect and both beneficial effects and side effects can persist after treatment is stopped.
New research published by BioMed Central’s open access journal Molecular Brain investigates physiological changes within the brain that may be caused by SSRI treatment.
The hippocampus is an area of the brain involved in long term memory and spatial awareness, and is involved in symptoms afflicting people with Alzheimer’s disease, such as loss of memory and disorientation. Neuronal cells in the hippocampus can change their activity and strength of connections throughout life, a process known as plasticity, which thought to be one of the ways new memories are formed. Altered plasticity is often associated with depression and stress.
I used to think a woman’s depression rate was two or three times that of a man’s simply because of the hormonal roller coaster she gets to ride from the time she first gets her period in junior high (or now in first grade — okay, maybe not that early) until she can stop buying sanitary items or, even better, stop making her husband buy them for her.
But now I’m not so sure.
Women are giving more weight these days to domestic tasks like raising kids and keeping the house in order than to their menstrual cycle and the biological trauma of childbirth. Because, in sync with Dr. Boadie Dunlap’s editorial in the British Journal of Psychiatry, as we switched roles in our home, the adjustment has been much more difficult than the simple plan we forecast in Quicken: my income increases, his household responsibilities increase. Easy enough?
The recession, of course, has been dubbed the “mancession” by some because about 75 percent of the jobs lost have been in industries that belong to men: construction, manufacturing, and labor. The downsizing has been further compounded by innovations in technology (less manual labor) and outsourcing to foreign countries, where labor doesn’t cost so much.
Since men derive a substantial amount of their self-esteem from their jobs, and societal norms—although gradually shifting—still dictate the man as the breadwinner, men are at increased risk for depression until the economy turns around.
Euthymics Bioscience Initiates Triade Trial For Major Depression
Article Date: 16 Mar 2011 – 1:00 PDT
Euthymics Bioscience, Inc. announced the initiation of an advanced clinical study of its lead product candidate EB-1010 for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD). The TRIADE (Triple Reuptake Inhibitor Anti-Depressant Effects) trial is a phase 2b/3a clinical trial designed to assess the safety and efficacy of EB-1010, a novel serotonin-preferring triple reuptake inhibitor. The trial will be conducted at 25 centers throughout the U.S., and Euthymics plans to enroll approximately 300 individuals. Patient recruitment is now underway and top-line results are expected in mid-2012.
Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/219200.php
Study Shows Children’s Psychiatric Symptoms Improve After Depression Remission In Mother
Article Date: 16 Mar 2011 – 2:00 PDT
Children of mothers with major depressive disorder showed improvement in their own psychiatric symptoms in the year after their mothers’ depression responded to treatment, according to a study appearing in the online edition of The American Journal of Psychiatry.
Since the children of parents with major depression are also at increased risk of a psychiatric disorder diagnosis, the relationship between maternal remission and the decrease in offspring symptoms is encouraging as it represents an improvement in a child’s future prospects, said authors of the study, published March 15 at AJP in Advance, the online advance edition of The American Journal of Psychiatry, the official journal of the American Psychiatric Association.
Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/219242.php
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 16, 2011
Difficulties with depression for new parents are usually focused on moms, but depression can also affect fathers — and make them more likely to spank children as young as 1 year old.
About 40 percent of depressed fathers in a survey said they’d spanked kids that age, versus just 13 percent of fathers who weren’t depressed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and many child development experts warn against spanking children of any age.
The researchers said spanking is especially troubling in children who are only 1, because they could get injured and they “are unlikely to understand the connection between their behavior and subsequent punishment.”
In addition, four out of five dads had recently visited a pediatrician for their child’s routine visit — an opportunity to get help for themselves that was missed.
The authors analyzed data on 1,746 fathers from a nationally representative survey in 16 large U.S. cities, conducted in 1999-2000. Lead author Dr. Neal Davis said that was the most recent comprehensive data on the subject, and he believes it is relevant today. Depression among fathers is strongly tied to unemployment rates, which are much higher now than a decade ago, he said.
The men were questioned about depression symptoms, spanking and interactions with their 1-year-olds, but weren’t asked why they spanked or whether it resulted in physical harm.
Overall, 7 percent of dads had experienced recent major depression.
Some likely had a history of depression, but in others it was probably tied to their children’s birth, similar to postpartum depression in women, Davis said. A pediatrician now, Davis did the research while at the University of Michigan.
High-Quality Follow-Up Depression Care Via Online Messaging
Article Date: 18 Mar 2011 – 0:00 PDT
Online messaging can deliver organized follow-up care for depression effectively and efficiently, according to a randomized controlled trial of 208 Group Health patients that the Journal of General Internal Medicine e-published in advance of print.
After five months, compared to the half of the patients randomly assigned to receive usual care, the half who had three online care management contacts with a trained psychiatric nurse were significantly more likely to feel less depressed, take their antidepressant medication as prescribed, and be “very satisfied” with their treatment for depression. The patients in the trial were starting antidepressant medication that their primary care providers prescribed.
Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/219441.php
4 April 2011 Last updated at 17:07
People with autism use their brains differently from other people, which may explain why some have extraordinary abilities to remember and draw objects in detail, according to new research.
University of Montreal scientists say in autistic people, the brain areas that deal with visual information are highly developed.
Other brain areas are less active.
The National Autistic Society says the findings significantly increase understanding of the condition.
The research, published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, pulls together 15 years of data on the way the autistic brain works.
Better at visual tasks
It suggests that the brains of autistic people are organised differently from those of other people; the area at the back of the brain, which processes visual information, is more highly developed.
That leaves less brain capacity in areas which deal with decision-making and planning.
That may be why people with autism can be better than others at carrying out some types of visual tasks.
For example, some are able to draw highly accurate and detailed images from memory.
However, they can find it difficult to interpret things like facial expressions.
The condition varies in severity, with some people functioning well, but others completely unable to take part in normal society.
The researchers believe their findings may lead towards new ways of helping people to live with the condition.
“For example, this may show a means to help people to literacy in a much more natural way than the usual methods of helping autistic people,” said Dr Laurent Mottron from the University of Montreal.
“The natural tendency is to think that autism is a form of disorganisation. Here, what we see is that it is a reorganisation of the brain,” he said.
Autism experts regard the research findings as significant.
“This review highlights that autism should not only be seen as a condition with behavioural difficulties, but should also be associated with particular skill,” said Dr Christine Ecker from the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College, London.
“It offers us unique insights into the way people with autism perceive their environment and helps us to understand some of their behaviour.”
She said it added to the understanding of autism. “Knowing the strengths and difficulties of someone with autism may help to better understand their needs and help them maximize their potential.”
Read in Full: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12937009