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February 2011



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Archive for February, 2011

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 18th 2011

Someone recently asked if there is a connection between emotions and physical health? The individual was having some health problems and wanted to know if her depression could impact these physical issues.

A study published this month in the journal, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity states, yes, emotions can and do impact on physical health.

Dr. Judith Carroll conducted the study at the University of Pittsburgh. Reported that, “People who reported high levels of anger and anxiety after performing a laboratory-based stress task showed greater increases in a marker of inflammation called known as interleukin-6 as compared to those who remained relatively calm.” Interleukin-6 is a substance produced by the body in response to emotional reactions to stress, such as anxiety and anger.

Among other things and under the right conditions, interleukin-6 can promote inflammation. The greater the emotional reaction the more interleukin produced and the greater the inflammation that occurs. This leads to chronic health problems, such as hight blood pressure and heart disease.

Read in Full:


Keep Calm and Carry On


By Traci Pedersen Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on February 18, 2011

International research has significantly boosted scientists’ understanding of brain structure differences in those with bipolar disorder as well as how lithium — introduced in the late 1940s and still considered one of the most effective treatments — affects brain anatomy.

Eleven international research groups collaborated in an immense research effort — published in Biological Psychiatry — to gather brain images of adults with bipolar disorder. This mega-analysis allowed them to compare the brain structure differences between individuals with bipolar disorder and healthy subjects.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/20/lithium-increases-certain-brain-regions-in-bipolar-disorder/23603.html

MRI, Bipolar

MRI, Bipolar

By Therese J. Borchard

In his book, How to Break Your Addiction to a Person, Howard Halpern first explains what an addictive relationship is, then gives guidelines for recognizing if you’re involved in one. Then, he offers several techniques on how to end an unhealthy relationship (or an emotional affair).

I’ve compiled and adapted all of his suggestions into the following dozen techniques, excerpting what I found to be the most important passages for each.

1. Keep a Relationship Log

Keep track of the events and happenings of the relationship, but above all, and in as honest detail as you can, set down your feelings about the contacts with your partner. The reasons this can be extraordinarily helpful are (a) It compels you to notice what is going on and how you feel about it, (b) It can help you to look back through it and see the shape of the relationship, what it has really been like and felt like, what have been its patterns over time, and (c) It can curb your tendencies to distort the relationship by either twisting events, repainting your feeling and forgetting either the unpleasant or the pleasant.

2. Find the Patterns

It can be eye-opening to see if there is a pattern in the people you have tended to get involved with and the types of relationships you have formed, so unless your current partner is the only love relationship you have had, I suggest you do a Relationship Review.

First, list the names of each person with whom you had a romantic attachment, going as far back as you can. Then set down the Physical Attributes of each–his or her height, build, hair color, movement, voice, general attractiveness, etc. Then write down the Personality Characteristics of each person on your list. What do you feel is the most striking feature of his personality? What adjectives best describe him: Introverted or extroverted? Passive or active? Warm or cold? Intimate or distant? Self-confident or self-effacing? Successful or ineffectual? Hearty or frail?

Even more important than similarities in the physical and personality characteristics of people with whom you have had close relationships are the Relationship Characteristics, the repeated patterns of interaction in which you have been involved. To get some idea if your relationships have had repeated patterns, it can be useful, under the name of each person with whom you have had a relationship, to write the answers to questions such as these:

  • *Exactly how did the relationship start? Who was the initiator? The pursuer?
  • *Was one of you more dominant? Who seemed to control when and where you would get together, and how you would spend your time?
  • *What was the emotional tone of the relationship for you? Loving? Angry? Contented? Depressed? Anxious? Boring? Insecure? Romantic? Desperate? Or what?
  • *Emotionally, did you get your needs satisfied?
  • *How did your relationship end? Who ended it? Why? What were the feelings of each of you about its ending?

Read in Full:


By Therese J. Borchard

Many people struggle with the question of whether or not to tell their bosses about their mood disorders at work. Washington Post columnist Amy Joyce wrote an excellent article on this a few years ago. I have included the first few paragraphs below, but urge you to read the rest of her article, as it gives no straight answers but explores that terrain with great depth.

If you have depression or some other mental illness, what do you do about work? Hope no one notices? Disclose your illness early on and trust that your boss will understand?

Should You Tell is a complicated question.

There is no right answer, and there are some risks to consider.

Read in Full:


Article Date: 21 Feb 2011 – 1:00 PST

Once likened to a confusing tower of Babel, speaking more than one language can actually bolster brain function by serving as a mental gymnasium, according to researchers.

Recent research indicates that bilingual speakers can outperform monolinguals – people who speak only one language – in certain mental abilities, such as editing out irrelevant information and focusing on important information, said Judith Kroll, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Penn State. These skills make bilinguals better at prioritizing tasks and working on multiple projects at one time.

“We would probably refer to most of these cognitive advantages as multi-tasking,” said Kroll, director of the Center for Language Science. “Bilinguals seem to be better at this type of perspective taking.”

Kroll said that these findings counter previous conclusions that bilingualism hindered cognitive development.

“The received wisdom was that bilingualism created confusion, especially in children,” Kroll told attendees at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington D.C. “The belief was that people who could speak two or more languages had difficulty using either. The bottom line is that bilingualism is good for you.”

Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/216983.php

Self Harm, YouTube

Article Date: 22 Feb 2011 – 3:00 PST

A Canadian study of nonsuicidal self-harm videos posted on YouTube suggests they could be reinforcing self-injury behavior and urges professionals working with young people to make themselves aware of their scope and content.

A report of the study, by researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario and McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, appeared online on 21 February in the journal Pediatrics.

Lead researcher, Dr Stephen Lewis, Professor in the Department of Psychology at Guelph, told the media there was an alarming trend in teenagers posting videos on YouTube showing self-cutting and other forms of self-harm.

He and his colleagues suggested vulnerable teenagers might see this behavior as acceptable and difficult to overcome, leading them to harm themselves.

The study is thought to be the first to examine the effect, especially on young people, of the most popular depictions of self-harm shown on YouTube videos.

YouTube is a sharing Internet website where anyone can upload a video for others to view. You don’t have to be a registered user to view videos, but you have to register with the site to upload videos.

YouTube, now a subsidiary of Google, started in late 2005 and while no-one appears to know the exact number, today it is thought to contain tens of millions of videos, mostly uploaded by individuals.

The Internet can be a good and bad thing for vulnerable young people, as Lewis explained:

“Many youth who self-injure may go online to find support, but at the same time they may see videos that could be harmful if self-injury is depicted as typical behaviour or if viewing these videos triggers the behaviour.”

Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/217136.php


Article Date: 22 Feb 2011 – 0:00 PST

SLaM’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Service for children and adolescents is currently running two innovative trials to help improve the treatment of young people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

The national and specialist service is the only service of its kind in the UK offering assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with OCD and related conditions, including body dysmorphic disorder, tic disorders, Tourette’s syndrome, anxiety and habit disorders, including trichotillomania.

The OCD service assesses and treats young people with complicated or unusual OCD from all over the United Kingdom. Many of these children receive their treatment through taking part in ongoing treatment studies.

SLaM’s OCD team is keen to receive telephone or referrals enquiries in relation to two treatment trials, both of which offer cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the current best practice treatment for OCD in children, adolescents and adults.

Dr Isobel Heyman, head of SLaM’s OCD Service said the trials will help improve treatment for young people with OCD.

“Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the first choice treatment for children and adolescents with OCD. However, studies in adults have shown that people with OCD can benefit from appropriate medication, in conjunction with therapy,” Dr Heyman explained.

Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/217060.php


Thanks to the success of the King’s Speech movie, most of us are familiar with the ‘developmental’ kind of stammering that begins in childhood. However, more rarely, stammering can also have a sudden onset, triggered by illness or injury to the brain. Far rarer still are cases where a person with a pre-existing, developmental stammer suffers from brain injury or disease and is subsequently cured. In fact, a team led by Magid Bakheit at Mosley Hall Hospital in Birmingham, who have newly reported such a patient, are aware of just two prior adult cases in the literature.

Bakheit’s patient, a 54-year-old bilingual man, suffered a stroke that caused damage to the left side of his brain stem and both hemispheres of his cerebellum – that’s the cauliflower-shaped structure, associated with motor control and other functions, which hangs off the back of the brain. The man’s brain damage left him unsteady on his feet, gave him difficulty with swallowing and his speech was slightly slurred. But remarkably, his life-long stammer, characterised by repetitions of sounds, and which caused him social anxiety and avoidance, was entirely gone – an account corroborated by his wife. By the time of his discharge from hospital, the slowing of his speech was much improved and yet thankfully his stammer remained absent.

Read in Full: http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2011/02/stroke-cures-man-of-life-long-stammer.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BpsResearchDigest+%28BPS+Research+Digest%29

"Sunflowers", Van Gogh

New Model for Probing Antidepressant Actions

ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2011) — The most widely prescribed antidepressants — medicines such as Prozac, Lexapro and Paxil — work by blocking the serotonin transporter, a brain protein that normally clears away the mood-regulating chemical serotonin. Or so the current thinking goes.

That theory about how selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work can now be put to the test with a new mouse model developed by neuroscientists at Vanderbilt University.

These mice, described in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), express a serotonin transporter that has been genetically altered so that it does not respond to many SSRIs or cocaine.

In addition to testing the theory about how SSRIs work, the new mouse model could lead to the development of entirely new classes of antidepressant medications, said Randy Blakely, Ph.D., Allan D. Bass Professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry at Vanderbilt and senior author of the PNAS paper.

Read in Full: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110218165259.htm

Depression Tends to Worsen Over Time for Addiction-Prone Women

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on February 21, 2011

Although some health behavioral problems can decline with age — such as alcohol problems and antisocial behaviors — the risk of depression among women at risk for substance abuse and associated disorders increases.

A longitudinal analysis led by University of Michigan Health System researchers examined the influences of the women’s histories, family life and neighborhood instability on their alcoholism symptoms, antisocial behavior and depression.

The investigation covered a 12-year period including the earlier years of marriage and motherhood.

The research, published in Development and Psychopathology, is part of an ongoing project focusing on families at high risk for substance abuse and associated disorders that has already collected more than 20 years’ worth of data.

Among the study’s other top findings:

  • *The women’s partners’ struggles with addiction and antisocial behavior, such as run-ins with the law, worsened the women’s own symptoms and behaviors.
  • *Children’s behavior also had a negative impact on their mothers. When children exhibited behaviors that included acting out and getting into trouble, their mothers’ alcohol problems and antisocial behavior tended to worsen. Meanwhile, when children were sad, withdrawn or isolated, their mothers’ depression increased.
  • *Living in an unstable neighborhood, where residents move in and out frequently, also had a significant effect on the women’s alcoholism symptoms and level of depression.

“Our findings demonstrate the complexity of the factors affecting changes in alcohol problems, antisocial behavior and depression for these women,” said the study’s senior author, Robert Zucker, Ph.D.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/21/depression-tends-to-worsen-over-time-for-addiction-prone-women/23723.html

Is What The Depressed Patient Prefers In Term Of Treatment Relevant To Outcome?

Article Date: 22 Feb 2011 – 1:00 PST

This study demonstrates that patients’ relative preference for medication versus psychotherapy should be considered when offering a treatment to depressed patients because receiving the preferred treatment conveys an additional and clinically relevant benefit in outcome.

In the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, a group of German investigators presents new data on role of treatment preferences in the outcome of depression.

Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/217090.php


Article Date: 19 Feb 2011 – 0:00 PST

That feeling of being in, and owning, your own body is a fundamental human experience. But where does it originate and how does it come to be? Now, Professor Olaf Blanke, a neurologist with the Brain Mind Institute at EPFL and the Department of Neurology at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, announces an important step in decoding the phenomenon. By combining techniques from cognitive science with those of Virtual Reality (VR) and brain imaging, he and his team are narrowing in on the first experimental, data-driven approach to understanding self-consciousness.

In recent unpublished work, Blanke and his fellow researchers performed a series of studies in which they immersed subjects, via VR settings, into the body of an avatar, or virtual human. Each subject was fitted with an electrode-studded skullcap to monitor brain activity and exposed to different digital, 3D environments through a head-mounted stereoscopic visor or projections on a large screen.

Blanke and his colleagues then perturbed the most fundamental aspects of consciousness in their subjects, such as “Where am I localized in space” and “What is my body?” by physically touching their real-life volunteers either in or out of sync with the avatar. They even swapped perspectives from first to third person and put their male subjects inside female avatars, all the while measuring the change in brain activity. Use of electrical brain signals meant subjects could stand, move their heads, and (in the most recent experiments) walk with the VR on. Other techniques such as fMRI would have required them to remain still.

Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/216860.php