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February 2011



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Archive for February 15th, 2011

A systematic review carried out by a team at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry has analysed existing studies and concluded that there are benefits to mental and physical well-being from taking exercise in the natural environment. Their findings are published in the leading research journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The research team, supported by the NIHR Peninsula Collaboration in Leadership for Applied Health Research and Care (PenCLAHRC, part of the NIHR family of health and research initiatives) in collaboration with the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), analysed data from a number of sources including 11 randomised and non-randomised control trials incorporating information from 833 adults.

Eligible trials were those that compared the effects of outdoor exercise initiatives with those conducted indoors and which reported at least one physical or mental well-being outcome in adults or children.

The study found that most trials showed an improvement in mental well-being: compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalisation, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.

However, none of the identified studies measured the effects of physical activity on physical well-being, or the effect of natural environments on sticking to exercise.

On balance this review has identified some promising effects on self-reported mental well-being immediately following exercise in the natural environment, as opposed to those reported following exercise indoors. This is a first step towards vindicating the positive effects of programmes such as the Green Gym and Blue Gym, and innovative interventions by medical practitioners that include exercise outdoors as part of holistic treatments for those suffering from depression and similar psychological ailments.

Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/215794.php

Genes linked to the immune system can affect healthy people’s personality traits as well as the risk of developing mental illness and suicidal behaviour, reveals a thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Inflammation is part of the immune system and is responsible for defending humans against infection as well as fascilitating the healing of injuries, and is therefore vital for our survival. Research has demonstrated that inflammatory processes also have other roles to play as inflammatory substances produced by the body influence mechanisms in the brain involving learning and memory.

Inflammatory substances produced in moderate quantities in the brain can be beneficial during the formation of new brain cells, for example. However, an increase in the levels of these substances as is the case during illness, can result in damage to the brain.

“Previous studies have shown that individuals suffering from various mental illnesses have an increased peripheral inflammation, but the reason behind this increase is not known,” says Petra Suchankova Karlsson, who wrote the thesis. “It has been suggested that the stress that goes with mental illness activates the body’s immune system, but it is also possible that inflammation in the body affects the brain, which in turn results in mental illness.”

Previous studies have focused on how environmental and psychological factors affect the immune system’s impact on the brain. Suchankova’s thesis presents, for the first time, results that suggest that several different genes linked to the immune system are associated with healthy people’s personality traits. It also demonstrates that some of these genes are associated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia or suicidal behaviour.

Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/215896.php


Article Date: 22 Jan 2011 – 0:00 PST

Out of every 1000 patients, two at most wake up during their operation. Unintended awareness in the patient is thus classified as an occasional complication of anesthesia – but being aware of things happening during the operation, and being able to recall them later, can leave a patient with long-term psychological trauma.

How to avoid such awareness events, and what treatment is available for a patient who does experience awareness, is the subject of a report by Petra Bischoff of the Ruhr University in Bochum and Ingrid Rundshagen of the Charité Berlin in the current issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2011; 108(1-2): 1-7).

The usual culprit in cases of unintended awareness during an operation is an inadequate depth of anesthesia. In addition, several risk factors exist that promote awareness events. For example, children have eight to ten times the risk of being aware under anesthesia. Long-term use of painkillers or misuse of medication can also make patients more liable to this kind of experience. The nature of the operation and the surrounding circumstances can also play a part: cesarean sections and emergency operations carry a higher risk of awareness than other kinds of surgery, and operations at night a higher risk than those carried out during the day.

Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/214434.php


By John M Grohol PsyD

I’m pleased to welcome you to Adventures of a Bipolar Mom with Beth Vandagriff. Beth is a 30-year-old wife and mother of 4 beautiful children. She was recently diagnosed with Ultra-Rapid Cycling Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, Anxiety and Paranoia. She joins us here to share her experiences with bipolar disorder and parenting — how it is to juggle all the demands of motherhood along with the demands of living with a combination of mental health concerns.

Bipolar disorder, also known by its older name “manic depression,” is a mental disorder that is characterized by constantly changing moods. A person with bipolar disorder experiences alternating highs (what clinicians call “mania“) and lows (also known as depression). Both the manic and depressive periods can be brief, from just a few hours (ultra-rapid cycling) to a few days, or longer, lasting up to several weeks or even months. The periods of mania and depression vary from person to person — many people may only experience very brief periods of these intense moods, and may not even be aware that they have bipolar disorder.

I’m looking forward to the insights and experiences Beth will share with us as both a mom and someone who struggles with these issues in her daily life on the new blog, Adventures of a Bipolar Mom. Please give her a warm Psych Central welcome over there!

Source: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/02/10/introducing-adventures-of-a-bipolar-mom/


By Traci Pedersen Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on February 10, 2011

Conclusive evidence that smoking cannabis is linked to an earlier age of onset for psychosis by up to 2.7 years has been delivered by a team of international researchers in the first ever meta-analysis of more than 20,000 individuals with mental illness.

“The study re-analyzed the results from 20,000 patients with schizophrenia or other psychotic illnesses from 83 previous studies. The study used meta-analysis — a modern statistical method — to show that an earlier onset of severe mental illness among substance users is a result of cannabis use, and cannot be explained by other factors such as alcohol use,” said  Dr. Matthew Large from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) School of Psychiatry and Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital.

The results are based on several decades of research, and so the finding is a critical breakthrough toward the understanding of the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis, said Large. He and the other researchers concluded that cannabis use hastens schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, possibly through an interaction between genetic and environmental factors or by disrupting brain development.

Several previous studies have established that there is a link between the use of cannabis, alcohol and other psychoactive substances and psychosis. This study, however, was aimed at revealing the particular extent to which this is caused by cannabis use alone, he said.

”Results of this study are conclusive and clarify previously conflicting evidence of a relationship between cannabis use and the earlier onset of a psychotic illness, with evidence supporting the theory that cannabis use plays a causal role in the development of psychosis in some patients,” said Large.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/10/cannabis-linked-to-earlier-onset-of-psychosis/23350.html


A new series of ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind has just kicked off with a thoughtful programme about treating traumatised people just after a tragic event.

If you’re not familiar with the contentious area of disaster response, you may be surprised to hear that there is no firm evidence that psychological treatment of just-traumatised people is any more helpful in the long-term than doing absolutely nothing.

This is in contrast to the widely held belief that all disaster victims ‘need’ to see mental health professionals. In fact, studies on psychological treatment in disaster victims have suggested the worrying result that some treatments may actually make matters worse in the long-term for some people.

This was famously found in studies on single session ‘debriefing’ but also less well known is that there is a similar conclusion with regard to multi-session psychological treatment that is aimed to prevent trauma in disaster victims.

To complicate matters, in the studies where the effects are shown to be harmful in the long-term, patients reported feeling better immediately after the sessions.

If you are a psychologist responding to a disaster, grateful and apparently relieved patients are extremely strong personal evidence that you are being helpful, even if in the long-term you might be causing problems.

This makes it very hard for some to accept that they need to question what they are doing.

But there is one over-arching and important point that trauma psychologist Richard Bryant makes in the programme – that, despite some good hints, the evidence is still not firm enough to say for sure whether we are helping, harming or being irrelevant when working with just-traumatised victims.

Read in Full: http://mindhacks.com/2011/02/12/five-minutes-past-trauma/

From quirky to serious, trends in psychology and psychiatry.

Article Date: 14 Feb 2011 – 2:00 PST

Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are two to three times more likely than children without the disorder to develop serious substance abuse problems in adolescence and adulthood, according to a study by UCLA psychologists and colleagues at the University of South Carolina.

“This greater risk for children with ADHD applies to boys and girls, it applies across race and ethnicity – the findings were very consistent,” said Steve S. Lee, a UCLA assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “The greater risk for developing significant substance problems in adolescence and adulthood applies across substances, including nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs.”

Lee and his colleagues analyzed 27 long-term studies that followed approximately 4,100 children with ADHD and 6,800 children without the disorder into adolescence and young adulthood – in some cases for more than 10 years. These carefully designed, rigorous and lengthy studies, Lee said, are the “gold standard” in the field.

The research by Lee and his colleagues, the first large-scale comprehensive analysis on this issue, is published online this week in the journal Clinical Psychology Review and will appear in a print edition later this year.

The researchers combined all the published studies that met rigorous criteria and analyzed them together. They found that children with ADHD were at greater risk for serious problems such as addiction, abuse and trying to quit but being unable to, Lee said.

“Any single study can be spurious,” he said, “but our review of more than two dozen carefully designed studies provides a compelling analysis.”

ADHD is common, occurring in approximately 5 percent to 10 percent of children in the U.S., and figures in many other industrialized countries with compulsory education are comparable, according to Lee.

Symptoms of the disorder are common in children and include being easily distracted, fidgeting, being unable to complete a single task and being easily bored. However, to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, a child must have at least six of nine symptoms of either hyperactivity or inattention, and the child’s behavior must be causing problems in his or her life. The vast majority of children with ADHD have at least six symptoms in both categories, Lee said.

Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/216380.php

Child's Handwriting

Abnormal Control of Hand Movements May Hint at ADHD Severity in Children

ScienceDaily (Feb. 14, 2011) — Two research studies published February 14 in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found markers for measuring the ability of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to control impulsive movements, which may reveal insights into the neurobiology of ADHD, inform prognosis and guide treatments.

In one of two studies conducted by researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, children with ADHD performed a finger-tapping task. Any unintentional “overflow” movements occurring on the opposite hand were noted. Children with ADHD showed more than twice the amount of overflow than typically developing children. This is the first time that scientists have been able to quantify the degree to which ADHD is associated with a failure in motor control.

The single most common child behavioral diagnosis, ADHD is a highly prevalent developmental disorder characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The approximately 2 million affected children often fall behind their peers in development of motor control, motor overflow (unintentional movement) and balance. The inability to control or inhibit voluntary actions is suspected to contribute to the core diagnostic features of excessive hyperactivity, impulsivity and off-task (distractible) behavior.

“Despite its prevalence, there is a lack of understanding about the neurobiological basis of ADHD,” said Dr. Stewart Mostofsky, the study’s senior author and Director of the Laboratory for Neurocognitive and Imaging Research at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. “A critical obstacle in ADHD is the lack of quantitative measures of brain function that would provide a basis for more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.”

Read in Full: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110214162941.htm

Related Article

ADHD Is A Genetic Neurodevelopmental Disorder, Scientists Reveal:


Physicians & Social Media

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on February 15, 2011

“Physicians on Twitter” was the subject of a research letter in the Feb. 9 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, documenting some instances of unethical and unprofessional content online by doctors.

Up to 3 percent of tweets posted on Twitter in the study were found to be unprofessional — they included profanity, potential patient privacy violations, sexually explicit material, or discriminatory statements.

Researcher Katherine Chretien, M.D., F.A.C.P., associate professor of medicine at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, called for greater accountability and guidelines for physicians who are regular users of Twitter.

“This research helped us to identify how physicians are using social media and has helped us gauge whether or not there is need for greater accountability for physicians who use social media,” said Chretien.

“While the majority of tweets were potentially helpful, the ethical breaches and unprofessional content raised a red flag.”

The study, approved by the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center, was initiated to describe the characteristics of self-identified physicians on Twitter and how they use Twitter, with a specific focus on professionalism.

The researchers examined 5,156 tweets from 260 self-identified physicians with 500 or more followers between May 1 and May 31, 2010.

They found that three percent of the tweets were categorized as “unprofessional,” meaning that they included profanity, potential patient privacy violations, sexually explicit material, or discriminatory statements.

Read in Full:


Eating Disorders

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on February 15, 2011

Women suffering from or prone to eating disorders can be diagnosed with a low-cost but effective method, according to a new study — drawing.

Israeli researchers from the University of Haifa, Soroka University Medical Center and Achva Academic College determined that women with anorexia or bulimia draw themselves with prominently different characteristics than women who do not have eating disorders and who are considered of normal weight.

The research utilizes a simple, non-intrusive self-figure drawing, said co-author Rachel Lev-Wiesel, Ph.D. The study, conducted by Lev-Wiesel alongside Dr. Jonathan Guez, Shimrit Valetsky, Dr. Diego Kruszewski Sztul and Dr. Bat-Sheva Pener, examined 76 women, 36 of whom had been diagnosed as anorexic or bulimic; 20 had no eating disorders but were overweight, and 20 had no eating disorders and were considered normal weight.

Each of the participants completed two standardized questionnaires for screening eating disorders and were then asked to draw themselves. Besides being asked to draw themselves, no guidelines or limitations were set for the drawing.

The research team then evaluated the drawings and found various differences between the groups in four aspects:

    • The neck: women suffering from anorexia or bulimia tended to draw a larger neck, a disconnected neck or no neck at all;
    • The mouth: this feature was more emphasized in drawings by women suffering from anorexia or bulimia;
    • The thighs: women with eating disorders drew wider thighs than the other groups in the study;
    • The feet: women with eating disorders tended to draw pictures without feet or with disconnected feet.

The study also revealed that self-figure drawings can differentiate between anorexic and bulimic women: those with anorexia tended to omit breasts from their drawings, drew less defined body lines and smaller figures relative to the page size.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/15/self-drawings-identify-women-with-eating-disorders/23520.html

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