2016-06-22T06:54:03+00:00Offering medical assistance in dying to people in Canada on the basis of psychiatric illnesses could put vulnerable people at risk, argues a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). “There is a serious gap between the idealized basis upon which assisted dying for patients with psychiatric conditions is advocated and the reality of its practice, as reflected in evidence from Belgium and the Netherlands. A policy for access to assisted dying by nonterminally ill patients with psychiatric conditions will put many vulnerable and stigmatized people at risk,” writes Dr. Scott Kim, a physician and bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland, United States, with Dr. Trudo Lemmens, a professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law & the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Canada has been grappling recently with conflicting recommendations over legalizing assisted dying. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that competent adults suffering from a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” should be able to access assisted dying. It invited Parliament to develop a strict regulatory regime to enable this. A Special Joint Parliamentary Committee recommended that people with psychiatric illness should be eligible. Bill C14, now adopted by both the House of Commons and the Senate, restricts assisted dying to persons near the end of their natural lives (whether or not they have psychiatric disorders). This would generally rule out assisted dying for psychiatric conditions. But the government will be studying this issue further in the coming years.
2016-05-14T07:47:17+00:00Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) relive past traumas again and again, bound in a virtual prison of their memories. Researchers in the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio now report a biological mechanism that might explain why these individuals are less able to extinguish the fear of past dangers. The Health Science Center has filed for patent protection on the finding because it may eventually lead to a drug to treat PTSD, which affects an estimated 8 percent of the civilian population and up to 15 percent of U.S. active-duty and retired service personnel.
2016-05-08T00:53:45+00:00During a checkup, physicians and nurses often ask about drinking habits, safe sex practice or cigarette use. Vaping is rarely mentioned. This discussion is urgently needed with teen patients, who are either uninformed or misinformed about the dangers and risks associated with electronic cigarettes, says Nancy Campbell-Heider, PhD, a University at Buffalo addictions and high-risk adolescent behavior expert. In the review, “Teen Use of Electronic Cigarettes,” published in the Journal of Addictions Nursing, Campbell-Heider calls on health care professionals to place this form of nicotine delivery on their radar when seeing young patients.
2016-03-16T08:38:11+00:00Adults living with congenital heart disease (CHD) may have a significantly higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than people in the general population. A single-center study from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) found that as many as one in five adult patients had PTSD symptoms, with about one in 10 patients having symptoms directly related to their heart condition. The researchers suggest that clinicians and caregivers need to be aware of possible PTSD symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, in their patients. “Although the life expectancy of adults living with CHD has improved, ongoing care may include multiple surgeries and procedures,” said the study’s senior author, Yuli Kim, M.D., a cardiologist at CHOP. “These patients remain at risk for both cardiac and non-cardiac effects of their chronic condition, and face unique life stressors that may place them at elevated risk for psychological stress.”
2016-03-04T23:44:09+00:00Children and adolescents who take medication for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) show decreased bone density, according to a large cross-sectional study presented today at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). “This is an important step in understanding a medication class, that is used with increasing frequency, and its effect on children who are at a critical time for building their bones,” said senior study author Jessica Rivera, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon with the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research. ADHD is a common neurobehavioral condition often diagnosed in childhood. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate 6.4 million children were diagnosed with ADHD through 2011. In addition, the CDC says that parents reported 3.5 million children and teenagers taking medications to treat ADHD, a 28 percent increase from 2007—2011.
2016-02-26T09:47:40+00:00In a small, placebo-controlled clinical trial, Johns Hopkins physicians report that the antidepressant paroxetine modestly improves decision-making and reaction time, and suppresses inflammation in people with HIV-associated cognitive impairment. The researchers say they believe this is the first time that a SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) has been shown to improve key measures of cognition in people with HIV in a controlled study. The researchers note that many patients with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders may already be benefiting cognitively by taking SSRIs in the dosages used in their study to treat depression, but the new study lends more rigorous scientific support to the drug’s value. The Johns Hopkins researchers are expected to present their findings Feb. 25 at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston.
2016-02-24T10:17:34+00:00When a mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy, even a small dose, she can increase the chances that the next three generations may develop alcoholism, according to a new study from Binghamton University. A research team led by Nicole Cameron, assistant professor of psychology at Binghamton University, was the first to investigate the effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy on alcohol-related behavior (consumption and sensitivity to the effect of alcohol) on generations that were not directly exposed to alcohol in the uterus during the pregnancy. Pregnant rats received the equivalent of one glass of wine, four days in a row, at gestational days 17-20, the equivalent of the second trimester in humans. Juvenile male and female offspring were then tested for water or alcohol consumption. Adolescent males were tested for sensitivity to alcohol by injecting them with a high-alcohol dose, which made them unresponsive (drunk on their back), and measuring the time it took them to recover their senses (back on their four paws). The results suggest that if a mother drinks during pregnancy, even just a little bit, she increases the risk that her progeny will become alcoholic.
2016-02-16T10:14:09+00:00The team of Bruno Giros, a researcher at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and professor of psychiatry at McGill University, reports the first-ever connection between noradrenergic neurons and vulnerability to depression. Published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, this breakthrough paves the way for new depression treatments that target the adrenergic system. Stressful life events - job loss, accident, death of a loved one - can trigger major depression in one person, but not in another. A deciding factor is resilience, a biological mechanism that determines an individual’s capacity to rebound from stressful or traumatic events. Researchers are still learning how resilience works. “We know that a small cerebral structure, known as the ventral tegmental area, contains dopaminergic neurons that play a key role in vulnerability to depression,” explains Bruno Giros, whose team is part of the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal research network. By mimicking stressful life events in animal models, the researchers confirmed that increased dopaminergic neuron activity corresponds to depression.
2016-01-28T11:11:56+00:00Scientists have pinpointed the cells that are likely to trigger common brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis and intellectual disabilities. It is the first time researchers have been able to identify the particular cell types that malfunction in a wide range of brain diseases. Scientists say the findings offer a roadmap for the development of new therapies to target the conditions. The researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences used advanced gene analysis techniques to investigate which genes were switched on in specific types of brain cells.
2016-01-22T00:39:17+00:00A new brain imaging study from MIT and Harvard Medical School may lead to a screen that could identify children at high risk of developing depression later in life. In the study, the researchers found distinctive brain differences in children known to be at high risk because of family history of depression. The finding suggests that this type of scan could be used to identify children whose risk was previously unknown, allowing them to undergo treatment before developing depression, says John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology and a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT. “We’d like to develop the tools to be able to identify people at true risk, independent of why they got there, with the ultimate goal of maybe intervening early and not waiting for depression to strike the person,” says Gabrieli, an author of the study, which appears in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
2015-12-30T01:46:29+00:00Guerilla tactics such as suicide attacks and roadside bombs may trigger more posttraumatic stress than conventional warfare, suggests a Veterans Affairs study of 738 men and women who served in Iraq. The findings appeared online Dec. 14, 2015, in the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. The study authors are with the Behavioral Science Division of the National Center for PTSD, based at the VA Boston Healthcare System, and with Boston University School of Medicine.
2015-12-21T20:10:04+00:00Chronic overeating and stress are tied to an increased risk of depression and anxiety, and in a new study, Yale researchers explain why that happens and suggest a possible solution. The researchers report that the anesthetic ketamine reverses depression-like symptoms in rats fed a high-fat diet in a similar way it combats depression and synaptic damage of chronic stress in people. “The effects of a high-fat diet overlap with those of chronic stress and could also be a contributing factor in depression as well as metabolic disorders such as Type 2 diabetes,” said Ronald Duman, the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry, professor of neurobiology, and senior author of the paper published in the journal Neuropharmacology.
2015-12-15T19:31:18+00:00Regions of the brain function differently among people with post-traumatic stress disorder, causing them to generalize non-threatening events as if they were the original trauma, according to new research from Duke Medicine and the Durham VA Medical Center. Using functional MRI, the researchers detected unusual activity in several regions of the brain when people with PTSD were shown images that were only vaguely similar to the trauma underlying the disorder. The findings, reported in the Dec. 15, 2015, issue of the journal Translational Psychiatry, suggest that exposure-based PTSD treatment strategies might be improved by focusing on tangential triggers to the initial event. “We know that PTSD patients tend to generalize their fear in response to cues that merely resemble the feared object but are still distinct from it,” said Rajendra A. Morey, M.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke and director of the Neuroimaging Lab at the Durham VA Medical Center. “This generalization process leads to a proliferation of symptoms over time as patients generalize to a variety of new triggers. Our research maps this in the brain, identifying the regions of the brain involved with these behavioral changes.”
2015-12-03T23:18:59+00:00Fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis (TSC), and Williams syndrome are rare conditions with clear genetic causes: Each springs from a mutation in a single gene - and with unusual frequency seems to simultaneously produce a more common condition: autism. But is the “autism” in a child with Williams syndrome the same as in a child with fragile X? And how does it compare with autism of unknown causes? “This is a really difficult question because - is it the same thing as what? We don’t have a model autism case,” said Bonita Klein-Tasman, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “We have a pretty broad umbrella of what we consider to be autism right now.”
2015-12-02T00:07:32+00:00Scientists have identified a network of nine genes that play a key role in the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. The finding could help scientists develop new treatments to delay the onset of the disease, said lead researcher Associate Professor Mauricio Arcos-Burgos from The Australian National University (ANU). In a study of a family of 5,000 people in Columbia, scientists identified genes that delayed the disease, and others that accelerated it, and by how much. “If you can work out how to decelerate the disease, then you can have a profound impact,” said Associate Professor Arcos-Burgos, a medical geneticist at The John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) at ANU.