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March 9, 2010, 8:39 AM CT

Anti-depressants and cataracts

Anti-depressants and cataracts
Some anti-depressant drugs are linked to an increased chance of developing cataracts, as per a new statistical study by scientists at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and McGill University.

The study, based on a database of more than 200,000 Quebec residents aged 65 and older, showed statistical relationships between a diagnosis of cataracts or cataract surgery and the class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), as well as between cataracts and specific drugs within that class.

Published online today in the journal Ophthalmology, the study does not prove causation but only reveals an association between the use of SSRIs and the development of cataracts. The study could not account for the possibility of smoking - which is a risk factor for cataracts - and additional population-based studies are needed to confirm these findings, the scientists say.

This study of statistical relationships is the first to establish a link between this class of drugs and cataracts in humans. Prior studies in animal models had demonstrated that SSRIs could increase the likelihood of developing the condition.

"When you look at the trade-offs of these drugs, the benefits of treating depression - which can be life-threatening - still outweigh the risk of.........

Posted by: Mike      Read more         Source


March 8, 2010, 9:12 AM CT

Ritalin boosts learning

Ritalin boosts learning
Doctors treat millions of children with Ritalin every year to improve their ability to focus on tasks, but researchers now report that Ritalin also directly enhances the speed of learning.

In animal research, the researchers showed for the first time that Ritalin boosts both of these cognitive abilities by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine deep inside the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers neurons use to communicate with each other. They release the molecule, which then docks onto receptors of other neurons. The research demonstrated that one type of dopamine receptor aids the ability to focus, and another type improves the learning itself.

The researchers also established that Ritalin produces these effects by enhancing brain plasticity strengthening communication between neurons where they meet at the synapse. Research in this field has accelerated as researchers have recognized that our brains can continue to form new connections remain plastic throughout life.

"Since we now know that Ritalin improves behavior through two specific types of neurotransmitter receptors, the finding could help in the development of better targeted drugs, with fewer side effects, to increase focus and learning," said Antonello Bonci, MD, principal investigator at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center and professor of neurology at UCSF. The Gallo Center is affiliated with the UCSF Department of Neurology.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 4, 2010, 9:49 PM CT

Talking Your Way to Happiness

Talking Your Way to Happiness
Is a happy life filled with trivial chatter or reflective and profound conversations? Psychological researchers Matthias R. Mehl, Shannon E. Holleran, and C. Shelby Clark from the University of Arizona, along with Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis investigated whether happy and unhappy people differ in the types of conversations they tend to engage in. Volunteers wore an unobtrusive recording device called the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) over four days. This device periodically records snippets of sounds as participants go about their lives. For this experiment, the EAR sampled 30 seconds of sounds every 12.5 minutes yielding a total of more than 20,000 recordings. Scientists then listened to the recordings and identified the conversations as trivial small talk or substantive discussions. In addition, the volunteers completed personality and well-being evaluations.

As reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, analysis of the recordings revealed some very interesting findings. Greater well-being was correlation to spending less time alone and more time talking to others: The happiest participants spent 25% less time alone and 70% more time talking than the unhappiest participants. In addition to the difference in the amount of social interactions happy and unhappy people had, there was also a difference in the types of conversations they took part in: The happiest participants had twice as a number of substantive conversations and one third as much small talk as the unhappiest participants.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


February 25, 2010, 1:31 AM CT

Prozac and Celexa exhibit anti-inflammatory effects

Prozac and Celexa exhibit anti-inflammatory effects
A newly released study observed that fluoxetine (Prozac) and citalopram (Celexa) therapy significantly inhibited disease progression of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) in mice. Research led by Sandra Sacre, Ph.D. from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) in the UK studied the anti-arthritic potential of these drugs, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), most usually used to treat depression. Both SSRIs exhibited anti-inflammatory effects and may provide drug development opportunities for arthritic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Full findings of this study are reported in the recent issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.

RA is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the lining of the joints. Typically, RA first affects hand and foot joints and later the disease spreads to larger joints. Inflammation eventually erodes the cartilage between the joints (articular cartilage) causing pain, stiffness, joint deformity, and physical disability. As per the 2000 Global Disease Burden study by the World Health Organization (WHO), RA affects approximately 1% of the world population.

To understand the anti-inflammatory properties of SSRIs, the research team at The Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology investigated the use of fluoxetine and citalopram in mouse and human models of RA. Dr Sacre, a lecturer in molecular cell biology at BSMS, a partnership between the universities of Brighton and Sussex, said: "We were interested in SSRIs because of their reported anti-inflammatory effects." "Previous studies have shown that patients with depression who respond to therapy with SSRIs display a reduction in cytokine levels (signals that can induce inflammation), suggesting a correlation between SSRIs and the immune system." .........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


February 18, 2010, 9:54 PM CT

Depression in Low-income Urban Mothers

Depression in Low-income Urban Mothers
More than half of low-income urban mothers met the criteria for a diagnosis of depression at some point between two weeks and 14 months after giving birth, as per a research studyled by University of Rochester Medical Center scientists and published online by the journal Pediatrics.

This is the first study to describe the prevalence of depression among low-income urban mothers, who were attending well-child care visits, through the use of a diagnostic interview. It also is the first study of this population group to test the accuracy of three depression screening tools routinely used by physicians.

The screening tools have high accuracy in identifying depression, the scientists concluded, but cutoff scores may need to be altered to identify depression more accurately among low-income urban mothers.

The study involved 198 mothers who were 18 years of age or older and whose children were no older than 14 months. The mothers attended well-child visits at the outpatient pediatric clinic at Golisano Children's Hospital at the Medical Center.

The scientists observed that 56 percent of the mothers, after a diagnostic interview, met the criteria for a diagnosis of a major or minor depressive disorder.

"This is an unexpected, very high proportion to meet diagnostic criteria for depression," said Linda H. Chaudron, M.D., associate professor of Psychology, Pediatrics and of Obstetrics and Gynecology. "This appears to be a group at high risk for depression. The message of this study is that pediatricians and other clinicians who work with low-income urban mothers have multiple screening tools that are easy to use and accurate. These tools can help clinicians identify mothers with depression so they can be referred for help".........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source


February 17, 2010, 7:27 AM CT

What the brain values may not be what it buys

What the brain values may not be what it buys
It's no wonder attractive human faces are everywhere in media and advertising when we see those faces, our brains are constantly computing how much the experiences are worth to us. New brain-imaging research shows it's even possible to predict how much people might be willing to pay for a particular face.

Scientists at Duke University Medical Center observed that as participants were watching a sequence of faces, their brains were simultaneously evaluating those faces in two distinct ways: for the quality of the viewing experience and for what they would trade to see the face again.

The work was reported in the Journal of Neuroscience online on Feb. 16.

They showed college-aged men a parade of female faces, intermixed with images of money, while measuring brain activation using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In a later experiment, the same participants could pay more or less money to view more or less attractive faces.

"One part of the frontal cortex of our participants' brains increased in activation to more attractive faces, as if it computed those faces' hedonic (quality of the experience) value," said senior author Scott Huettel, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology & neuroscience who directs the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Duke. "A nearby brain region's activation also predicted those faces' economic value specifically, how much money that person would be willing to trade to see another face of similar attractiveness."........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


February 10, 2010, 8:15 AM CT

When do you explore new things?

When do you explore new things?
A sick or sad child might cling to mom's leg. But that same child fed, rested and generally content will happily toddle off to explore every nook and cranny of the known world. Or: You're chipper and you decide to check out the new restaurant across town. You're blue and you turn to comfort foods.

If you've seen or experienced these scenarios, you may not be surprised about the latest finding from an international team of social and cognitive psychology experts: A negative mood, it turns out, imparts a warm glow to the familiar. Happiness, conversely, makes novelty attractive (and can instead give the familiar a "blah" cast). But it is the first time the effect has been experimentally demonstrated in humans.

Led by University of California, San Diego psychology professor Piotr Winkielman, with Marieke de Vries, currently affiliated with the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, as first author on the paper, the study is published online in the journal Psychological Science

The findings, Winkielman said, not only contribute to understanding basic human psychology but also have numerous applications: To parenting and other interpersonal relationships and even in a number of of the "persuasion professions." In business, in marketing and advertising and in political campaigns, people would be well-advised to take note of the research. When companies introduce novel products, for example, they may want to do so in settings that encourage a happy, playful mood. A surgeon's office, meanwhile, Winkielman said, which people visit rarely and in stressful circumstances, should probably stay away from edgy dcor, opting instead for the comfy and familiar.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


February 10, 2010, 8:12 AM CT

Depression and lack of concentration

Depression and lack of concentration
A number of clinicians think that depression goes hand in hand with cognitive difficulties such as memory problems or difficulties concentrating and paying attention, but a recent review of nearly 20 years of literature conducted by scientists from UT Southwestern Medical Center has observed that depression does not always lead to such impairments.

"The relationship between cognition thinking, attention and memory and depression remains poorly understood from a neuroscientific standpoint," said Dr. Munro Cullum, chief of psychology at UT Southwestern and senior author of the review appearing in the recent issue of Neuropsychology, a journal published by the American Psychological Association. "This paper represents an important review of the literature that challenges some of the clinical myths about the effects of depression on cognitive functioning".

Part of what contributes to the clinical lore is that difficulties in concentrating can be a symptom of depression, and this may masquerade as other cognitive problems such as variability in memory performance.

"The presentation of depression can vary between people," said Dr. Shawn McClintock, assistant professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern and main author of the study. "A number of symptoms can be used to diagnose depression, so we tried to dissect and better understand how specific factors in depression might contribute to cognitive difficulties".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


February 8, 2010, 7:39 AM CT

Financial hardship and anxiety

Financial hardship and anxiety
A new analysis has observed that women with medium or low levels of income are especially susceptible to anxiety and depression after being diagnosed with the premalignant breast condition, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Published early online in Cancer, a peer-evaluated journal of the American Cancer Society, the study suggests that women with financial hardship appears to benefit from psychosocial interventions that are designed to accommodate their unique needs.

While research suggests that education and financial status, also known as socioeconomic status, can affect mental and physical health, few studies have examined its impact on psychological adjustment following a major stressor such as being diagnosed with a potentially serious medical condition. To investigate, Janet de Moor, MPH, PhD, of The Ohio State University College of Public Health and his colleagues looked at whether socioeconomic status affects the development of feelings of anxiety and depression in women after they are diagnosed with DCIS. The researchers also explored whether social support might impact the effects of socioeconomic status on distress in these women.

During the study, 487 women with newly diagnosed DCIS completed questions about sociodemographic, psychosocial, and clinical characteristics at the time of enrollment and again nine months after their diagnosis. The scientists observed that financial status was inversely linked to distress at the nine month follow up point: women with financial hardship reported higher levels of anxiety and depression than women with no financial hardship. Financial status also predicted change in anxiety and depression: women with medium to high levels of financial hardship reported an increase in their feelings of anxiety and depression during the study period, while women with no financial hardship reported a decrease in their feelings of anxiety and depression over time. In addition, the probability of exhibiting signs of clinical depression increased with increasing financial hardship.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


February 5, 2010, 7:48 AM CT

High sensitivity to stress isn't always bad

High sensitivity to stress isn't always bad
Children who are particularly reactive to stress are more vulnerable to adversity and have more behavior and health problems than their peers. But a new longitudinal study suggests that highly reactive children are also more likely to do well when they're raised in supportive environments.

The study, by researchers at the University of British Columbia, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of California, Berkeley, appears in the January/February 2010 issue of the journal Child Development

"Parents and teachers may find that sensitive children, like orchids, are more challenging to raise and care for, but they can bloom into individuals of exceptional ability and strength when reared in a supportive, nurturing, and encouraging environment," as per Jelena Obradović, an assistant professor in the School of Education at Stanford University (Dr. Obradović was at the University of British Columbia when she led the study).

The scientists looked at 338 kindergarteners, as well as their teachers and families, to determine how family adversity and biological reactivity contribute to healthy development.

They observed that children who had significantly stronger biological reactions to a series of mildly stressful tasks designed to look like challenges in their daily lives were more affected by their family contexts, both bad and good. This means that highly reactive children were more likely to have developmental problems when growing up in adverse, stressful family settings.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Too little evidence exists to recommend or rule out estrogen as a treatment for schizophrenia in women, a new review of studies finds.People diagnosed with schizophrenia suffer distorted perceptions of reality and hallucinations. Today, estrogen is strictly an experimental therapy for the psychotic symptoms associated with the mental illness.

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