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May 16, 2007, 10:30 PM CT

Violent sleep disorder linked to dementia

Violent sleep disorder linked to dementia
Mayo Clinic scientists and a group of international collaborators have discovered a connection between an extreme form of sleep disorder and eventual onset of parkinsonism or dementia. The findings appear in the current issue of the journal Brain

Clinical observations and pathology studies, as well as research in animal models, led to the findings that patients with the violent rapid eye movement sleep (REM) behavior disorder (RBD) have a high probability of later developing Lewy body dementia, Parkinsons disease or multiple system atrophy (a Parkinsons-like disorder), because all of these conditions appear to stem from a similar neurodegenerative origin.

"Our data suggest that a number of patients with idiopathic (not linked to any other neurologic symptoms) RBD may be exhibiting early signs of an evolving neurodegenerative disease, which in most cases appear to be caused by some mishap of the synuclein protein," says Bradley Boeve, M.D., Mayo Clinic neurologist and lead author of the study. Synuclein proteins are linked to synapses in the brain, and clumps of abnormal alpha-synuclein protein are present in some forms of dementia. "The problem does not seem to be present in the synuclein gene itself, but its something that happens to the protein following gene expression. Just what happens to it to cause the conditions isnt clear".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source

May 14, 2007, 8:51 PM CT

Studying Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Studying Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Weill Cornell Medical College scientists are using a virtual reality simulation called "Virtual Iraq" to better understand how symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develop. In their ongoing research trial, participating Iraq War and Gulf War veterans with and without PTSD are shown a brief, 3-D virtual-reality simulation of an urban combat scenario. They wear a headset, through which they hear, see, and - using a keypad - "move" through a "virtual world" in which images change in a natural way along with head and body movement.

A recent Archives of Internal Medicine study observed that as a number of as 13 percent of recent veterans are diagnosed with PTSD.

The Weill Cornell scientists are testing whether physiological arousal (heart rate, stress hormones) and anxiety while viewing the simulation - as well as suppressing memories after viewing the simulation - affect the ability to remember the scenario and suppress intrusive scenario memories.

The study's principal investigator, Dr. Loretta Malta, a clinical psychology expert at Weill Cornell Medical College, states: "It isn't possible after a traumatic event to study, in a controlled way, conditions that lead to the development of specific types of PTSD symptoms. Commonly this is studied by comparing people who develop PTSD months or even years after trauma exposure. With this pilot study, we are trying to develop a paradigm in which we can use virtual reality to learn more about how the responses of people exposed to trauma contribute to the development of PTSD re-experiencing symptoms, like intrusive memories or physiological reactivity to trauma reminders. By better understanding how PTSD symptoms develop, we hope to create effective prevention programs and improve current therapys".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

May 7, 2007, 10:39 PM CT

More Than 4 Percent Of Us Adults Have Bipolar Disorder

More Than 4 Percent Of Us Adults Have Bipolar Disorder
Approximately 4.4 percent of U.S. adults may have some form of bipolar disorder during some point in their lifetime, including about 2.4 percent with a "sub-threshold" condition, as per an article in the recent issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Individuals with bipolar disorder tend to fluctuate between periods of maniaan inappropriately elevated mood, characterized by impulsive behavior and an increased activity leveland periods of depression. They are at increased risk of suicide and other medical problems, such as cardiovascular disease, as per background information in the article. Previously, scientists estimated that about 1 percent of adults had bipolar disorder. But evidence indicates that current diagnostic criteria may be too narrow to effectively detect bipolar disorder in the general population, and that a broader definition of bipolar spectrum disorder would identify a number of more individuals with bipolar symptoms, the authors note.

Kathleen R. Merikangas, Ph.D., National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md., and his colleagues estimated the national prevalence of bipolar disorder using data from 9,282 individuals chosen to represent the general population. The scientists conducted interviews between February 2001 and April 2003 to assess the presence of bipolar disorder and other psychiatric conditions. Participants were classified as having bipolar disorder I, characterized by at least one episode of mania and one of depression; bipolar disorder II, requiring an episode of depression plus hypomania, a milder form of mania that does not require hospitalization; and a milder, sub-threshold bipolar disorder that involves hypomania with or without depression, otherwise classified as bipolar disorder "not otherwise specified" in the current diagnostic nomenclature of the American Psychiatric Association.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

May 7, 2007, 10:37 PM CT

Adult Drug Abuse Rate 10 Percent

Adult Drug Abuse Rate 10 Percent
Approximately 10.3 percent of U.S. adults appear to have problems with drug use or abuse during their lives, including 2.6 percent who become drug dependent at some point, as per a report in the recent issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Drug abuse refers to the intense desire to take drugs at the exclusion of other activities, and dependence occurs when the body becomes physically dependent on an illicit substance. Both are widespread and linked to substantial costs to society and individuals, as per background information in the article. "Eventhough extensive data on drug use in the U.S. population have been available on an ongoing basis for adults and adolescents, epidemiologic data on the prevalence, correlates, disability, therapy and comorbidity of drug use disorders among adults are seldom collected," the authors write. "In fact, it has been more than 16 years since such detailed information on drug use disorders in the United States has been published".

Wilson M. Compton, M.D., M.P.E., of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Bethesda, Md., and his colleagues at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism used data from in-person interviews conducted in 2001 and 2002 with 43,093 adults representative of the entire U.S. population to determine the prevalence of abuse or dependence on nicotine, alcohol or one of 10 classes of other drugs: sedatives, tranquilizers, opiates [other than heroin], stimulants, hallucinogens, cannabis, cocaine, inhalants/solvents, heroin and other drugs. Participants were also assessed for other psychiatric disorders, including mood (such as depression), anxiety (such as panic disorder) and personality disorders (including obsessive-compulsive disorder). For those with drug use disorders, level of disabilityhow much the disorder affected their daily lifewere ranked on a scale of zero to 100, with lower scores indicating more disability.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

May 7, 2007, 10:35 PM CT

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Not Common In Childhood

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Not Common In Childhood
Potentially traumatic events are common in children but do not typically result in post-traumatic stress symptoms or disorder, as per a report in the recent issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a unique psychiatric diagnosis because it requires an initiating event, such as war, rape, natural disaster or serious illness, as per background information in the article. In children, the list of events that could lead to PTSD includes a parent being sent to prison, sudden separation from a loved one and learning of a traumatic event occurring to a loved one.

William E. Copeland, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., conducted annual interviews with 1,420 children from age 9, 11 or 13 through age 16. Between 1993 and 2000, participants and their parents were interviewed in separate rooms and asked about traumatic events that may have occurred in the prior year. In addition, they reported any symptoms of post-traumatic stress that the children displayed, including compulsive behaviors to suppress memories, panic attacks and engaging in dangerous activities.

More than two-thirds of the children reportedly experienced at least one traumatic event by age 16, including 30.8 with exposure to one event and 37 percent to multiple events. The most common events were witnessing or learning about a trauma that affected othersknown as vicarious events.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

May 6, 2007, 5:38 PM CT

Financial Loss And Brain's Processing Of Pain

Financial Loss And Brain's Processing Of Pain
People process information about financial loss through mechanisms in the brain similar to those used for processing physical pain, as per a new imaging study. The results could provide a new understanding of excessive gambling.

The new study detected activity in the striatum, a region that processes signals in the brain's system of reward and defensiveness. Prior studies had shown activity in the striatum increasing when subjects were awarded money, but falling silent when subjects lost money. The new study's lead author, Ben Seymour, MD, and his colleagues at the Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging in London suggest that the negative value people associate with losing money stems from an evolutionarily old system involved in fear and pain. This could provide some biological justification for the popular concept of "financial pain." Their study was reported in the May 2 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience

"This work extends our understanding of how the striatum processes both gains and losses and why other experiments have had difficulty eliciting the striatum's involvement in losses," says Read Montague, PhD, at the Baylor College of Medicine, who did not participate in the research.

In the study, 24 subjects13 male and 11 femalelearned to associate abstract image cues with a specific amount of money: 50 pence (equivalent to $1) or ₤1 ($2). The scientists recorded their brain activity over 200 trials as they showed subjects first the original image then an outcome screen indicating whether they had won the associated amount of money, lost it, or received nothing.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source

May 6, 2007, 4:41 PM CT

A frown or a smile?

A frown or a smile?
When we have a conversation with someone, we not only hear what they say, we see what they say. Eyes can smolder or twinkle. Gazes can be direct or shifty. Reading these facial expressions gives context and meaning to the words we hear.

In a report to be presented May 5 at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Seatlle, scientists from UCLA will show that children with autism cant do this. They hear and they see, of course, but the areas of the brain that normally respond to such visual cues simply do not respond.

Led by Mari Davies, a UCLA graduate student in psychology, and Susan Bookheimer, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, the research compared brain activity between 16 typically developing children and 16 high-functioning children with autism. While undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), both groups were shown a series of faces depicting angry, fearful, happy and neutral expressions. In half the faces, the eyes were averted; with the other half, the faces stared back at the children.

With the typically developing group, the scientists found significant differences in activity in a part of the brain called the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), which is known to play a role in evaluating emotions. While these children looked at the direct-gaze faces, the VLPFC became active; with the averted-gaze pictures, it quieted down. In contrast, the autistic children showed no activity in this region of the brain whether they were looking at faces with a direct or an indirect gaze.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

April 30, 2007, 6:59 PM CT

Study shows children less prone to false memories

Study shows children less prone to false memories
In the 1980's, a spate of high profile child abuse convictions gave way to heightened concern about false memory reports given by children. Take, for example, the case of Kelly Michaels, a preschool teacher who was convicted on 115 counts of sexual abuse based on the testimony of 20 of her pupils. After serving seven years of her 47 year sentence, Michaels' conviction was overturned after the techniques used to interview the children were shown to be coercive and highly suggestive.

Since then, a sizeable literature on children's false memories has accumulated and until recently, the picture that had emerged was quite consistent: false memories of events were found to decrease with age throughout childhood and adolescence. In other words, as we grow into adulthood, our memory accuracy improves.

However, psychology experts Charles Brainerd and Valerie Reyna of Cornell University think that the relationship between age and memory accuracy may not be so simple. Drawing upon fuzzy-trace theory the popular psychological theory that humans encode information on a continuum from verbatim to "fuzzy" traces that convey a general meaning Brainerd and Reyna predicted that false memories may actually increase with age under certain circumstances. In other words, adults would have less accurate memories than children.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

April 24, 2007, 10:30 PM CT

Smoking Common During Pregnancy

Smoking Common During Pregnancy
While pregnancy may be considered an effective motivator for smoking cessation, results of a new study by scientists at the Mailman School of Public Health indicate that pregnant U.S. women usually smoke, placing themselves and their unborn children at risk for health and developmental complications. The research also finds a significant association between cigarette use, nicotine dependence, and the presence of mental disorders among pregnant women.

The data show that almost 22 percent of these women smoked cigarettes and more than 10 percent were nicotine dependent. The results also indicate that approximately 30 percent of pregnant women who used cigarettes had a mental disorder, with personality disorders, major depressive disorder, and specific phobia among the most common psychological ailments. Mental disorders were even more common among pregnant women with nicotine dependence, affecting more than 57 percent. In terms of specific disorders, the strongest associations with nicotine dependence were seen for prolonged depression, panic disorder, and major depressive disorder.

"Our research shows that prenatal smoking appears to be more common in pregnant women who are already vulnerablethose who are unmarried, have less than high school education, and have lower personal incomes," says Renee Goodwin, assistant professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School, and lead scientist. "They also are likely to have limited access to health care services, which may contribute to a lower likelihood of some women quitting smoking upon becoming pregnant".........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source

April 23, 2007, 9:42 PM CT

School Environment And Student Aggression

School Environment And Student Aggression Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
The culture of a school can dampen - or exacerbate - the violent or disruptive tendencies of aggressive young teens, new research indicates. A large-scale study from the University of Illinois observed that while personal traits and peer interactions have the most direct effect on the aggressive behavior of middle school students, the school environment also influences student aggression.

The study assessed individual, family and school predictors of aggression in 111,662 middle school students. The findings are reported in the March 2007 issue of the journal, Youth & Society.

The scientists used a statistical method called hierarchical linear modeling, which separates individual and contextual effects to determine the relative importance of each. The data were compiled from surveys of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at geographically, socioeconomically and racially diverse middle schools.

In the surveys, the students were asked to report how a number of times in the prior six months they had acted mean toward others, hit others or got into fights. The students also reported on how they reacted to events that upset them, their daily experience of problems or hassles, and their perceptions of family and teacher social and emotional support.

Other questions measured the students' sense of belonging in school, their perception of the fairness of school disciplinary actions and policies, and the presence or absence of cultural sensitivity training. The students were also asked to report on whether their school offered them opportunities to participate in rule making or otherwise contribute to shaping the school environment.........

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. Archives of psychology news blog

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