December 07, 2012

Psychotropic Medications Are Prescribed Appropriately Among U.S. Teens, National Study Finds

Prescribed psychotropic medications are not being misused or overused among U.S. youth, according to a study using nationally representative data sponsored by NIMH. The study was published December 3, 2012, online ahead of print in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. Background Psychotropic medications affect the brain chemicals associated with mood and behavior. Some studies and media reports have raised concerns about their use among youth. However, much of the concern stems from information found in anecdotal reports, small clinical samples, or insurance databases rather than on representative samples of U.S. youth with clinical assessments of emotional and behavioral disorders. Studies from regional community samples have found widely varying rates, which can lead to skewed perceptions. For example, different studies have found a wide range of stimulant medication use for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—from 7 percent to 72 percent—likely due to methodological and regional differences. As a result, it has been difficult to get a clear, accurate understanding of medication use among youth. Kathleen Merikangas, Ph.D., of NIMH and colleagues collected information on specific medication use in the National Comorbidity Study-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), a nationally representative, face-to-face survey from 2004 of more than 10,000 teens ages 13 to 18.The teens were asked questions that helped to ascertain information about mental disorders and service use. A previous report published in October 2010 using data from the NCS-A indicated that about 20 percent of U.S. youth are affected by some type of mental disorder during their lifetime serious enough to affect their functioning. In this most recent analysis, the researchers examined patterns of prescribed medication use among youth who met criteria for a wide range of mental disorders. Psychotropic medications that were examined include antipsychotics, antidepressants, and stimulants Professional Counselor Continuing Education Results of the Study Among those youth who met criteria for any mental disorder, 14.2 percent reported that they had been treated with a psychotropic medication. Teens with ADHD had the highest rates of prescribed medication use at 31 percent, while 19.7 percent of those with a mood disorder like depression or bipolar disorder were taking psychotropic medication. Among those with eating disorders, about 19 percent were taking a psychotropic medication, and 11.6 percent of those with anxiety disorders reported taking medication. Very few youth reported use of antipsychotic medications. They were most frequently used by youth with severe bipolar disorder (1.7 percent) or a neurodevelopmental disorder such as autism (2.0 percent). Approximately 2.5 percent of teens without a diagnosed mental disorder were prescribed a psychotropic medication. Among these youth, 78 percent reported having a previous mental or neurodevelopmental disorder and associated psychological distress or impairment. Significance The data suggest that most adolescent youth who are taking psychotropic medications have serious behavioral, cognitive or emotional disturbances. The findings also showed that youth being treated by a mental health professional were more likely to be receiving appropriate medication as opposed to those being treated within general medicine or other settings. However, more research is needed on medication use among children younger than age 13. Reference Merikangas K, He J, Rapoport J, Vitiello B, Olfson M. Medication use in US Youth with Mental Disorders. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. Online ahead of print Dec 3, 2012.

November 28, 2012

Switching Off a Specific Brain Region Can Alter Ingrained Habits in Rats

Ingrained habits in rats can be quickly broken—and reestablished—by targeting and switching off a specific site in the brain’s prefrontal cortex using a technique known as optogenetics, according to an NIMH-funded study published November 13, 2012, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Background Studies have established that the prefrontal region of the brain is associated with habit formation and expression. It is also linked to emotion regulation and to regions in the brain that are associated with behavioral flexibility, which counteracts habit. Kyle Smith Ph.D., Ann Graybiel Ph.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and colleagues, trained rats to run a T-shaped maze. At the decision point, the rats were cued to turn to either one side, where chocolate milk awaited them as a reward, or to the other side, where the reward was sugar water. Eventually, running the maze and responding to each cue correctly became a habit, and the rats continued to do so even after the rewards were removed. The researchers then returned the rewards but paired the chocolate milk with exposure to lithium chloride, which causes nausea. Once the rats realized the milk made them ill, they declined to drink it. However, they continued to run the maze and turn toward the chocolate milk side of the maze when cued, indicating that running in that direction when prompted had become a nearly automatic behavior. Results of the Study To determine whether the habit could be broken, the researchers then applied a technique known as optogenetics—in which a laser light is delivered to brain cells through optical fibers—to see if they could manipulate a specific region of the rats’ prefrontal cortex known as the infralimbic (IL) cortex. When the laser was turned on and the IL cortex was disrupted, the rats nearly instantaneously stopped running habitually toward the chocolate milk reward. Instead, they appeared to act more thoughtfully, running toward the other side, where the untainted sugar water awaited. Once the rats were broken of the habit of running automatically to the chocolate milk side, they began to develop a habit of always running to the other side, even when they were cued to run toward the chocolate milk, and even after the untainted chocolate milk was returned. But when the IL region was again disrupted optogenetically, the rats returned to their original habit of running to the chocolate milk side when cued to do so. Significance Control of a small part of the prefrontal cortex can change whether or not habits are expressed. An old habit can be blocked abruptly, and a new habit can override it. But if the new habit is then blocked, the old habit returns, thus lending credence to the notion that old habits die hard Social Worker Continuing Education In addition, the fact that habitual behavior can be altered if IL activity is disturbed suggests that the circuitry in this region of the brain is coordinating on some level with other brain regions that directly access circuits involved in behavioral flexibility, as well as addictive behaviors. What’s Next Although the optogenetic technique is too invasive to use in humans, it does have implications for potentially disrupting destructive habits. Targeting this specific region of the brain could lead to better ways of controlling addiction disorders or mental disorders in which habitual behaviors are out of balance, such as obsessive compulsive disorder. Reference Smith K, Virkud A, Deisseroth K, Graybiel A. Reversible online control of habitual behavior by optogenetic perturbation of media prefrontal cortex. PNAS. Nov 13, 2012. 109(46):18932-18937.

November 01, 2012

Study: Use of antipsychotic drugs improves life expectancy for individuals with schizophrenia

Results of a Johns Hopkins study suggest that individuals with schizophrenia are significantly more likely to live longer if they take their antipsychotic drugs on schedule, avoid extremely high doses and also regularly see a mental health professional. Psychiatrists have long known that people with schizophrenia who stick to a drug regimen have fewer of the debilitating delusions and hallucinations that are hallmarks of this illness. But there have been concerns about whether some of the known side effects of the medications — increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, for example — carry higher mortality risks, the researchers say. "We know that antipsychotic medications reduce symptoms, and our study shows that staying on reasonable, recommended doses is associated with longer life," says Bernadette A. Cullen, M.B., B.Ch., B.A.O., MRCPsych, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and leader of the study published in Schizophrenia Bulletin. "The same is true for going to see a psychiatrist or therapist," she says, noting that regular visits to a mental health professional are one way to monitor and encourage drug-use compliance, but also in and of themselves increased survival in this vulnerable population. Cullen and her colleagues analyzed data collected between 1994 through 2004 on 2,132 adult Maryland Medicaid beneficiaries with schizophrenia. The researchers reviewed how much medication the patients took, how regularly they took it and how often they visited a mental health professional. The goal of the study was to review how adherence to the 2009 pharmacological Schizophrenia Patient Outcomes Research Team (PORT) guidelines was associated with mortality in this population. Comparing data from year to year, the researchers found that among those patients who had 90 percent or better compliance with their medication schedules, the risk of death was 25 percent lower compared to those who were less than 10 percent compliant. Over the decade-long study period, taking medication did not increase the risk of death and there was a trend towards reducing the mortality rate. In addition, the researchers found that each additional visit per year to a mental health professional was linked to a 5 percent reduction in risk of death overall LSW Continuing Education Cullen's study did not rule out all links between increased mortality and antipsychotic drugs. For example, her team found that people who took high doses of first-generation antipsychotic medication daily (1500 mg or greater chlorpromazine equivalents) were 88 percent more likely to die. She says mortality rates possibly increased in this group because first-generation antipsychotics have been associated with cardiac disease risks, and among those who died while taking the larger doses, 53 percent died of cardiovascular disease. "These drugs work very well, but there is clearly a point of diminishing returns," she says. "You rarely need to be on extremely high doses." Among those whose information was reviewed, the most common cause of death was cardiovascular disease (28 percent); unintended harm, including suicide, was responsible for 8 percent. "If people are taking their medications, they usually have fewer symptoms and are able to be more organized in other areas of their lives," says Cullen, director of community psychiatry at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. "We believe they are then more likely to make appointments with their primary care doctors, to stay on top of other illnesses they may have and to regularly take diabetes, blood pressure or cholesterol medication that they may require to stay healthy. We also believe that they are more likely to be socially engaged and have a healthier lifestyle." "If your illness is under control, you can do a lot more," she adds. Cullen says the study clearly lays out the value of mental health providers to individuals with schizophrenia. Those who saw therapists or psychiatrists were more likely to survive, regardless of whether the individual also took his or her antipsychotic medication on a regular basis, she says. This finding is crucial, she says, given that Maryland Medicaid officials are considering capping the number of mental health visits allowed each year, something the data now suggest is potentially detrimental to survival. Cullen notes that adherence to a medication regimen and moderate first-generation antipsychotic dosing are both part of the 2009 PORT recommendations designed to guide treatment. ### The study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Mental Health (R01MH074070). Other Johns Hopkins researchers involved in the study include Emma E. McGinty, M.S.; Yiyi Zhang, Ph.D.; Susan dos Reis, Ph.D.; Donald M. Steinwachs, Ph.D.; Eliseo Guallar, M.D., Dr.PH.; and Gail L. Daumit, M.D., M.H.S. For more information: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/psychiatry/specialty_areas/community_psych/

October 29, 2012

Autism early intervention found to normalize brain activity in children as young as 18 months

An intensive early intervention therapy that is effective for improving cognition and language skills among very young children with autism also normalizes their brain activity, decreases their autism symptoms and improves their social skills, a nationwide study has found. The researchers said the study is the first to demonstrate that an autism early intervention program can normalize brain activity. "We know that infant brains are quite malleable and previously demonstrated that this therapy capitalizes on the potential of learning that an infant brain has in order to limit autism's deleterious effects," said study author Sally Rogers, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a researcher with the UC Davis MIND Institute. "The findings on improved behavioral outcomes and the ability to normalize brain activity associated with social activities signify that there is tremendous potential for the brains of children with autism to develop and grow more normally," Rogers said. Published online today in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the randomized, case-controlled, multi-centered study titled "Early behavioral intervention is associated with normalized brain activity in young children with autism," found that the children who received the intervention exhibited greater brain activation when viewing faces rather than objects, a response that was typical of the normal children in the study, and the opposite of the children with autism who received other intervention counselor ceus The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 88 children born today will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Hallmarks of the neurodevelopmental condition include persistent deficits in social communication and relatedness, and repetitive or restrictive patterns of interest that appear in early childhood and impair everyday functioning. Named the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), the intervention method was developed by Rogers and Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of the research and advocacy organization Autism Speaks. The therapy fuses a play-based, developmental, relationship-based approach and the teaching methods of applied behavioral analysis. "This may be the first demonstration that a behavioral intervention for autism is associated with changes in brain function as well as positive changes in behavior," said Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which funded the study. "By studying changes in the neural response to faces, Dawson and her colleagues have identified a new target and a potential biomarker that can guide treatment development." For the present study, the researchers recruited 48 diverse male and female children diagnosed with autism between 18 and 30 months in Sacramento, Calif., and in Seattle, as well as typically developing case controls. The ratio of male-to-female participants was more than 3-to-1. Autism is five times more common among boys than girls. Approximately half of the children with autism were randomly assigned to receive the ESDM intervention for over two years. The participants received ESDM therapy for 20 hours each week, and their parents also were trained to deliver the treatment, a core feature of the intervention. The other participants with autism received similar amounts of various community-based interventions as well as evaluations, referrals, resource manuals and other reading materials. At the study's conclusion, the participants' brain activity was assessed using electroencephalograms (EEGs) that measured brain activation while viewing social stimuli -- faces -- and non-social stimuli -- toys. Earlier studies have found that typical infants and young children show increased brain activity when viewing social stimuli rather than objects, while children with autism show the opposite pattern. Twice as many of the children who received the ESDM intervention showed greater brain activation when viewing faces rather than when viewing objects -- a demonstration of normalized brain activity. Eleven of the 15 children who received the ESDM intervention, 73 percent, showed more brain activation when viewing faces than toys. Similarly, 12 of the 17 typically developing children, or 71 percent, showed the same pattern. But the majority -- 64 percent -- of the recipients of the community intervention showed the opposite, "autistic" pattern, i.e., greater response to toys than faces. Only 5 percent showed the brain activation of typical children. Further, the children receiving ESDM who had greater brain activity while viewing faces also had fewer social-pragmatic problems and improved social communication, including the ability to initiate interactions, make eye contact and imitate others, said MIND Institute researcher Rogers. Use of the ESDM intervention has been shown to improve cognition, language and daily living skills. A study published in 2009 found that ESDM recipients showed more than three times as much gain in IQ and language than the recipients of community interventions. "This is the first case-controlled study of an intensive early intervention that demonstrates both improvement of social skills and normalized brain activity resulting from intensive early intervention therapy," said Dawson, the study's lead author and professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "Given that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all 18- and 24-month-old children be screened for autism, it is vital that we have effective therapies available for young children as soon as they are diagnosed." "For the first time," Dawson continued, "parents and practitioners have evidence that early intervention can alter the course of brain and behavioral development in young children. It is crucial that all children with autism have access to early intervention which can promote the most positive long-term outcomes." Rogers, Dawson and Laurie J. Vismara, also a researcher with the MIND Institute, have authored two books on the intervention. One for professionals is titled "Early Start Denver Model for Young Children with Autism: Promoting Language, Learning, and Engagement" and one for parents titled "An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn." The ESDM intervention is available in Sacramento through the MIND Institute clinic and in a number of locations throughout the U.S. and other nations. Training in delivering the ESDM method is provided through the MIND Institute and the University of Washington. ### Other study authors include Emily J.H. Jones, Kaitlin Venema, Rachel Lowy, Susan Faja, Dana Kamara, Michale Murias, Jessica Greenson, Jamie Winter, Milani Smith and Sara J. Webb, all of the University of Washington, and Kristen Merkle of Vanderbilt University. The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and by a postdoctoral fellowship to Jones from Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. At the UC Davis MIND Institute, world-renowned scientists engage in collaborative, interdisciplinary research to find the causes of and develop treatments and cures for autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), fragile X syndrome, 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, Down syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disorders. For more information, visit mindinstitute.ucdavis.edu

October 25, 2012

WSU researchers find the missing link between mental health disorders and chronic diseases in Iraq war refugees


October 15, 2012Subjects who fled Iraq after Gulf War were 43 times more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apneaDETROIT – Wayne State University School of Medicine researchers may have discovered why people exposed to war are at increased risk to develop chronic problems like heart disease years later. And the culprit that links the two is surprising.Beginning in the mid-2000s, WSU researchers interviewed a random sample of 145 American immigrants who left Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War, and 205 who fled Iraq after the Gulf War began. All were residing in metropolitan Detroit at the time of the study. Study subjects were asked about socio-demographics, pre-migration trauma, how they rated their current health, physician-diagnosed and physician-treated obstructive sleep apnea, somatic disorders and psychosomatic disorders. Those who left Iraq after the war began and suffered from mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, and self-rated their physical health as worse than their actual health, were 43 times more likely than pre-Gulf War immigrants to report obstructive sleep apnea (30.2 percent versus 0.7 percent) and later develop major chronic health issues such as cardiovascular disease.“I was surprised, but we had a specific theory we wanted to test. Changes in the stress system would contribute to sleep apnea. What happens? Maybe it’s the stress that leads to this fractured sleep,” said Bengt Arnetz, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., School of Medicine professor of occupational and environmental health, deputy director of the Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at Wayne State, and the study’s principal investigator and first author. “No one had explored this possible link before, although basic research suggests it as plausible.”The results are featured in the October 2012 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Psychosomatic Society.According to the article, “Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and Health in Immigrants,” obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles supporting the soft palate at the back of the throat relax, but less is known about the reasons behind this neuromuscular malfunctioning.“It’s a known fact that the more exposure to violence you have, the more likely you are to report PTSD and depression, and the worse your self-rated health is, the more likely your actual health will suffer in five to 10 years,” Arnetz said.Hikmet Jamil, M.D., Ph.D., professor of occupational and environmental health in WSU’s School of Medicine, and Thomas Templin, Ph.D., research professor in WSU’s College of Nursing, also contributed to the article.The obstructive sleep apnea and chronic disase link has been observed among many trauma-exposed populations, including refugees, Arnetz said.“Iraqis were exposed to harsh conditions during the entirety of Saddam Hussein’s more than 20 years of reign. However, trauma and environmental exposures increased measurably and dramatically after the initiation of the 1991 Gulf War,” the article states.The study can now be used as a model for other populations, including U.S. soldiers returning home from battle.The multidisciplinary study brought together mental health research, sleep research and chronic disease research, Arnetz said.He and Jamil were partially supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health (award number R01MH085793).To further test their ideas, the researchers plan to apply for funding from the National Institutes of Health to collaborate with Safwan Badr, M.D., professor and chief of the School of Medicine’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, and Thomas Roth, Ph.D., director of the Henry Ford Sleep Disorders and Research Center.###Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.Founded in 1868, the Wayne State University School of Medicine is the largest single-campus medical school in the nation, with more than 1,000 medical students. In addition to undergraduate medical education, the school offers master’s degree, Ph.D. and M.D.-Ph.D. programs in 14 areas of basic science to about 400 students annually Professional Counselor Continuing Education


October 23, 2012

School-wide interventions improve student behavior

An analysis of a school behavior strategy—known as School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS)—found that these types of programs significantly reduced children's aggressive behaviors and office discipline referrals, as well as improved problems with concentration and emotional regulation. The study, conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is the first randomized control trial to examine the impact of SWPBIS programs over multiple school years. The results were published October 15 in the journal Pediatrics as an eFirst publication.SWPBIS is a prevention strategy that aims to alter student behavior by setting universal, positively stated expectations for student behavior that are implemented across the entire school. Policies and decisions related to student behaviors are based on data analysis. SWPBIS programs are used in more than 16,000 schools in the U.S."These findings are very exciting, given the wide use of SWPBIS across the country. These results are among the first to document significant impacts of the program on children's problem behaviors, as well as positive behaviors, across multiple years as a result of SWPBIS," said Catherine P. Bradshaw, PhD, MEd, lead author of the study and associate professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Mental Health.The randomized trial included a representative sample of 12,344 elementary school children from 37 schools. Approximately half of the students received free or reduced-priced meals, and nearly 13 percent received special education services. The researchers analyzed teachers' ratings of students' behavior and concentration problems, social-emotional functioning, pro-social behavior, office discipline referrals, and suspension over 4 school years.Overall, the study found significant improvement in children's behavior problems, concentration problems, social-emotional functioning, and pro-social behavior in schools using SWPBIS. Children in SWPBIS schools also were 33 percent less likely to receive an office discipline referral than those in the comparison schools. The effects tended to be strongest among children who were first exposed to SWPBIS in kindergarten."A unique feature of the model is the overall structure that is formed in schools to support sustainable services for students across a range of behavioral needs LCSW Continuing Education Using this framework, school staff can identify students at greatest need of services and efficiently target programs and resources to them," said Bradshaw.###The author of "Effects of School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports on Child Behavior Problems" include Catherine Bradshaw, PhD, MEd; Tracy E. Waasdorp, PhD, MEd; and Philip J. Leaf, PhD.


October 21, 2012

Many Teens Considering Suicide Do Not Receive Specialized Mental Health Care

HomeScience NewsScience News from 2012Science Update • October 12, 2012

Many Teens Considering Suicide Do Not Receive Specialized Mental Health Care

Source: iStockPhotoMost adolescents who are considering suicide or who have attempted suicide do not receive specialized mental health services, according to an analysis published online August 15, 2012, in Psychiatric Services, a journal of the American Psychiatric Association.

Background

National survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that approximately 14 percent of high school students seriously consider suicide each year, 11 percent have a suicide plan, and 6 percent attempt suicide. Other research has suggested that less than half of teens who attempt suicide received mental health services in the year prior to their attempt.Kathleen Merikangas, Ph.D., of NIMH and colleagues analyzed data from the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), a nationally representative, face-to-face survey of more than 10,000 teens ages 13 to 18. They asked teens whether they had any suicidal thoughts, plans, or actions (ideation) over a one-year period prior to the survey. They also completed a structured diagnostic interview regarding the full range of mental disorders including mood, anxiety, eating and anxiety disorders and whether they had received treatment for emotional or behavioral problems in the past 12 months. Respondents were asked to differentiate between receiving care from a mental health specialist such as a social worker, psychiatrist or other mental health professional, and receiving care from a general service provider, such as a primary care physician.

Results of the study

The survey revealed that, within the past year, 3.6 percent of adolescents had suicidal thoughts, but did not make a specific plan or suicide attempt. In addition, 0.6 percent reported having a plan, and 1.9 percent reported having made a suicide attempt within the past year.Suicidal behavior among youth was not only associated with major depression, but also with a range of other mental health problems including eating, anxiety, substance use and behavior disorders, as well as physical health problems. Between 50 and 75 percent of those teens who reported having suicidal ideation had recent contact with a service provider. However, most only had three or fewer visits, suggesting that treatment tends to be terminated prematurely. Moreover, most teens with suicidal ideation did not receive specialized mental health care.

Significance

The results of this study suggest that depression and other mood disorders are not the only pathways to suicide. They also highlight the importance of integrating risk assessment for suicide into routine physical and mental health care for teens. Even if adolescents are in treatment, they should continue to be monitored for suicidal ideation and behaviors, the researchers concluded.

Reference

Husky M, Olfson M, He J, Nock M, Swanson S, Merikangas K. Twelve-month suicidal symptoms and use of services among adolescents: results from the National Comorbidity Survey. Psychiatric Services in Advance, Aug 15, 2012. 

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October 20, 2012

Gene Variants Implicated in Extreme Weight Gain Associated with Antipsychotics

Gene Variants Implicated in Extreme Weight Gain Associated with Antipsychotics Source: JupiterExtreme weight gain associated with taking an antipsychotic medication may be linked to certain genetic variants, according to a study published in the September 2012 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. Background Antipsychotic medications, especially those known as “second generation” or “atypical” antipsychotics, generally are the first-line of treatment for schizophrenia and other serious mental disorders. They are effective in treating psychotic symptoms, but they are also associated with serious metabolic side effects that can result in substantial weight gain, and other cardiovascular problems.Some people appear to be more susceptible to severe weight gain than others, but it is difficult to predict who is most at risk. To date, there have been few genetic studies of weight gain associated with antipsychotics, in part because it is difficult to control such variables as prior exposure to the medications, and because patients often stop taking the medications prematurely.Anil Malhotra M.D., of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and colleagues set out to identify any common gene variants associated with antipsychotic-induced weight gain in a group of patients who had never taken the medications before and who were carefully monitored to ensure they continued to take the medication over the study period. The initial study included a cohort of 139 pediatric patients who were prescribed a second-generation antipsychotic. Patients were examined over a period of 12 weeks to assess weight and metabolic effects of the medications.To compare and confirm their results, the researchers also conducted similar assessments of three small cohorts with adult patients taking second generation antipsychotics. Results of the Study The researchers found markers in a gene called the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) that were associated with severe weight gain in people taking second generation antipsychotics. The MC4R region overlaps somewhat with another region previously identified as being associated with obesity in the general population. In addition, the results were replicated in the three independent cohorts. Significance In many genetic studies involving obesity, thousands of participants are needed to achieve statistically significant results and to overcome the many environmental factors that can influence a person’s weight. In this study, the critical environmental factor predisposing patients to weight gain was only antipsychotic medication use over a short period of time, thus allowing more control over other variables that could have confounded results. Therefore, even though the study only included 139 individuals, the researchers were able to detect results that implicated specific gene variants.The results also have potential clinical implications. Patients with the identified gene variants that would predispose them to severe weight gain while taking an antipsychotic could be directed to alternative treatments, especially those who do not have a psychotic disorder LPC Continuing Education Although particular gene variants were implicated, the study’s sample size was small. Further research with larger samples is needed to extend the findings. LPC CEUs Reference Malhotra A, et al. Association between common variants near the melanocortin 4 receptor gene and severe antipsychotic drug-induced weight gain. Arch Gen. Psychiatry. 2012 Sep. 69(9):904-912.

October 10, 2012

Medicare beneficiaries overspend by hundreds, Pitt Public Health finds

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 9, 2012 – Medicare beneficiaries are overpaying by hundreds of dollars annually because of difficulties selecting the ideal prescription drug plan for their medical needs, an investigation by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health researchers reveals. Only 5.2 percent of beneficiaries chose the least-expensive Medicare prescription drug benefit (Part D) plan that satisfied their medical needs in 2009, overspending on Part D premiums and prescription drugs by an average of $368 a year. The evaluation, published in the October issue of the journal Health Affairs, takes a national look at how well beneficiaries were making plan choices in the fourth year of the Medicare Part D program and could help guide changes to health insurance programs. "People need assistance in choosing the least expensive plan for their medical needs," said lead author Chao Zhou, Ph.D., a post-doctoral associate at Pitt Public Health. "Educational programs that help people navigate the dozens of plans available would make it easier to select plans that best meet their health care needs without overspending." "In particular, government officials could recommend the three most appropriate Part D plans for each person, based on their medication history," said co-author Yuting Zhang, Ph.D., associate professor of health economics at Pitt Public Health. "Alternatively, they could assign beneficiaries to the best plan for them based on their medication needs, while offering them the option to choose another plan instead." The results of this study could be useful in designing health insurance exchanges, which are state-regulated organizations created under health care reform to offer standardized health care plans. "In designing health insurance exchanges, models with more active assistance would be more helpful than models with large numbers of plans and information," Dr. Zhang said. "For example, health insurance exchanges could actively screen plans on quality and negotiate premiums to reduce the number of plans." Implemented in 2006, Part D cost the federal government $65.8 billion in 2011, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The researchers looked at the difference in a patient's total spending, including the plan premium and out-of-pocket payment for the prescriptions filled, between the plan the patient chose and the cheapest alternative option in the region that would satisfy the patient's medication needs. The study looked at data for 412,712 people, with an average age of 75. Beneficiaries tend to overprotect themselves by purchasing plans with more generous features, such as generic drug coverage in the coverage gap. A few other trends emerged: As beneficiaries aged, they increasingly chose more expensive plans, with people older than 85 overspending by $30 more than people 65 to 69 years old. Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans chose less expensive plans than whites. People with common medical conditions, such as diabetes and chronic heart failure, were not significantly more likely to choose more expensive plans. People with cognitive deficits or mental health issues, such as Alzheimer's disease, tended to choose less expensive plans, spending an average of $10 less than those without such conditions. The researchers could not determine if those people had assistance from caregivers. As the number of plan options increased in a region, the amount of overspending increased by $3.20 for every additional plan available. "A previous study showed that in 2006, beneficiaries could have saved nearly 31 percent of their total drug spending by switching to the lowest cost plan," Dr. Zhou said. "Since our results are similar, this suggests people are not learning to reduce overspending." One possible explanation for these consistent results over time is the impact of inertia and bias toward maintaining the status quo, she noted. "When Medicare Part D started in 2006, the majority of beneficiaries did not choose the least expensive plan," Dr. Zhou said. "Over time, they may have simply stuck to their original plan and never switched to a better one. Beneficiaries might not spend much time researching and adjusting their plan choices based on changes in their medication needs and in plan options." Findings from the private health insurance market support the authors' conclusion that people keep their current plan instead of spending time researching and optimizing their plan choices based on their insurance use and prescription spending in the previous year CADC I & II Continuing Education ### About the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, founded in 1948 and now one of the top-ranked schools of public health in the United States, conducts research on public health and medical care that improves the lives of millions of people around the world. Pitt Public Health is a leader in devising new methods to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS, cancer and other important public health problems. For more information about Pitt Public Health, visit the school's Web site at www.publichealth.pitt.edu. http://www.upmc.com/media

October 08, 2012

Researchers identify dozens of new de novo genetic mutations in schizophrenia

Many newly discovered genes most active during fetal development New York, NY (October 3, 2012) — Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers have identified dozens of new spontaneous genetic mutations that play a significant role in the development of schizophrenia, adding to the growing list of genetic variants that can contribute to the disease. The study, the largest and most comprehensive of its kind, was published today in the online edition of the journal Nature Genetics. Although schizophrenia typically onsets during adolescence and early adulthood, many of the mutations were found to affect genes with higher expression during early-to-mid fetal development. Together, the findings show that both the function of the mutated gene and when the gene is expressed are critically important in determining the risk for schizophrenia. The findings inform epidemiologic studies showing that environmental factors, such as malnutrition or infections during pregnancy, can contribute to the development of schizophrenia. "Our findings provide a mechanism that could explain how prenatal environmental insults during the first and second trimester of pregnancy increase one's risk for schizophrenia," said study leader Maria Karayiorgou, MD, professor of psychiatry at CUMC, and acting chief, division of Psychiatric and Medical Genetics, New York State Psychiatric Institute. "Patients with these mutations were much more likely to have had behavioral abnormalities, such as phobias and anxiety in childhood, as well as worse disease outcome." In an earlier study of 53 families, the team of investigators found that spontaneous, or de novo, mutations — genetic errors that are present in patients but not in their parents — play a role in a substantial portion of sporadic cases of schizophrenia. The mutations were found in the part of the genome that codes for proteins, known as the exome. In the larger, current study, the researchers performed whole-exome sequencing on 231 patient "trios" from the United States and South Africa. Each trio consisted of a patient and both of his or her parents, who were unaffected by the disease. By comparing the exomes of the patients with those of their parents, the researchers were able to identify de novo rather than heritable, mutations that may contribute to schizophrenia. This is the first study of this scale to search for single nucleotide variations in the exomes of schizophrenia patients. Previous studies from the Columbia group and others searched for much larger genetic variations, such as gene deletions or duplications. The researchers identified many mutated genes with diverse functions. They also identified four new genes (LAMA2, DPYD, TRRAP, and VPS39) affected by recurrent de novo events within or across the two populations, a finding unlikely to have occurred by chance. The researchers estimate that several hundred loci (genetic locations) can contribute to the development of schizophrenia. "The chance that two patients have exactly the same mutation or combination of mutations is rather small" said Dr. Karayiorgou. "What is intriguing is that despite this variability, people with schizophrenia tend to have, more or less, the same phenotype—that is, the same clinical presentation. Our hypothesis is that many neural circuits are extremely important in schizophrenia and that these circuits are vulnerable to a number of influences. So, when any of the genes involved in these circuits are mutated, the end result is the same." According to the researchers, the challenge remains to identify the affected biological processes and neural circuits, and to determine how they are affected. "Although the genetics of schizophrenia are extremely complex, a coherent picture of the disease is beginning to emerge," said co-director of the study Dr. Joseph Gogos, MD, PhD, and associate professor of physiology and neuroscience at Columbia University Medical Center. "Our studies show that dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of different spontaneous mutations can raise one's risk for schizophrenia. On the surface, this is daunting, but using these new findings to understand how these mutations affect the same neural circuits, including during early fetal development, raises hopes that it may be possible to develop effective prevention and treatment strategies for the disease." Social Worker CEUs The paper is titled, "De novo gene mutations highlight patterns of genetic and neural complexity in schizophrenia." The other contributors are Bin Xu (CUMC), Iuliana Ionita-Laza (CUMC), J. Louw Roos (University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa), Braden Boone (Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology, Huntsville, Ala.), Scarlet Woodrick (CUMC), Yan Sun (CUMC) and Shawn Levy (Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology). The research was partially supported by National Institute of Mental Health grants MH061399 and MH077235 and the Lieber Center for Schizophrenia Research at Columbia University. The authors declare no financial conflict of interest. About Schizophrenia Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is not a split personality; it is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that affects just over one percent of the adult population and is characterized by loss of contact with reality (psychosis), hallucinations (usually, hearing voices), firmly held false beliefs (delusions), abnormal thinking, a restricted range of emotions (flattened affect) or inappropriate and disorganized behavior, social withdrawal, and diminished motivation. The disease often strikes in the early adult years, and although many individuals experience some recovery, many others experience substantial and lifelong disability. People with schizophrenia often have problems functioning in society and in relationships and are over-represented on disability rolls and among the homeless and imprisoned. The precise causes of schizophrenia are not known, but current research suggests a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. Fundamentally, however, it is a biologic problem (involving changes in the brain), not one caused by poor parenting or a mentally unhealthy environment. Since the causes of schizophrenia are not clear, treatments focus on eliminating disease symptoms. Treatments include antipsychotic medications and various psychosocial treatments. ### Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Established in 1767, Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree and is among the most selective medical schools in the country. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest in the United States. www.cumc.columbia.edu Columbia Psychiatry is ranked among the best departments and psychiatric research facilities in the Nation and has contributed greatly to the understanding of and current treatment for psychiatric disorders. Located at the New York State Psychiatric Institute on the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center campus in the Washington Heights community of Upper Manhattan, the department enjoys a rich and productive collaborative relationship with physicians in various disciplines at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. Columbia Psychiatry is home to distinguished clinicians and researchers noted for their clinical and research advances in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, suicide, schizophrenia, bipolar and anxiety disorders, and childhood psychiatric disorders. http://columbiapsychiatry.org/

October 04, 2012

For some women, genes may influence pressure to be thin

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Genetics may make some women more vulnerable to the pressure of being thin, a study led by Michigan State University researchers has found. From size-zero models to airbrushed film stars, thinness is portrayed as equaling beauty across Western culture, and it's an ideal often cited as a cause of eating disorder symptoms in young women. The researchers focused on the potential psychological impact of women buying into this perceived ideal of thinness, which they call thin-ideal internalization. Changes in self-perception and behavior, caused by this idealization, can lead to body dissatisfaction, a preoccupation with weight and other symptoms of eating disorders. "We're all bombarded daily with messages extoling the virtues of being thin, yet intriguingly only some women develop what we term thin-ideal internalization," said Jessica Suisman, lead author on the study and a researcher in MSU's Department of Psychology. "This suggests that genetic factors may make some women more susceptible to this pressure than others." To explore the role of genetic factors in whether women "buy in" to the pressure to be thin, the idealization of thinness was studied in sets of twins. More than 300 female twins from the MSU Twin Registry, ages 12-22, took part in the study. Suisman and colleagues measured how much participants wanted to look like people from movies, TV and magazines. Once the levels of thin idealization were assessed, identical twins who share 100 percent of their genes were compared with fraternal twins who share 50 percent. The results show that identical twins have closer levels of thin idealization than fraternal twins, which suggests a significant role for genetics. Further analysis shows that the heritability of thin idealization is 43 percent, meaning that almost half of the reason women differ in their idealization of thinness can be explained by differences in their genetic makeup. In addition to the role of genes, findings showed that influences of the environment are also important. The results showed that differences between twins' environments have a greater role in the development of thin ideal internalization than wider cultural attitudes, which women throughout Western societies are exposed to. "We were surprised to find that shared environmental factors, such as exposure to the same media, did not have as big an impact as expected," Suisman said. "Instead, non-shared factors that make co-twins different from each other had the greatest impact." Although the study did not look at specific environmental triggers, non-shared environmental influences typically include experiences that twins do not share with one another. This could include involvement by one twin in a weight-focused sport like dance, one twin being exposed to more media that promotes thinness than the other, or one of the twins having a friendship group that places importance on weight. "The take-home message," Suisman said, "is that the broad cultural risk factors that we thought were most influential in the development of thin-ideal internalization are not as important as genetic risk and environmental risk factors that are specific and unique to each twin." Kelly Klump, MSU professor of psychology and co-author on the study, said it is well established that a broad range of factors can contribute to the development of eating disorders LPC Continuing Education "This study reveals the need to take a similar approach to the ways in which women buy in to pressure to be thin, by considering how both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of thin-ideal internalization," Klump said. ### The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, appears in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Co-authors include Shannon O'Connor, Alexandra Burt and Cheryl Sisk from MSU; Steffanie Sperry and Kevin Thompson from the University of South Florida; Pamela Keel from Florida State University; Michael Neale from Virginia Commonwealth University; and Steven Boker from the University of Virginia.

October 01, 2012

Potential new class of drugs blocks nerve cell death

Potential new class of drugs protects nerve cells in models of Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis Diseases that progressively destroy nerve cells in the brain or spinal cord, such as Parkinson's disease (PD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), are devastating conditions with no cures. Now, a team that includes a University of Iowa researcher has identified a new class of small molecules, called the P7C3 series, which block cell death in animal models of these forms of neurodegenerative disease. The P7C3 series could be a starting point for developing drugs that might help treat patients with these diseases. These findings are reported in two new studies published the week of Oct. 1 in PNAS Early Edition. "We believe that our strategy for identifying and testing these molecules in animal models of disease gives us a rational way to develop a new class of neuroprotective drugs, for which there is a great, unmet need," says Andrew Pieper, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the UI Carver College of Medicine, and senior author of the two studies. About six years ago, Pieper, then at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and his colleagues screened thousands of compounds in living mice in search of small, drug-like molecules that could boost production of neurons in a region of the brain called the hippocampus. They found one compound that appeared to be particularly successful and called it P7C3. "We were interested in the hippocampus because new neurons are born there every day. But, this neurogenesis is dampened by certain diseases and also by normal aging," Pieper explains. "We were looking for small drug-like molecules that might enhance production of new neurons and help maintain proper functioning in the hippocampus." However, when the researchers looked more closely at P7C3, they found that it worked by protecting the newborn neurons from cell death. That finding prompted them to ask whether P7C3 might also protect existing, mature neurons in other regions of the nervous system from dying as well, as occurs in neurodegenerative disease. Using mouse and worm models of PD and a mouse model of ALS, the research team has now shown that P7C3 and a related, more active compound, P7C3A20, do in fact potently protect the neurons that normally are destroyed by these diseases. Their studies also showed that protection of the neurons correlates with improvement of some disease symptoms, including maintaining normal movement in PD worms, and coordination and strength in ALS mice. Of mice and worms In the ALS mouse model, a highly active variant of the original P7C3 molecule, known as P7C3A20, which the investigators synthesized, largely prevented death of the nerve cells within the spinal cord that are normally destroyed by this disease. The P7C3 molecule also worked, but was not as effective at protecting neurons in this model. As cell survival increased in the ALS model, coordination and strength of the mice improved as well. Mice that were given P7C3A20 were able to stay on a rotating rod much longer than untreated animals or animals that received the less active compounds. Animals receiving P7C3A20 also performed better in analysis of their walking gait, which typically worsens in these animals as the disease progresses. In PD, dopamine-producing neurons necessary for normal movement are gradually destroyed. In patients, loss of these brain cells leads to tremors, stiffness, and difficulty walking. The study again showed that P7C3 protects these neurons from cell death and the more active analogue, P7C3A20, provided even greater protection. The two compounds also potently blocked cell death of dopaminergic neurons in a C. elegans worm model of PD. Moreover, reduced cell death in this model was associated with improved movement in the worms. Healthy C. elegans worms have a very characteristic swimming motion. This movement is disrupted in the PD worm. Hector De Jesus-Cortes, a graduate student of neuroscience at UT Southwestern Medical Center and lead author of the Parkinson's study, videotaped and analyzed the PD worms' mobility with and without treatment. Normal swimming was almost completely preserved with P7C3A20, and was also fairly well preserved with P7C3. Tweaking the molecule The research team compared the activity of several new P7C3-related compounds that they synthesized, in both the hippocampal neurogenesis screen and the mouse model of PD. "Every variation of our P7C3 molecule that works in the neurogenesis assay also works in the PD model," Pieper says. "As we continue to refine the molecule, our hope is that the results from the neurogenesis assay will accurately predict the neuroprotective potency of the compound, and thus aid in more rapidly optimizing a new neuroprotective agent." Nursing CEUs The team plans to continue tweaking the structure of the P7C3 molecule to improve its neuroprotective ability while eliminating potential side effects. "Our hope is that this work will form the basis for designing a neuroprotective drug that could eventually help patients," Pieper says. ### Pieper and De Jesus-Cortes conducted the study with colleagues at UT Southwestern Medical Center, including Steven McKnight, Ph.D., chairman of biochemistry, and Joseph Ready, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry. The work was funded in part by grants from the National Institute for Mental Health.

September 30, 2012

Ready for Your Close-Up?

Caltech study shows that the distance at which facial photos are taken influences perception PASADENA, Calif.—As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." For people in certain professions—acting, modeling, and even politics—this phrase rings particularly true. Previous studies have examined how our social judgments of pictures of people are influenced by factors such as whether the person is smiling or frowning, but until now one factor has never been investigated: the distance between the photographer and the subject. According to a new study by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), this turns out to make a difference—close-up photo subjects, the study found, are judged to look less trustworthy, less competent, and less attractive. The new finding is described in this week's issue of the open-access journal PLoS One. Pietro Perona, the Allen E. Puckett Professor of Electrical Engineering at Caltech, came up with the initial idea for the study. Perona, an art history enthusiast, suspected that Renaissance portrait paintings often featured subtle geometric warping of faces to make the viewer feel closer or more distant to a subject. Perona wondered if the same sort of warping might affect photographic portraits—with a similar effect on their viewers—so he collaborated with Ralph Adolphs, Bren Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and professor of biology, and CNS graduate student Ronnie Bryan (PhD '12) to gather opinions on 36 photographs representing two different images of 18 individuals. One of each pair of images was taken at close range and the second at a distance of about seven feet. "It turns out that faces photographed quite close-up are geometrically warped, compared to photos taken at a larger distance," explains Bryan. "Of course, the close picture would also normally be larger, higher resolution and have different lighting—but we controlled for all of that in our study. What you're left with is a warping effect that is so subtle that nobody in our study actually noticed it. Nonetheless, it's a perceptual clue that influenced their judgments." That subtle distance warping, however, had a big effect: close-up photos made people look less trustworthy, according to study participants. The close-up photo subjects were also judged to look less attractive and competent. "This was a surprising, and surprisingly reliable, effect," says Adolphs. "We went through a bunch of experiments, some testing people in the lab, and some even over the Internet; we asked participants to rate trustworthiness of faces, and in some experiments we asked them to invest real money in unfamiliar people whose faces they saw as a direct measure of how much they trusted them." Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Continuing Education Across all of the studies, the researchers saw the same effect, Adolphs says: in photos taken from a distance of around two feet, a person looked untrustworthy, compared to photos taken seven feet away. These two distances were chosen by the researchers because one is within, and the other outside of, personal space—which on average is about three to four feet from the body. In some of the studies, the researchers digitally warped images of faces taken at a distance to artificially manipulate how trustworthy they would appear. "Once you know the relation between the distance warp and the trustworthiness judgment, you could manipulate photos of faces and change the perceived trustworthiness,'' notes Perona. He says that the group is now planning to build on these findings, using machine-vision techniques—technologies that can automatically analyze data in images. For example, one application would be for a computer program to have the ability to evaluate any face image in a magazine or on the Internet and to estimate the distance at which the photo was taken. "The work might also allow us to estimate the perceived trustworthiness of a particular face image," says Perona. "You could imagine that many people would be interested in such applications—particularly in the political arena." The study, "Perspective Distortion from Interpersonal Distance Is an Implicit Visual Cue for Social Judgments of Faces," was funded by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Written by Katie Neith

September 29, 2012

Popular HIV drug may cause memory declines

Johns Hopkins study suggests the commonly prescribed anti-retroviral drug efavirenz attacks brain cells The way the body metabolizes a commonly prescribed anti-retroviral drug that is used long term by patients infected with HIV may contribute to cognitive impairment by damaging nerve cells, a new Johns Hopkins research suggests. Nearly 50 percent of people infected with HIV will eventually develop some form of brain damage that, while mild, can affect the ability to drive, work or participate in many daily activities. It has long been assumed that the disease was causing the damage, but Hopkins researchers say the drug efavirenz may play a key role. People infected with HIV typically take a cocktail of medications to suppress the virus, and many will take the drugs for decades. Efavirenz is known to be very good at controlling the virus and is one of the few that crosses the blood-brain barrier and can target potential reservoirs of virus in the brain. Doctors have long believed that it might be possible to alleviate cognitive impairment associated with HIV by getting more drugs into the brain, but researchers say more caution is needed because there may be long-term effects of these drugs on the brain. "People with HIV infections can't stop taking anti-retroviral drugs. We know what happens then and it's not good," says Norman J. Haughey, Ph.D., an associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "But we need to be very careful about the types of anti-retrovirals we prescribe, and take a closer look at their long-term effects. Drug toxicities could be a major contributing factor to cognitive impairment in patients with HIV." For the study led by Haughey and described online in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, researchers obtained samples of blood and cerebrospinal fluid from HIV-infected subjects enrolled in the NorthEastern AIDS Dementia study who were taking efavirenz. Researchers looked for levels of the drug and its various metabolites, which are substances created when efavirenz is broken down by the liver. Performing experiments on neurons cultured in the lab, the investigators examined the effects of 8-hydroxyefavirenz and other metabolites and found major structural changes when using low levels of 8-hydroxyefavirenz, including the loss of the important spines of the cells. Haughey and his colleagues found that 8-hydroxyefavirenz is 10 times more toxic to brain cells than the drug itself and, even in low concentrations, causes damage to the dendritic spines of neurons. The dendritic spine is the information processing point of a neuron, where synapses — the structures that allow communication among brain cells — are located. In the case of efavirenz, a minor modification in the drug's structure may be able block its toxic effects but not alter its ability to suppress the virus. Namandje N. Bumpus, Ph.D., one of the study's other authors, has found a way to modify the drug to prevent it from metabolizing into 8-hydroxyefavirenz while maintaining its effectiveness as a tool to suppress the HIV virus. "Finding and stating a problem is one thing, but it's another to be able to say we have found this problem and here is an easy fix," Haughey says. Haughey says studies like his serve as a reminder that while people infected with HIV are living longer than they were 20 years ago, there are significant problems associated with the drugs used to treat the infection. "Some people do seem to have this attitude that HIV is no longer a death sentence," he says. "But even with anti-retroviral treatments, people infected with HIV have shortened lifespans and the chance of cognitive decline is high. It's nothing you should treat lightly." HIV and AIDS CE Course ### The study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (AA0017408), the National Institute of Mental Health (MH077543, MH075673 and MH71150), the National Institute on Aging (AG034849) and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NS049465). Other Hopkins researchers involved in the study include Luis B. Tovar y Romo, Ph.D.; Lindsay B. Avery, Ph.D.; Ned Sacktor, M.D.; and Justin McArthur, M.B.B.S., M.P.H. For more information: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/research/jhu_nimh/researchers

September 25, 2012

Suicide Now Kills More Americans Than Car Crashes: Study

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Suicide Now Kills More Americans Than Car Crashes: Prevention efforts lowered traffic fatalities, more attention needed for suicide, experts say ***************************************************** Suicide Prevention CE Course (7 hours) Description $ - For course pricing details, see our Pricing page by clicking on the "Pricing" tab This course is designed to help you: Increase awareness of suicide prevention methods Increase familiarity with broad based support systems Become familiar with strategies to reduce stigma Learn how to promote efforts to reduce efforts to lethal means of self harm. Identify at risk behavior Implement appropriate treatment and resources Develop and Promote Effective Clinical and Professional Practices CEU LPC, ceus mft, ceu’s for social workers, BBS approved, NBCC provider, nursing ceus, online ceus, ceus for MFTs, ce courses for counselors, Social Worker ceus, continuing education units for LPCs, MHC ceus, LCSW, ASW and MFT Intern ceus, Board approved ceus in many states, national board approval ceus, alcohol and drug abuse counselor ceus. See chart below for your state and license.

September 24, 2012

Feeling Guilty Versus Feeling Angry – Who Can Tell the Difference?

When you rear-end the car in front of you at a stoplight, you may feel a mix of different emotions such as anger, anxiety, and guilt. The person whose car you rear-ended may feel angered and frustrated by your carelessness, but it’s unlikely that he’ll feel much guilt. The ability to identify and distinguish between negative emotions helps us address the problem that led to those emotions in the first place. But while some people can tell the difference between feeling angry and guilty, others may not be able to separate the two. Distinguishing between anger and frustration is even harder. In a study forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientist Emre Demiralp of the University of Michigan and his colleagues hypothesized that clinically depressed people would be less able to discriminate between different types of negative emotions compared to healthy individuals. Clinically depressed people often experience feelings of sadness, anger, fear, or frustration that interfere with everyday life. “It is difficult to improve your life without knowing whether you are sad or angry about some aspect of it,” says Demiralp. “For example, imagine not having a gauge independently indicating the gasoline level of your car. It would be challenging to know when to stop for gas. We wanted to investigate whether people with clinical depression had emotional gauges that were informative and whether they experienced emotions with the same level of specificity and differentiation as healthy people.” The researchers recruited 106 people between the ages of 18 and 40 to participate in their study. Half of the participants were diagnosed with clinical depression and half were not. Over the course of seven to eight days, they carried a Palm Pilot, which prompted them to record emotions at 56 random times during the day. To report their emotions, they marked the degree to which they felt seven negative emotions (sad, anxious, angry, frustrated, ashamed, disgusted, and guilty) and four positive emotions (happy, excited, alert, and active) on a scale from one to four. Demiralp and his colleagues looked at participants’ tendency to give multiple emotions (e.g., disgusted and frustrated) similar rankings at a given point in time. According to their methodology, the more two emotions were reported together the less the person differentiated between these emotions. The researchers found that clinically depressed people had less differentiated negative emotions than those who were healthy, supporting their hypothesis. Notably, they did not find the same difference between groups for positive emotions—people with and without diagnosed clinical depression were equally able to differentiate between positive emotions. It is possible that people who are clinically depressed differentiate more between positive emotions as a coping mechanism. Demiralp and his colleagues argue that the procedure used in the study to record emotions may be particularly useful in studying the emotional experience of clinically depressed people, paving the way for more treatment and therapy options in the future. “Our results suggest that being specific about your negative emotions might be good for you”, says Demiralp. “It might be best to avoid thinking that you are feeling generally bad or unpleasant. Be specific. Is it anger, shame, guilt or some other emotion? This can help you circumvent it and improve your life. It is one of our overarching goals to investigate approaches for facilitating this kind of emotional intelligence at a large scale in the population.” *** This research was supported by NIMH grants MH60655 to John Jonides, MH59259 to Ian H. Gotlib, and F32 MH091831 to Renee J. Thompson, SNF Fellowship PA001/117473 to Susanne Jaeggi, and fellowships SFRH/BPD/35953/2007 from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia and Wi3496/41 from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft awarded to Jutta Mata. Jutta Mata is now at the University of Basel, Switzerland LPCC Continuing Education ### For more information about this study, please contact: Emre Demiralp at emredemi@umich.edu. The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "Feeling Blue or Turquoise? Emotional Differentiation in Major Depressive Disorder" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or amikulak@psychologicalscience.org.

September 23, 2012

New national strategy paves way for reducing suicide deaths

Today on World Suicide Prevention Day, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) released an ambitious national strategy to reduce the number of deaths by suicide. The strategy was called for by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates when they launched the Action Alliance on Sept. 10, 2010. The 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, a report from the U.S. Surgeon General and the Action Alliance, details 13 goals and 60 objectives for reducing suicides over the next 10 years. The Action Alliance, co-chaired by Gordon Smith, chief executive of the National Association of Broadcasters, and Army Secretary John McHugh, highlights four immediate priorities to reduce the number of suicides: integrating suicide prevention into health care policies; encouraging the transformation of health care systems to prevent suicide; changing the way the public talks about suicide and suicide prevention; and improving the quality of data on suicidal behaviors to develop increasingly effective prevention efforts. The Obama Administration also announced a series of activities that will help prevent suicide: •Secretary Sebelius announced $55.6 million in new grants for national, state, tribal, campus and community suicide prevention programs made possible under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act and partially funded by the Prevention and Public Health Fund under the Affordable Care Act, the health care law enacted in 2010. •The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched, Stand by Them: Help a Veteran, a joint VA-Department of Defense (DoD) outreach campaign that includes a new public service announcement, Side by Side, designed to help prevent suicide among veterans and servicemembers and focuses on the important role family and community play in supporting Veterans in crisis. Throughout September and beyond, VA and DoD are urging community-based organizations, Veterans Service Organizations, health care providers, private companies and other government agencies to connect Veterans and Service members in need of assistance to the Veterans Crisis Line ( 1-800-273-8255 , press 1). Additionally, as directed by President Obama’s Mental Health Executive Order issued August 31st, VA is also increasing the workforce of the Crisis Line by 50% and hiring 1,600 new mental health professionals. “Our message today is one of hope,” Secretary Sebelius said. “The national strategy will bring together the nation’s resources, both public and private, in an organized effort to provide life saving services and improve the ability of individuals, friends and family members to recognize the warning signs of despair and take action to save lives.” “By implementing this plan, we will engage diverse sectors of our communities, from health care systems and policy-makers to the media and public,” said Gordon Smith, a former U.S. senator from Oregon. “It will take all of our efforts to win this fight against suicide that touches so many American lives.” VA Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould said, “All of us working together - friends, family, neighbors, the public and the private sector - can make a difference for Service members and Veterans transitioning back into their communities. Recognizing the warning signs of suicide and knowing where to turn for help will save lives.” Army Secretary McHugh commented on the impact of suicide on the military community in particular. “Suicide is one of the most challenging issues we face,” he said. “In the Army, suicide prevention requires soldiers to look out for fellow soldiers. We must foster an environment that encourages people in need to seek help and be supported.” Suicide is a public health issue that results in an average of 100 American deaths each day, more than double the average number of homicides. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more that 8 million adults in the United States had serious thoughts of suicide within the past 12 months. The first National Strategy for Suicide Prevention was launched in 2001 by then-Surgeon General David Satcher. The progress achieved over the years, the significant advances in knowledge, research and practice of preventing suicide, and public comment informed the development of the new Strategy by the Action Alliance. Since the development of the first strategy, more than 100 best practices in suicide prevention are now documented and form the foundation of the new strategy. “The latest research shows that suicide is preventable, suicidal behaviors are treatable, and the support of families, friends, and colleagues are critical protective factors. Suicide prevention needs to be addressed in the comprehensive, coordinated way outlined in the national strategy,” said Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin. Dr. Benjamin also released a new public service announcement promoting the national suicide prevention line –1-800-273-TALK(8255). The Action Alliance is composed of approximately 200 public- and private- sector organizations united by a common vision of a nation free from the tragic experience of suicide. One of the private sector partners, Facebook is supporting the strategy by harnessing the power of social networking and crisis support to help prevent suicides across the nation. "All too often, people in crisis do not know how—or who—to ask for help,” said Facebook’s Global VP for Public Policy, Marne Levine. “At Facebook, we have a unique opportunity to provide the right resources to our users in distress, when and where they need them most. By enabling connection to trained and caring professionals around the world, we can do our part to let users know help is available. Through a concerted and coordinated effort on the part of private industry, government, and concerned family and friends, we can make a real difference in preventing suicide and saving lives." A new service offered by Facebook enables users to report a suicidal comment they see posted by a friend to Facebook using either the Report Suicidal Content link or the report links found throughout the site. The person who posted the suicidal comment will then immediately receive an email from Facebook encouraging him or her to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or to click on a link to begin a confidential chat session with a crisis worker. Additionally, •If you are concerned about yourself or someone you care about, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 for free, confidential help ( 1-800-273-8255 ). •To view or order printed copies of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and other materials, visit www.samhsa.gov/NSSP. •To learn more about suicide prevention, visit www.sprc.org. •To view the U.S. Surgeon General’s new “Everyone Plays A Role” PSA, visit http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/ •To view the Department of Veterans Affairs new “Side by Side” PSA, visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/materials/spmsupport/files/side-by-side-SD-eng-60-cc.wmv -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

September 19, 2012

Genetic Switch Involved in Depression

The activity of a single gene sets in motion some of the brain changes seen in depression, according to a new study. The finding suggests a promising target for potential therapies. People with major depressive disorder, or major depression, have feelings of sadness, loss, anger or frustration that interfere with daily life for weeks or longer. The symptoms of depression also include memory loss and trouble thinking. Past studies have found that people with major depression have brains that are physically different from those of non-depressed people. The depressed brain has a smaller prefrontal cortex, a region at the front of the brain that handles emotion and complicated thought. The area also has fewer and smaller neurons (nerve cells) in the depressed brain. To gain insight into the neural mechanisms at work, a group led by Dr. Ronald Duman of Yale University began with data collected in a previous study. They had done a comparison of postmortem brains from 15 depressed people and 15 non-depressed people who were matched in age, ethnicity and gender. Using DNA microarray chips to analyze the activity of 20,000 genes, the researchers had found numerous genes that were expressed (turned on and off) differently in the brains of depressed people. For the new study, the team focused specifically on genes related to synapses, the place where signals pass from one neuron to another. The work was funded in part by NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and National Center for Research Resources (NCRR). The findings were published in the September 2012 issue of Nature Medicine. Analysis revealed that about 30% of the genes with significantly lower expression in the depressed brains related to some aspect of synapse function. Further experiments found significantly reduced expression for 5 particular genes in the prefrontal cortex of depressed people. The scientists searched for transcription factors—proteins that bind to the DNA of other genes to turn them on or off—that were capable of regulating the 5 genes. They found one called GATA1 that is expressed significantly more in the brains of people with major depressive disorder. Expression of the Gata1 gene in the prefrontal cortex was also higher in a rat model of depression. Raising expression of Gata1 in cultured rat neurons decreased the expression of synapse-related genes. It also decreased the number of connections between neurons, supporting the idea that higher Gata1 expression can lead to the changes seen in depressed brains. The researchers next tested the gene in rats and found that putting extra copies of Gata1 into their brains made them behave as if they were depressed MHC Ceus “We show that circuits normally involved in emotion, as well as cognition, are disrupted when this single transcription factor is activated,” Duman explains. These findings may point toward a new target for treatment. “We hope that by enhancing synaptic connections, either with novel medications or behavioral interventions, we can develop more effective antidepressant therapies,” says Duman. — by Helen Fields Related Links: Depression: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml More Young Neurons Equals Better Brain Function: http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters/april2011/ 04112011brainfunction.htm Brain Basics: Know Your Brain: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/know_your_brain.htm Reference: Nat Med. 2012 Aug 12. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 22885997.

September 18, 2012

Study provides roadmap for delirium risks, prevention, treatment, prognosis and research

INDIANAPOLIS -- Delirium, a common acute condition with significant short- and long-term effects on cognition and function, should be identified as an indicator of poor long-term prognosis, prompting immediate and effective management strategies, according to the authors of a new systematic evidence review ceus for nurses "Delirium is extremely common among older adults in intensive care units and is not uncommon in other hospital units and in nursing homes, but too often it's ignored or accepted as inevitable. Delirium significantly increases risk of developing dementia and triples likelihood of death. It can't be ignored," said Regenstrief Institute investigator Babar A. Khan, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and an Indiana University Center for Aging Research scientist, the first author of the review. The authors reviewed 45 years of research encompassing 585 studies to provide a roadmap for the identification of risks, prevention and treatment options as well as prognoses related to delirium. "As an intensive care unit physician, I have seen that about 80 percent of ICU patients who need mechanical assistance to breathe develop delirium," Dr. Khan said. "That's because in addition to being on a respirator, they have multiple risk factors that can predispose and precipitate delirium, including but not limited to serious illness, restraints and pre-existing cognitive impairment." According to the American Delirium Society, more than 7 million hospitalized Americans suffer from delirium each year, and more than 60 percent of delirium cases are not recognized or treated. "Having delirium prolongs the length of a hospital stay, increases the risk of post-hospitalization transfer to a nursing home, increases the risk of death and may lead to permanent brain damage," said Regenstrief Institute investigator Malaz Boustani, M.D., MPH, associate professor of medicine at IU School of Medicine and associate director of the IU Center for Aging Research. Dr. Boustani, senior author of the new study, is medical director of the Wishard Healthy Aging Brain Center and president of the American Delirium Society. How to lower the likelihood of delirium and increase recognition of cases that occur? Drs. Khan and Boustani recommend eliminating restraints, treating depression, ensuring that patients have access to eyeglasses and hearing aids, and prescribing classes of antipsychotics that do not negatively affect the aging brain. They and the other study authors note the need for a more sensitive screening tool for delirium, especially when administered by a non-expert. "Delirium in Hospitalized Patients: Implications of Current Evidence on Clinical Practice and Future Avenues for Research -- A Systematic Evidence Review" was published in the September issue of Journal of Hospital Medicine. In addition to presenting evidence for clinical practice, it identifies areas for future delirium research. ### The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging (grant AG054205-02) and the National Institute of Mental Health (grant MH080827-04). In addition to Drs. Khan and Boustani, authors of the paper are Mohammed Zawahiri, M.D., of the Regenstrief Institute and IU Center for Aging Research; Regenstrief Investigator Noll L. Campbell, Pharm.D., of Purdue University and Wishard Health Services; George C. Fox, M.D., MRCPsych, University of East Anglia, Norfolk, U.K.; Eric J. Weinstein, M.D., of Tri-State Pulmonary Associates, Cincinnati, Ohio; Arif Nazir, M.D., Mark O. Farber, M.D., and John D. Buckley, M.D., MPH, of the IU School of Medicine; and Alasdair MacLullich, Ph.D., of the University of Edinburgh.

September 17, 2012

Simple tool may help evaluate risk for violence among patients with mental illness

Mental health professionals, who often are tasked with evaluating and managing the risk of violence by their patients, may benefit from a simple tool to more accurately make a risk assessment, according to a recent study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco. The research, led by psychiatrist Alan Teo, MD, when he was a UCSF medical resident, examined how accurate psychiatrists were at evaluating risk of violence by acutely ill patients admitted to psychiatric units. The first part of the study showed that inexperienced psychiatric residents performed no better than they would have by chance, whereas veteran psychiatrists were moderately successful in evaluating their patients' risk of violence. However, the second part of the study showed that when researchers applied the information from the "Historical, Clinical, Risk Management󈞀–Clinical" (HRC-20-C) scale – a brief, structured risk assessment tool – to the patients evaluated by residents, accuracy in identifying their potential for violence increased to a level nearly as high as the faculty psychiatrists', who had an average of 15 years more experience. "Similar to a checklist a pilot might use before takeoff, the HRC-20-C has just five items that any trained mental health professional can use to assess their patients," Teo said. "To improve the safety for staff and patients in high-risk settings, it is critical to teach budding psychiatrists and other mental health professionals how to use a practical tool such as this one." The study was published Aug. 31 in the journal Psychiatric Services. The HCR-20-C was developed several years ago by researchers in Canada, where it is used in a number of settings such as prisons and hospitals. However, in the United States, structured tools such as the HCR-20-C are only beginning to be used in hospitals. "This is the first study to compare the accuracy of risk assessments by senior psychiatrists to those completed by psychiatric residents," said senior author Dale McNiel, PhD, UCSF professor of clinical psychology. "It shows that clinicians with limited training and experience tend to be inaccurate in their risk assessments, and that structured methods such as HCR-20-C hold promise for improving training in risk assessment for violence." "The UCSF study was unusual," Teo added, "in applying a shorter version of the tool that could be more easily incorporated into clinical practice." Teo and his team assessed the doctors' accuracy by comparing the risk assessments that they made at the time patients were admitted to the hospital, to whether or not patients later became physically aggressive toward hospital staff members, such as by hitting, kicking or biting. The study included 151 patients who became violent and 150 patients who did not become violent mhc continuing education The patients in the study had severe mental illnesses, often schizophrenia, and had been involuntarily admitted to the hospital. ### The study was partly supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, a Minority Fellowship sponsored by the American Psychiatric Association and the Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institute of Health (NIH). When this study was conducted, all of the authors were affiliated with the UCSF Department of Psychiatry. Teo now is with the Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Sarah Holley, PhD, a co-author, now is with the Department of Psychology, San Francisco State University. Mark Leary, MD, of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, also is a co-author. UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.