April 29, 2013

Forced exercise may still protect against anxiety and stress, says CU-Boulder study

Being forced to exercise may still help reduce anxiety and depression just as exercising voluntarily does, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder. Past studies have shown that people who exercise are more protected against stress-related disorders. And scientists know that the perception of control can benefit a person's mental health. But it has been an open question whether a person who feels forced to exercise, eliminating the perception of control, would still reap the anxiety-fighting benefits of the exercise. People who may feel forced to exercise could include high school, college and professional athletes, members of the military or those who have been prescribed an exercise regimen by their doctors, said Benjamin Greenwood, an assistant research professor in CU-Boulder's Department of Integrative Physiology. "If exercise is forced, will it still produce mental health benefits?" Greenwood asked. "It's obvious that forced exercise will still produce peripheral physiological benefits. But will it produce benefits to anxiety and depression?" To seek an answer to the question Greenwood and his colleagues, including Monika Fleshner, a professor in the same department, designed a lab experiment using rats. During a six-week period, some rats remained sedentary, while others exercised by running on a wheel. The rats that exercised were divided into two groups that ran a roughly equal amount of time. One group ran whenever it chose to, while the other group ran on mechanized wheels that rotated according to a predetermined schedule. For the study, the motorized wheels turned on at speeds and for periods of time that mimicked the average pattern of exercise chosen by the rats that voluntarily exercised. After six weeks, the rats were exposed to a laboratory stressor before testing their anxiety levels the following day. The anxiety was quantified by measuring how long the rats froze, a phenomenon similar to a deer in the headlights, when they were put in an environment they had been conditioned to fear. The longer the freezing time, the greater the residual anxiety from being stressed the previous day. For comparison, some rats were also tested for anxiety without being stressed the day before. "Regardless of whether the rats chose to run or were forced to run they were protected against stress and anxiety," said Greenwood, lead author of the study appearing in the European Journal of Neuroscience in February. The sedentary rats froze for longer periods of time than any of the active rats. "The implications are that humans who perceive exercise as being forced — perhaps including those who feel like they have to exercise for health reasons — are maybe still going to get the benefits in terms of reducing anxiety and depression," he said. Anxiety Disorders CE Course ### Other CU-Boulder authors include Katie Spence, Danielle Crevling, Peter Clark and Wendy Craig. All the authors are members of Monika Fleshner's Stress Physiology Laboratory in the Department of Integrative Physiology. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

April 21, 2013

Brain scans might predict future criminal behavior

Low anterior cingulate activity linked to repeat offenses ALBUQUERQUE, NM and DURHAM, NC--A new study conducted by The Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, N.M., shows that neuroimaging data can predict the likelihood of whether a criminal will reoffend following release from prison. The paper, which is to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, studied impulsive and antisocial behavior and centered on the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a portion of the brain that deals with regulating behavior and impulsivity. You can view the paper by clicking here: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1219302110. The study demonstrated that inmates with relatively low anterior cingulate activity were twice as likely to reoffend than inmates with high-brain activity in this region. "These findings have incredibly significant ramifications for the future of how our society deals with criminal justice and offenders," said Dr. Kent A. Kiehl, who was senior author on the study and is director of mobile imaging at MRN and an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. "Not only does this study give us a tool to predict which criminals may reoffend and which ones will not reoffend, it also provides a path forward for steering offenders into more effective targeted therapies to reduce the risk of future criminal activity." The study looked at 96 adult male criminal offenders aged 20-52 who volunteered to participate in research studies. This study population was followed over a period of up to four years after inmates were released from prison. "These results point the way toward a promising method of neuroprediction with great practical potential in the legal system," said Dr. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Philosophy Department and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, who collaborated on the study. "Much more work needs to be done, but this line of research could help to make our criminal justice system more effective." The study used the Mind Research Network's Mobile Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) System to collect neuroimaging data as the inmate volunteers completed a series of mental tests. "People who reoffended were much more likely to have lower activity in the anterior cingulate cortices than those who had higher functioning ACCs," Kiehl said. "This means we can see on an MRI a part of the brain that might not be working correctly -- giving us a look into who is more likely to demonstrate impulsive and anti-social behavior that leads to re-arrest." The anterior cingulate cortex of the brain is "associated with error processing, conflict monitoring, response selection, and avoidance learning," according to the paper. People who have this area of the brain damaged have been "shown to produce changes in disinhibition, apathy, and aggressiveness. Indeed, ACC-damaged patients have been classed in the 'acquired psychopathic personality' genre." Kiehl says he is working on developing treatments that increase activity within the ACC to attempt to treat the high-risk offenders. ### The four-year study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and pilot funds by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Law and Neuroscience Project. The study was conducted in collaboration with the New Mexico Corrections Department. ABOUT THE MIND RESEARCH NETWORK The Mind Research Network (MRN), headquartered in Albuquerque, N.M., is committed to advancing the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and other brain disorders. MRN is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization consisting of an interdisciplinary association of scientists located at universities, national laboratories and research centers around the world and is focused on imaging technology and its emergence as an integral element of neuroscience investigation. The Mind Research Network is a part of the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute family of companies Professional Counselor Continuing Education Learn more at http://www.mrn.org

April 10, 2013

Fat-free See-through Brain Bares All

Method Enables 3-D Analysis of Fine Structure and Connections – NIH-funded Study Slicing optional. Scientists can now study the brain’s finer workings, while preserving its 3-D structure and integrity of its circuitry and other biological machinery. A breakthrough method, called CLARITY, developed by National Institutes of Health-funded researchers, opens the intact postmortem brain to chemical, genetic and optical analyses that previously could only be performed using thin slices of tissue. By replacing fat that normally holds the brain’s working components in place with a clear gel, they made its normally opaque and impenetrable tissue see-through and permeable. This made it possible to image an intact mouse brain in high resolution down to the level of cells and molecules. The technique was even used successfully to study a human brain. “CLARITY has the potential to unmask fine details of brains from people with brain disorders without losing larger-scale circuit perspective,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., whose NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award Program helped to fund the research, along with a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health NIMH. “CLARITY will help support integrative understanding of large-scale, intact biological systems, explained Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., of Stanford University in California. “It provides access to subcellular proteins and molecules, while preserving the continuity of intact neuronal structures such as long-range circuit projections, local circuit wiring and cellular spatial relationships.” Deisseroth, Kwanghun Chung, Ph.D., and other Stanford colleagues report on their findings April 10, 2013 in the journal Nature. “This feat of chemical engineering promises to transform the way we study the brain’s anatomy and how disease changes it,” said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. “No longer will the in-depth study of our most important three-dimensional organ be constrained by two-dimensional methods.” Until now, researchers seeking to understand the brain’s fine structure and connections have been faced with tradeoffs. To gain access to deeply buried structures and achieve high enough resolution to study cells, molecules and genes, they had to cut brain tissue into extremely thin sections (each a fraction of a millimeter thick), deforming it. Loss of an intact brain also makes it difficult to relate such micro-level findings to more macro-level information about wiring and circuitry, which cuts across slices. In tackling this challenge, the researchers saw opportunity in the fact that the fats, or lipids, that physically support the brain’s working components, such as neurons and their connections, also block chemical probes and the passage of light. So replacing the lipids with something clear and permeable – that would also hold everything else in place – might make it possible to perform the same tests in an intact brain that previously could only be done with brain tissue slices. Deisseroth’s team infused into brain a high-tech cocktail, including a plastic-like material and formaldehyde. When heated, it formed a transparent, porous gel that biochemically integrated with, and physically supported, the brain’s working tissue – while excluding the lipids, which were safely removed via an electrochemical process. The result was a brain transformed for optimal accessibility. They called the new method Clear Lipid-exchanged Anatomically Rigid Imaging/immunostaining-compatible Tissue Hydrogel – CLARITY, for short. Using CLARITY, the researchers imaged the entire brain of a mouse that had been genetically engineered to express a fluorescent protein. A conventional microscope revealed glowing details, such as proteins embedded in cell membranes and individual nerve fibers, while an electron microscope resolved even ultra-fine structures, such as synapses, the connections between neurons. In a series of experiments using CLARITY in mouse brain, the researchers demonstrated that, for the first time, standard immune- and genetics-based tests can be performed repeatedly in the same intact brain. Tracer molecules, such as antibodies, can be readily delivered for staining tissue – or removed – leaving brain tissue undisturbed. The researchers found that CLARITY outperformed conventional methods across a range of previously problematic technical challenges. When they used CLARITY to analyze a post-mortem human brain of a person who had autism, even though it had been hardening in formaldehyde for six years, they were able to trace individual nerve fibers, neuronal cell bodies and their extensions. Free continuing education course material at Aspira Continuing Education Online Courses

April 01, 2013

Autism Risk Unrelated to Total Vaccine Exposure in Early Childhood

A child’s risk for developing an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not increased by receiving “too many vaccines too soon,” according to a new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics. Although previous scientific evidence has shown that vaccines do not cause autism, more than 1 in 10 parents refuse or delay vaccinations for their young children. A main safety concern of these parents is the number of vaccines administered, both on a single day and over the course of a child’s first 2 years of life. In the first study of its kind, researchers from the CDC and Abt Associates, Inc. compared vaccine records for over 1000 children born from 1994–1999, some of whom were later diagnosed with ASD. The researchers calculated the total number of vaccine antigens each child received between birth and age 2, as well as the maximum number of antigens each child received on a single day. The study found that the total number of vaccine antigens received was the same between children with ASD and those without ASD. Additionally, antigen number was also found to be unrelated to the development of two sub-categories of ASD—autistic disorder and ASD with regression LCSW Continuing Education The researchers concluded, “The possibility that immunological stimulation from vaccines during the first 1 or 2 years of life could be related to the development of ASD is not well-supported by what is known about the neurobiology of ASDs.”