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Posts Tagged ‘brain’

I found an article that gives new meaning to the concept of listening to your gut. The opening line reads “Early digestive problems may hardwire the brain for depression.”

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028136.500-do-early-gut-problems-set-the-brain-up-for-depression.html

Researchers at Stanford are trying to figure out which comes first, the gut problems or the depression.  The working theory was that hormones released during sadness trigger negative effects on the stomach area, but now they’re not so sure. The gut problems might trigger the depression.

This isn’t exactly a scientific observation, but I can vouch for their theory. I had bad stomach pains when I was young, before anyone noticed signs of depression in me. Diagnosed with nonspecific gastrothisandthat or whatever, I ended up in the doctor’s office or the ER on a regular basis. I was doubled over in pain, and nobody could figure out why. Here’s the kicker: When I went on antidepressants and mood stabilizers in my mid-20s, the gut problems mysteriously disappeared.

A research group from Kings College in London has narrowed down the genetics of severe recurring depression to chromosome 3, and both the Stanford group and a research group from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, have come up with basically the same results. In the research world, all three groups finding the same thing is pretty important.

The curious thing about genetic mapping is that there is so much apparently unrelated information on each chromosome. According to the National Institute of Health, there are currently 51 known disorders known to be associated with chromosome 3, one of which is the thoracic aortic aneurysm my dad had. I’m pretty sure that had nothing to do with depression…although come to think of it, he was going through a pretty low time in his life… But I don’t have any of those syndromes or deficiencies…that I know of…yet…hmm.

But then there’s still this “which came first, the chicken or the egg” thing. Do certain disorders make it easier for depression to surface, or does depression pave the way for certain other weaknesses to present themselves – those gut problems, for example?

See, I think the process of discovering all of this is interesting. Someday, all this research put together will help doctors prescribe more effective treatments for depression instead of “hey, I got a new sample – let’s see what this does.”

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This is the best news story I’ve read today! http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/649732.html

Can you imagine the guilt on the mind of the staffer who lets the President bum a cigarette, knowing full well that the President is trying to quit? Somehow I just can’t picture anyone saying, “Sorry, sir, you need to tough it out today.”

Tough it out…isn’t that what quitting smoking is like, though? You have this confidence surge every time you resist the temptation, because it’s hard to put the pack down and you know it. If you can resist for a while, you start feeling tough. You start telling yourself, “If I can get through this, I can get through anything.”

But it’s a fight. It’s a constant battle between your lungs and your brain. If you want to quit but it hasn’t happened, your brain says, “I must not be ready to quit.” If you want to quit and it has just happened, you’re fighting the crabbiness and the agitation, and you’re about three steps away from making it all stop by simply having another cigarette. If you don’t want to quit but you’re being hassled about it, your brain says, “It’s my life.” Meanwhile, your lungs are on fire and you’re in denial about it. But on some level, you know that your time is about up if you ever lose your lungs.

I’ve quit smoking three times, and each time I only stopped smoking when the stress in my life eased up on me. I had a hard time being without a cigarette in my mouth when life wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.

Can you imagine trying to go through that as the leader of the free world? I would be lighting up every time I spoke to the Republicans in Congress. I would bring my own carton to a weekend summit of world leaders. I would be frantically signalling staffers to get me an ashtray every time a call came in on that little red emergency phone.

Barack Obama has been going through something similar for at least the past nine months, all while he was functioning in one of the toughest jobs in the world.

If reports of your quitting aren’t greatly exaggerated, Mr. President, congratulations for doing something positive for your health and trying to tough it out. If you can handle this, you can handle anything.

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I’ve discovered that I really like tag-surfing on WordPress. It’s a little like using the remote control to channel-surf the TV for something cool to watch – and if you have as little control over the clicker as I do, you can appreciate the excitement here. I never know what I’m going to find. I can click Tag Surfer on the left of my Dashboard, choose any word or phrase, and surf into the unknown world of anyone who decided to use that phrase on that day.

My favorite tag at the moment is Mental Health. Now that generates variety. Some people are blogging about general issues, some people are blogging about their treatment, and some people are just blogging about the struggles of everyday life. These are real stories about real people with real challenges. And this is just the thin slice of the population who have access to the Internet and decide to blog. I don’t know if this is a statistically valid sample, but it’s a start.

Some people should tag Mental Health and read these stories on a regular basis. For instance, I’d like to make it mandatory for politicians who are facing decisions about budgeting for health care and social services. Teachers at all levels could use some continuing ed on how nontraditional brains work in real life, and not just in their “special needs” course at college that they’ve already forgotten about. Educational administrators could use some of these stories when they’re contemplating budget cuts for the kids who really shouldn’t be forgotten at all. Then there are the people who truly and honestly believe that all unemployed and underemployed people are lazy. I’d like to see them tag-surf Mental Health every day, read at least a full page of entries, and see how the “different people” live.

Psychiatrists and other doctors should tag-surf Mental Health, and then suggest the tag-surfing or some specific blogs to their patients – they could all use some real-life stories to fill in the blanks about the definition of “normal” and how others experience it. Some of these bloggers seem to be contributing to a big virtual support group, and a psych patient who feels alone could really get a lot of mileage out of tag-surfing here.

WordPress is a great window into the minds of people from all over the world. Go ahead. Peek in the window. Learn something. Then take it with you when you go. You never know when it just might change your own mind about the world and the other people in it.

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The diagnostic bible of the American Psychiatric Association is getting a makeover. A rough draft of version 5 (which is still being debated by the powers that be) is posted at http://www.DSM5.org. And this debate is going to be a dilly.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the manual that doctors, insurers, and scientists use in deciding what is officially considered a mental disorder and how to tell if someone has it. Every now and then they decide to re-evaluate this based on the latest research findings. In a new twist, they were seeking feedback via the Internet from both psychiatrists and the general public about whether the changes will be helpful before finalizing them. That ended in April. Now they have a committee (called the DSM-5 work group on their website) reviewing the comments; and between public input, APA member input, and private research, they will have the new version ready for publication by May of 2013.

Why so long? Take a look at their website, especially the timeline. Then check out the list of diagnostic categories on the home page. These are only the general categories. Specific disorders in each category can be seen by clicking on the name of the general category. All things considered, that final list is going to be huge – when they decide what will be on it and why.

Here’s one issue that they have to decide before 2013. Is Gender Identity Disorder a physical problem, a mental problem, or just another way for humans to behave? The LGBT community is already on the edge of their seats waiting for the APA to have an official opinion, and one way or another, that decision will make headlines for weeks.

My personal source of amusement comes from the fact that, at the moment, PMS is lumped in with bipolar disorder in the Mood Disorders category. I have both, I can tell the difference between the two, and I think that putting them in the same diagnostic category is hilarious. PMS is a physical problem with emotional side effects, and doesn’t belong in the DSM at all (although I think several men around the world would loudly disagree with me).

In other categories, the APA is officially considering hoarding, skin-picking, tics, and olfactory reference syndrome (delusional beliefs about one’s own body odor) as formally classified Anxiety Disorders. Binge eating is also being considered for placement with anorexia and bulimia in the Eating Disorders category. There’s an idea. I could get insurance to pay for a doctor to help me stop pigging out.

Seriously, if you are concerned about the diagnostic process when it comes to mental disorders, keep checking back for updates to their website. I hope that they’re carefully considering the comments of the people who have to personally deal with these issues every day, and not just letting the insurance companies tell the APA how to interpret the research.

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You have to see this, if you haven’t already. Anyone who is interested in topics like mental health, pediatric health, teaching children, pharmaceutical research, or what to do about children with unusual behaviour should watch and pay attention. This is a 56-minute video called The Medicated Child, and it was aired on PBS recently. It really struck a nerve with me, both as a mother and as an adult with bipolar disorder.

http://video.pbs.org/video/1316921025#

What do you think?

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I can’t decide which I like best – the database itself or the information-sharing. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is gathering information on what a normal kid’s brain looks like so they can share the information with people who are researching developmental disorders like autism.

NIMH described the latest release of data on their website today. They studied over 500 kids, from infants to young adults, using MRI brain scans, physical exams, psychological exams, and measurements of hormonal activity. The point was to catch each kid at different points in their life, get all of this information for that age, and wait a couple of years before doing it again to see what changed. The younger ones got tested more frequently because development occurs faster in the younger years.

The project, called The NIH Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Study of Normal Brain Development, is looking at things like brain size, memory function, motor skills, language development, and general social skills.

Their focus in this study is only on kids with no health problems. This way, they can pass on the information to people who are trying to figure out why some kids don’t develop normally, who can then compare the “normal” scans and physiological data to that of those kids and study what’s different. Hopefully, we’ll all learn something soon about why the brain can sometimes go haywire in childhood, and whether there is anything we can do to keep it from happening.

If you’re wondering how they got the kids to lie still for the MRI, I read somewhere else that the younger ones are usually scanned while they are sleeping. Trust me – telling most two-year olds to lie down and be still while they’re awake is like asking most puppies to calm down when you come home. That research environment must have been a real trip.

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1-800-273-TALK. Call this number if you are thinking that it’s time to end it all. Why? You might appreciate it later when you’re in a better frame of mind. It might help you understand that there are people out there that really do care. It might help you see that those thoughts might be just a symptom of something bigger that’s messing up your mind. If that’s all it is, wouldn’t you want to find out what’s wrong so you can get back to the life you really want to live?

There are more and more studies being done to understand how big of a problem this really is in our country. Here are just some of the highlights:

http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/66/4/398

Most suicides committed by males age 18-24 had psych problems at age 8.

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2009/black-teens-especially-girls-at-high-risk-for-suicide-attempts.shtml

Female black teens are at risk for suicide, even if they have never been diagnosed with a mental illness.

http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/165/suicide.cfm

Around one percent of adult Americans planned to commit suicide last year, and half of those actually tried it. A little under four percent of adult Americans admitted to thinking about it, and that number almost doubled when they looked at just those between 18 and 25 years old. How many of us aren’t even admitting that we think about this?

Call 1-800-273-TALK. I’ll bet they’ll help even if you’re just worried about someone that is close to you. Pull the old “my friend has this problem” if you need to. Just talk about it with someone who deals with this stuff all the time, and try to find out if there’s something bigger going on that’s making it easier to think that way. You might be surprised at the change it makes in your mood and your motivation to move forward.

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