Author Interviews, Brain Injury, Exercise - Fitness, Pediatrics / 21.10.2017 Interview with: Jingzhen (Ginger) Yang, PhD, MPH Principal Investigator Associate Professor, Center for Injury Research and Policy The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Dept. of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University Columbus, Ohio 43205 What is the background for this study? Response: From 2009-2014, all 50 states and the District of Columbia passed their state TBI laws, more commonly known as concussion laws, to mitigate severe consequences of concussions. These laws often include 3 core components: (1) mandatory removal from play following actual or suspected concussions, (2) requirements to receive clearance to return to play from a licensed health professional, and (3) education of coaches, parents, and athletes regarding concussion symptoms and signs. Our study aimed to evaluate whether the laws achieve the intended impact. What are the main findings? Response: The main findings showed that:
  • The rates of new and recurrent concussions initially increase significantly after a law goes into effect. This is likely due to more people – athletes, athletic trainers, coaches, and parents – becoming aware of the signs and symptoms of concussion and actually reporting a potential or actual concussion. Lack of knowledge about concussion signs and symptoms may have resulted in underreporting of concussions during the prelaw period. This trend is consistent across sports in our study and other studies looking at youth sports-related concussions.
  • The rate of recurrent concussions shows a significant decline approximately 2 ½ years after the law is in place. This demonstrates that the laws are having an impact. One of the core function of these laws is to reduce the immediate risk of health consequences caused by continued play with concussion or returning to play too soon without full recovery. The decline in recurrent concussion rates in our study is likely the results of the laws requirements of mandatory removal from play or permission requirements to return to play.
  • Football had the highest average annual concussion rate, followed by girls’ soccer and boys’ wrestling. Males had a higher average annual concussion rate than females. However, when comparing the rates in gender comparable sports (basketball, soccer, baseball/softball), females had almost double the annual rate of concussions as males. These results are consistent with findings from other studies. It is possible that girls have higher risk of concussions than boys or are more likely to report injuries. Future studies are needed to look specifically at these disparities.
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Pain Research / 20.10.2017 Interview with: Fu-Chi Yang, M.D., Ph.D.Assistant Professor Department of Neurology, Tri-Service General Hospital National Defense Medical Center Taipei, Taiwan What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Migraineurs are likely to suffer from comorbid depression and anxiety. Furthermore, increased migraine frequency is associated with an increased risk of mood/anxiety disorders. It is not distinguished by grouping frequency of migraine attacks, whether it is associated with severity scores of depression and anxiety. Thus, we evaluated the relationship between severity of depression/anxiety and migraine frequency We mainly found that the severity of depression (BDI and HADS-depression scores) and anxiety (HADS anxiety score) were related to migraine frequency, after adjusting confounding factors. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Pediatrics, Race/Ethnic Diversity / 17.10.2017 Interview with: Maureen Durkin, PhD, DrPH Professor and Interim Chair Department of Population Health Sciences University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Madison, WI What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Previous studies of the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among children in the U.S. have found two consistent patterns.  One is a higher prevalence among white non-Hispanic children than among black non-Hispanic or Hispanic children.  The other is a positive socioeconomic gradient, meaning that ASD prevalence in the U.S. is found to increase with increasing income and other indicators of socioeconomic status. One of the findings of this new study is that the racial and ethnic differences in autism spectrum disorder prevalence are not explained by socioeconomic factors, because even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors, ASD prevalence was found to be significantly lower in black and Hispanic children than in white non-Hispanic children.  Another finding is that the gap in ASD prevalence between children of high and low socioeconomic status did not change over time between 2002 and 2010, though the overall prevalence of ASD more than doubled during this period. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Diabetes, JAMA, Pediatrics, Pharmacology / 17.10.2017 Interview with: Mehmet Burcu, PhD, MS Department of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research University of Maryland, Baltimore What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Antidepressants are one of the most commonly used psychotropic medication classes in U.S. youth, with serotonin reuptake inhibitors representing a large majority of total antidepressant use in youth. The most interesting finding was that the current use of serotonin reuptake inhibitors in youth was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and this increased risk intensified further with the increasing duration of use and with the increasing dose. A secondary analysis also revealed that the risk of incident type 2 diabetes was most apparent in youth who used serotonin reuptake inhibitors for longer durations AND in greater daily doses. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Biomarkers, JAMA, Personalized Medicine / 17.10.2017 Interview with: Ingrid S. van Maurik, MSc Department of Neurology and Alzheimer Center Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Amsterdam Neuroscience VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, the Netherlands What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: CSF and MRI biomarkers are increasingly used in clinical practice, but their diagnostic and prognostic value is not perfect. Furthermore, criteria do not specify how to deal with conflicting or borderline results, or how to take patient characteristics into account. Therefore, optimal use of these biomarkers in clinical practice remains challenging. As part of the ABIDE project, we constructed biomarker-based prognostic models (CSF, MRI and combined) that enable prediction of future Alzheimer’s disease, or any type of dementia, in individual patients with mild cognitive impairment. When using these models, any value can be entered for the variables, resulting in personalized probabilities with confidence intervals. (more…)
Author Interviews, PTSD, Technology / 17.10.2017 Interview with: Dr. Gale Lucas, PhD Director of Research USC Institute for Creative Technologies Playa Vista, CA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: A common barrier to healthcare for psychiatric conditions is the stigma associated with these disorders. Perceived stigma prevents many from reporting their symptoms. Stigma is a particularly pervasive problem among military service members, preventing them from reporting symptoms of combat-related conditions like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This put them at risk for having their symptoms go untreated, with possible disastrous outcomes including suicide attempts. We envisioned a technology system – a virtual human interviewer – whereby military service members can get feedback about their risk for PTSD in a safe place without stigma. Indeed, our prior research has shown that, because its “just a computer” (therefore safe and anonymous), this virtual human interviewer helps people to feel safe discussing sensitive issues like mental health symptoms. In this follow-up research project (published in Frontiers), we sought to demonstrate the value of this kind of virtual human interviewer specifically for encouraging reporting of PTSD symptoms among service members. Specifically, we were interested in comparing the willingness of service members to report symptoms of PTSD to our virtual human interviewer, compared to the gold standard of the Post Deployment Health Assessment (PDHA). We wanted to isolate the effect of anonymity, separating it from “relational factors” that the virtual human interviewer uses to encourage service members to open up. Indeed, before asking these same questions as on the PDHA to capture PTSD symptoms, the system engages in social dialogue, which build rapport with users. The system asks “get to know you questions,” and throughout the interview, engage in active listening with responses such as nods, smiles, saying “uh huh,” and other encouraging phrases like “that’s great.” (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, BMJ, Nutrition / 14.10.2017 Interview with: Elizabeth DeVilbiss, PhD MPH Dornsife School of Public Health Drexel University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Unfortunately, not much is known about how diet during pregnancy affects autism risk.  There have been studies in recent years about varied aspects of diet during pregnancy and autism risk involving multivitamins, iron, folic acid, vitamin D, and more, but the evidence is still inconclusive. After adjusting for several potentially influencing factors in both mothers and children, we found that multivitamin use, with or without additional iron and/or folic acid, was associated with a lower likelihood of child autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability relative to mothers who did not use folic acid, iron, and multivitamins. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Pharmacology, Psychological Science / 10.10.2017 Interview with: Vanda Faria PhD Department of Psychology Uppsala, Sweden What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: It has been debated whether selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are commonly prescribed for depression and anxiety, are more effective than placebo. Concerns have been raised that the beneficial effects of SSRIs, as measured in double-blind clinical trials, may be explained by expectancies (a crucial placebo mechanism) rather than the biochemical compound. But no study has tested experimentally the extent to which the SSRI treatment effect can be influenced by expectancies induced by verbal suggestions. We compared the efficacy of overt vs. covert administration of an SSRI (escitalopram) in patients with social anxiety disorder. Rather than comparing the SSRI with placebo, we compared it with itself while manipulating the patients’ expectations of improvement. This was achieved by informing one group correctly about the SSRI and its effectiveness (overt group) whereas the comparison (covert) group received incorrect information. By use of a cover story, the covert group was led to believe they were treated with a so called “active placebo”, an ineffective neurokinin-1 antagonist yielding similar side effects as the SSRI but lacking anxiety-reducing properties. But the treatment, dosage and duration was in fact identical in both groups. Results showed that overt outperformed covert SSRI treatment, as the number of treatment responders was more than three times higher on the main clinical outcome measure when correct information was given. Using neuroimaging (fMRI) we also noted differences between the overt and covert SSRI groups on objective brain activity measures. There were differences between the groups e.g. with regard to activation of the posterior cingulate cortex with treatment, and the functional coupling between this region and the amygdala which is a brain region crucially involved in fear and anxiety. The fMRI  results may reflect the interaction between cognition and emotion as the brain changes differently with treatment pending on the expectations of improvement. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Medical Imaging, MRI / 06.10.2017 Interview with: Dr. Sanja Josef Golubic, dr. sc Department of Physics, Faculty of Science University of Zagreb, Croatia What is the background for this study? Response: Our study was aimed to search the topological biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease. A recent evidences suggest that the decades long progression of brain degeneration that is irreversible by the stage of symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease, may account for failures to develop successful disease-modifying therapies. Currently, there is a pressing worldwide search for a marker of very early, possibly reversible, pathological changes related to Alzheimer’s disease in still cognitively intact individuals, that could provide a critical opportunity for evolving of efficient therapeutic interventions. Three years ago we reported the discovery of the novel, fast brain pathway specialized for rapid processing of the simple tones. We named it gating loop. Gating loop directly links auditory brain areas to prefrontal brain area. We have also noticed the high sensitivity of the gating loop processing on AD pathology. It was inspiration to focus our Alzheimer’s disease biomarker search in the direction of prefrontal brain activation during listening of simple tones. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, JAMA, PTSD / 06.10.2017 Interview with: Gregory H. Cohen, MPhil, MSW Statistical Analyst Department of Epidemiology School of Public Health Boston University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We simulated a stepped care case-finding approach to the treatment of posttraumatic stress in New York City, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Stepped care includes an initial triage screening step which identifies whether a presenting individual is in need of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or can be adequately treated at a lower level of care. Our simulation suggests that a stepped care approach to treating symptoms of posttraumatic stress in the aftermath of a hurricane is superior to care as usual in terms of reach and treatment-effectiveness, while being cost-effective. (more…)
Author Interviews, Education, Gender Differences, Mental Health Research, Sexual Health, Social Issues / 03.10.2017 Interview with: Oliver Ferlatte PhD Men's Health Research Program University of British Columbia Vancouver , British Columbia , Canada What is the background for this study? Response: Suicide, like many other health inequities, is unevenly distributed among the population, with marginalized groups being most affected. In Canada, suicide has been found to particularly affect gay and bisexual men, aboriginal people and people living in rural and remote communities. While the populations affected by suicide are not mutually exclusive – for example someone can be a bisexual Aboriginal man living in a remote community – much of the suicide prevention literature tends to treat these groups as such. Moreso, very little attention is given in suicide prevention research to diversity within groups: for example, we know very little about which gay and bisexual men are most at risk of attempting suicide. This situation creates a vacuum of knowledge about suicide among gay and bisexual and deprives us of critical information for the development of effective suicide prevention activities. We therefore investigated in a survey of Canadian gay and bisexual men (Sex Now Survey), which gay and bisexual men are at increased risk of reporting a recent suicide attempt. The large sample of gay and bisexual men with 8493 participants allows for this unique analysis focused on the multiple, intersecting identities of the survey participants. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Genetic Research, JAMA / 27.09.2017 Interview with: Sven Sandin, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Psychiatry Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai New York, NY 10029 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In 2014, we estimated the heritability of autism to be approximately 50%. Motivating us then was the lack of studies in autism heritability using population based and the findings from a twin-study in California finding the heritability to be substantially lower than the 80-90% estimated in previous studies. Since then continued efforts working with the questions on heritability and environmental factors for autism we found differences between different methods and different samples. When we went back to our previous data we found the heritability of autism to be higher than previously estimated. We found that our previous result was due to a methodological artifact where the adjustment for differences in follow-up used in that manuscript underestimated the heritability. Using methods used in other heritability studies the heritability is now estimated to 84%. Importantly, as previously concluded, there is no support for any ‘shared environmental factors’ in the etiology of autism, e.g. environmental factors shared between two siblings. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Infections, Neurology, Parkinson's / 22.09.2017 Interview with: Rima McLeod, M.D., F.A.C.P, F.I.D.S.A Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences,Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases), and The College, Director, Toxoplasmosis Center, Senior Fellow,Institute of Genomics, Genetics and Systems Biology, Member, Commitees on Immunology, and Molecular Medicine and Pathogenesis, Member Global Health Center, Affiliate CHeSS; Attending Physician, Chicago Medicine, The University of Chicago What is the background for this study? * One third of humans are infected lifelong with the brain-dwelling, protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. * Approximately fifteen million of these have congenital toxoplasmosis. * The parasite interconverts between slow-growing, encysted bradyzoites and rapid-growing tachyzoites. * In mice, T. gondii creates a chronic intra-neuronal infection and an inflammatory process. * Mice with acute and chronic infection have alterations in neurotransmitters, memory, seizures, and neurobehavior. * Some epidemiologic-serologic studies show associations between seropositivity for T. gondii and human neurologic diseases, for example, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. * Although neurobehavioral disease is associated with seropositivity, causality is unproven. * Serologic studies of humans with diverse genetics are not optimal to detect strong associations or directionality. * Epidemiologic associations also do not reveal parasite-modulated gene networks in human brain that could provide insights into how to cure and prevent resultant diseases. * We need integrative approaches to examine relationships between brain parasitism and other brain diseases, to provide a foundation to identify key pathways and molecules for drug and vaccine design * To address these problems, we considered two central questions: (i) If chronic brain parasitism associates with other neurologic diseases, what are they? And (ii) Which macromolecular networks are modulated by the parasite in human brain that lead to neuropathology which could underpin and facilitate design of treatments? * We hypothesized that a systems approach integrating multiple levels of host parasite interactions might resolve these questions. * To better understand what this parasite does to human brains, we performed a comprehensive systems analysis of the infected brain.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Mental Health Research / 20.09.2017 Interview with: Amitai Abramovitch, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Psychology Texas State University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is associated with moderate degree of underperformance on several cognitive tests such as processing speed, and some higher order functions such as planning and inhibition. While this does not constitute a clinically meaningful impairment on these functions, we set out to explore the prevailing myth that OCD is associated with above-average intelligence. This myth, that was propagated by Sigmund Freud 115 years ago and is still surprisingly all too prevalent -  was never tested empirically. The notion of above average intelligence in OCD didn’t make sense to us given that IQ tests are comprised of subtests that assess cognitive function. To test this, we collected all the available data ever published in the scientific literature regarding IQ in OCD versus control samples, and conducted a meta-analysis. Our results show that OCD is not associated with higher IQ than average. In fact we found a slightly lowered IQ in OCD compared to controls, although IQ scores for OCD samples were in the average range. The total IQ score (Full Scale IQ) is comprised of two subscales, namely Verbal IQ, and Performance IQ. Our results show that reduced Full Scale IQ stems primarily from lowered Performance IQ, a scale that is comprised of a number of timed tests. In other words, as opposed to Verbal IQ tests, test scores on Performance IQ subtests rely heavily on performance within a specific time frame, and not only on performance accuracy. Thus, our findings suggest that reduced processing speed found in OCD could lead to reduced Performance IQ, and subsequently lead to lowered Full Scale IQ, and may not be indicative of specific cognitive deficits. This finding suggests that IQ tests administered to individuals diagnosed with OCD may result in a biased Full Scale IQ scores that does not accurately reflect their full intellectual potential. (more…)
Author Interviews, Exercise - Fitness, JAMA, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics / 19.09.2017 Interview with: Michael Alosco, PhD NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease & CTE Center Boston University School of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: TThe goal of this study was to investigate whether playing youth tackle football, particularly before the age of 12, is associated with worse emotional, behavioral, and cognitive difficulties later in life. Participants in this study included 214 former amateur and professional American football players who were part of the LEGEND study at Boston University. Participants had an average age of 51. 43 played high school football, 103 played college football, and there were 68 professional American football players. The former players were divided into two groups: those who began playing tackle football before age 12 and those who began at age 12 or older. Participants received telephone-administered cognitive tests and completed online measures of depression, behavioral regulation, apathy, and executive functioning, such as initiating activity, problem-solving, planning, and organization. Results from former players who started playing tackle football before the age of 12 were compared to those of participants who started playing at age 12 or later. The study showed that participation in tackle football before age 12 increased the odds for having problems with behavioral regulation, apathy and executive functioning by two-fold and increased the odds for clinically elevated depression scores by three-fold. These findings were independent of the total number of years the participants played football or at what level they played, such as high school, college, or professional. Even when a specific age cutoff was not used, younger age of exposure to tackle football corresponded with worse clinical status. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Environmental Risks, OBGYNE, Toxin Research, UC Davis / 12.09.2017 Interview with: Rebecca J. Schmidt, M.S., Ph.D.  Assistant Professor, Public Health Sciences UC Davis California What is the background for this study? Response: Maternal folic acid taken near conception has been linked to reduced risk for autism in the child in previous studies. Separate studies show that exposure to pesticides during pregnancy is associated with increased risk for autism. Animal studies demonstrate that folic acid and other B-vitamins can attenuate effects of certain environmental contaminants, including pesticides. This case-control study examined combined maternal folic acid and pesticide exposures in relation to autism in the child. (more…)
ADHD, Author Interviews, Autism, JAMA, NYU / 12.09.2017 Interview with: Dr. Adriana Di Martino, MD Associate Professor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry NYU Langone Health What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: While there has been an increased awareness of the co-occurrence of symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children with a primary diagnosis of ASD, only recently has there been an appreciation that a substantial proportion of children with ADHD may also have ASD traits. These symptom domains overlap pose a challenge for accurate recognition and targeted treatments, yet their underlying mechanisms have been unknown. With more traditional diagnostic group comparisons we detected a significant influence of ASD on white matter organization, but our analyses of the severity of symptoms across individuals revealed an association between autistic traits and white matter organization, regardless of the individual's diagnosis. These findings were mostly centered around the corpus callosum, a structure that enables communication between the left and right cerebral hemispheres. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Mental Health Research, OBGYNE, Pharmacology / 10.09.2017 Interview with: Xiaoqin Liu, PhD Department of Economics and Business Economics Aarhus University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Previous research on the long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes of serotonin-reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) use during pregnancy has primarily focused on offspring risk of autism spectrum disorder. Given SSRIs cross the placental barrier and affect the fetal brain, in-utero SSRI exposure may increase risks of other psychiatric disorders as well as autism spectrum disorder. We conducted a population-based study to look at a range of diagnostic groups of psychiatric disorders in children whose mothers used antidepressants during pregnancy. This was possible because of the nature of information available in Danish population registers, allowing us to follow children for many years. We found increased risks of various diagnostic groups of psychiatric disorders in children whose mothers continued antidepressant treatment during pregnancy, in comparison to children whose mothers stopped antidepressant treatment before pregnancy. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research / 07.09.2017 Interview with: Dr. Patricia Moreno-Peral, PhD Research Unit, Primary Care District of Málaga-Guadalhorce Prevention and Health Promotion Research Network Institute of Biomedical Research in Málaga Málaga, Spain What is the background for this study? Response:  No systematic reviews or meta-analyses have been performed on the effectiveness of preventive psychological and/or educational interventions for anxiety in varied populations. Previously, other systematic reviews have been focused on prevention efficacy in specific interventions (e.g. cognitive behavior interventions) or age groups (e.g. adolescents). (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, JAMA / 05.09.2017 Interview with: Carol A. Derby, Ph.D. Research Professor, The Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology Research Professor, Department of Epidemiology & Population Health Louis and Gertrude Feil Faculty Scholar in Neurology Albert Einstein College of Medicine Bronx, NY 10461 What is the background for this study? Response: The population over the age of 85 is expected to triple in the coming decades, and with the aging of the population, the number of individuals living with dementia is projected to increase dramatically. While dementia prevalence rates are driven by demographic shift to older ages, changes in dementia incidence- the rate at which new cases are diagnosed, would also impact the proportion of the population affected in the coming decades. Recently, studies have suggested that dementia incidence rates may be declining in some populations, although the results have not been consistent. Better understanding trends in dementia rates is important for public health planning. Our objective was to determine whether there has been a change in the incidence of dementia diagnosis within a community residing group of over older adults followed by the Einstein Aging Study, at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in the Bronx, NY between the years 1993 and 2015. To accurately characterize trends over time in disease rates requires separating the effects of age and the effects of calendar time. Therefore, we conducted a birth cohort analysis in which we examined age specific dementia incidence rates by birth year, for individuals born between 1910 and 1940. The analysis included over 1300 individuals over the age of 70, who were free of dementia when they enrolled in the study. Dementia was diagnosed using identical criteria over the entire study period, and study recruitment was also consistent over the period. We also examined trends in cardiovascular co-morbidities that have been related to dementia risk, as well as trends in education.  (more…)
Author Interviews, MRI, Schizophrenia / 31.08.2017 Interview with: Irina Rish PhD IBM T.J. Watson Research Center Yorktown Heights, NY 10598 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe psychiatric disorder that affects roughly about 1% of population. Although it is not as common as other mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder (ADD), and so on, schizophrenia  is perhaps one of  the most debilitating psychiatric disorders,  preventing people from normal  functioning in daily life. It is characterized primarily by a range of psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations (false auditory, visual or tactile perceptions detached from reality), as well as delusions, disorganized thoughts, speech and behavior, and multiple other symptoms including difficulty showing (and recognizing) emotions, poor executive functioning, inattentiveness, problems with working memory,  and so one. Overall, schizophrenia has a devastating impact not only on patients and their families, but on the economy, as it was estimated to cost the US about 2% off  gross national product in treatment costs, missed work, etc. Thus, taking steps towards better understanding of the disease can potentially lead to more accurate early diagnosis and better treatments. In this work, the objective was to identify "statistical biomarkers' of schizophrenia from brain imaging data (specifically, functional MRI), i.e. brain activity patterns that would be capable of accurately discriminating between schizophrenic patients and controls, and reproducible (stable) across multiple datasets. The focus on both predictive accuracy (generalization to previously unseen subjects) as well as on stability (reproducibility) across multiple datsets differentiates our work from majority of similar studies in neuroimaging field that tend to focus only on statistically significant differences between such patterns on a fixed dataset, and may not reliably generalize to new data. Our prior work on neuroimaging-based analysis of schizoprenia, as well as other research in the field, suggest that disrupted functional connectivity can be a much more informative source of discriminative patterns than local changes in brain activations, since schizophrenia is well known to be a "network disease", rather than a localized one. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, JAMA, Sleep Disorders / 30.08.2017 Interview with: Yue Leng, M.Phil, MD, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco SFVAMC What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is a very common but treatable condition in older adults. Recent evidence has suggested a link between SDB and cognitive decline in the elderly, but previous studies have been conflicting and have used different methods to examine SDB or cognition. Therefore, it is difficult to draw conclusion on the consistency of this association based on each individual study. Moreover, because each study has reported on specific domains using different scales, it is unclear if Sleep-disordered breathing has differential effects on cognitive domains. The current study is the first to quantitively synthesize all published population-based studies, which covers a total of over 4 million adults, and concluded that people with Sleep-disordered breathing were 26% more likely to develop cognitive impairment than those without SDB. They also had slightly worse performance in executive function but not in global cognition or memory.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, PLoS, University of Pennsylvania / 29.08.2017 Interview with: Yuanyuan Xie, PhD Postdoctoral Researcher Department of Neuroscience University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: I joined Dr. Richard Dorsky’s lab in mid 2013 after a lab switch toward the end of the fourth year in my PhD. By then, the Dorsky lab at the University of Utah had published zebrafish lef1 mutants with a hypothalamic neurogenesis phenotype. I was asked to perform an RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) experiment to identify Lef1-dependent genes. In doing so, I also characterized the cellular phenotype in the hypothalamus of our zebrafish mutants in a greater detail. The first transition of this project happened when I proposed in late 2013 to test whether Lef1’s function was conserved in the mouse hypothalamus. Dr. Dorsky liked that idea, but told me that I could only pursue that idea if there was a Lef1-flox mouse strain available, because he did not want me to delay my graduation after a lab switch by making a new mouse line. Fortunately, a quick google search located the right mouse line published from the group of Dr. Hai-Hui Xue, who was generous enough to share some mice with us. Because the Dorsky lab was a zebrafish lab by then, we collaborated with Dr. Edward Levine to maintain our mice under his animal protocol. I was initially trained by Dr. Levine and his lab specialist Anna Clark for general mouse colony management. After Dr. Levine moved to Vanderbilt University in early 2016, we began to maintain our mice under Dr. Camille Fung’s animal protocol. Dr. Dorsky also supported me in attending a 3-week Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Course on Mouse Development, Stem Cells & Cancer in mid 2015, which made me much more confident in handling mouse work afterwards. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Gender Differences, Genetic Research, JAMA / 29.08.2017 Interview with: Arthur W. Toga PhD Provost Professor of Ophthalmology, Neurology, Psychiatry and The Behavioral Sciences, Radiology and Engineering Ghada Irani Chair in Neuroscience Director, USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and informatics institute USC Institute for Neuroimaging and Informatics Keck School of Medicine of USC University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA  90032 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The ε4 allele of the Apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene is the main genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's disease.  This study reexamines and corrects the sex-dependent risks that white men and women with one copy of the ε4 allele face for developing Alzheimer's disease using a very large data set of 57,979 North Americans and Europeans from the Global Alzheimer's Association Interactive Network (GAAIN). The study results show that these men and women between the ages of 55 and 85 have the same odds of developing Alzheimer's disease, with the exception that women face significantly higher risks than men between the ages of 65 and 75.  Further, these women showed increased risk over men between the ages of 55 and 70 for mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is often a transitional phase to dementia. (more…)
Author Interviews, JNCI, Mental Health Research, Pharmacology, UT Southwestern, Weight Research / 23.08.2017 Interview with: Chen Liu, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Departments of Internal Medicine and Neuroscience Division of Hypothalamic Research The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, Texas 75390-9077 What is the background for this study? Response: Atypical antipsychotics are second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) that have been increasingly used to treat a variety of neuropsychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, and autism. Many patients taking these medications, however, are left in an agonizing dilemma. On one hand, they rely on these drugs’ psychotropic effect for normal functioning in daily life. On the other, many SGAs, including the most widely prescribed olanzapine and clozapine, can cause a metabolic syndrome that is known for excessive weight gain, dyslipidemia, and type-2 diabetes_ENREF_2. Notably, while full-blown type 2 diabetes and morbid obesity typically take years to unfold in the general population, these conditions progress at a much faster pace (within months) following second-generation antipsychotics treatment. Other factors such as ethnicity, age, and sex can also aggravate SGA-induced metabolic syndrome. Together, these peculiar features strongly suggest a distinct etiology underlying SGA-induced metabolic syndrome that has yet been fully elucidated. Currently, there is no medication specifically targeting SGA-induced metabolic syndrome. For many youths and adults taking second-generation antipsychotics, metabolic complications are difficult to manage as lifestyle changes, nutritional consulting, and commonly used anti-diabetic medications only provide limited relief. (more…)
Author Interviews, Memory, PTSD / 17.08.2017 Interview with: Jun-Hyeong Cho MD PhD Department of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology University of California, Riverside Riverside, CA 92521 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: To survive in a dynamic environment, animals develop fear responses to dangerous situations. For these adaptive fear responses to be developed, the brain must discriminate between different sensory cues and associate only relevant stimuli with aversive events. In our current study, we investigated the neural mechanism how the brain does this, using a mouse model of fear learning and memory. Our study demonstrates that the formation of fear memory associated with an auditory cue requires selective synaptic strengthening in neural pathways that convey the auditory signals to the amygdala, an essential brain area for fear learning and memory. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Depression, Geriatrics, Karolinski Institute / 11.08.2017 Interview with: Heidi Taipale, PhD Pharm Senior Researcher School of Pharmacy, University of Eastern Finland; and Department of Clinical Neuroscience Karolinska Institutet What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Antidepressant use among older persons has been associated with an increased risk of falling and fall-related events, such as hip fractures, in previous studies. Our previous study identified risk of hip fractures in antidepressant among persons with Alzheimer’s disease. As falling is the main causal factor for head traumas and traumatic brain injuries among older persons, we hypothesized that antidepressant use could also be associated with these injuries. We utilized a nationwide cohort of 70,718 persons newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, identified from the Finnish registers. The risk of head injuries and traumatic brain injuries was compared between persons initiating antidepressant use and comparison persons of the same age, gender and time since they received diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease but not using antidepressants. We found a 40-percent increased risk of head injuries and 30-percent increased risk of traumatic brain injuries associated with antidepressant use. Antidepressant use was associated with a higher risk of head injuries especially at the beginning of use – during the first 30 days – but the risk persisted even longer, up to two years. The association was also confirmed in a study design comparing time periods within the same person, thus eliminating selective factors. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Schizophrenia / 02.08.2017 Interview with: Peter Kochunov PhD Professor Maryland Psychiatric Research Center What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Schizophrenia is a debilitating disorder that strikes young people at the point of entering adulthood. In the past, we and others demonstrated that patients with schizophrenia are characterized by deficits in the white matter of the brain. White matter is the part of the brain that serves the backbone of cerebral networks transmitting information and interconnecting brain regions. In this report, we link the impaired white matter of the brain in schizophrenia patients with the disorder-related deficits in the processing speed. We also showed that mental processing speed is a fundamental cognitive construct that partially supports other functions like working memory in patients, where processing speed acting as the intermediate between white matter deficits and reduced working memory. This interesting relationship between processing speed, working memory, and white matter is most obvious in white matter regions most vulnerable to schizophrenia. That was the main finding of the study. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Brain Injury, JAMA / 01.08.2017 Interview with: Dr. Adrian Harel, PhD Chief Executive Officer Medicortex Finland What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Every 15 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a new head injury. Of the 2.5M people treated in hospital emergency rooms each year, 80,000 become permanently disabled because of TBI. Currently, there are no reliable diagnostic tests to assess the presence or severity of an injury on-site, nor are there any pharmaceutical therapies that could stop the secondary injury from spreading. Accurate diagnostics would benefit especially mild cases of TBI (concussions), which, if occurring repeatedly, may cause neurodegenerative conditions such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (which is typical for athletes in NFL and Ice-hockey). We have performed extensive preclinical research comparing fluid biopsies from normal and injured lab animals. The results showed some unique biomarkers released as a biodegradation products after head injury. The data served as the basis and confirmation for our patent applications to protect the biomarker concept. Medicortex has completed a clinical proof-of-concept trial in collaboration with Turku University Hospital (Tyks). Samples from 12 TBI patients and 12 healthy volunteers were collected and analyzed for the presence and for the level of the biomarker in state-of-the-art laboratories. The study demonstrated the diagnostic potential of the new biomarker in humans and it confirmed the prior preclinical findings. This was a significant milestone for Medicortex. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, Cleveland Clinic, Cognitive Issues, MRI, Occupational Health / 29.07.2017 Interview with: Virendra Mishra, Ph.D. Department of Imaging Research Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Repetitive head trauma has been shown to be a risk factor for various neurodegenerative disorders, mood swings, depression and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. There has been a significant amount of research into identifying an imaging biomarker of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) due to repetitive head trauma. Unfortunately, most of the biomarkers have not been able to find a successful translation to clinics. Additionally, the quest for the mTBI imaging biomarker especially using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) techniques has been done by looking at either the gray matter (T1-weighted) or the white matter (Diffusion Tensor Imaging) independently; and both have shown changes that are associated with repetitive head trauma. Hence in this study, we wanted to investigate if combining gray matter and white matter information enables us to better predict the fighters who are more vulnerable to cognitive decline due to repetitive head trauma. Our method found seven imaging biomarkers that when combined together in a multivariate sense were able to predict with greater than 73% accuracy those fighters who are vulnerable to cognitive decline both at baseline and follow-up. The imaging biomarkers were indeed a combination of gray and white matter measures of regions reported previously in the literature. A key point in our study was we found the regions predicting cognitive decline without enforcing any assumptions on the regions previously reported. (more…)