Aging, Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Lifestyle & Health / 20.07.2017 Interview with: Professor Keith A. Wesnes BSc PhD FSS CPsychol FBPsS Head Honcho, Wesnes Cognition Ltd Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Medical School, University of Exeter, UK Visiting Professor, Department of Psychology Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK Adjunct Professor, Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia Visiting Professor, Medicinal Plant Research Group Newcastle University, UK Wesnes Cognition Ltd, Little Paddock, Streatley Hill, Streatley on Thames UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This data we reported were taken from the PROTECT study, a 10-year research programme being conducted jointly by Kings College London and the University of Exeter Medical School. It started in November 2015 and over 20,000 individuals aged 50 to 96 years have enrolled. A highly novel feature of the study is that it is run entirely remotely, the participants logging on via the internet at home and providing demographic and life style information, and also performing online cognitive tasks of key aspects of cognitive function. The tasks are from two well-validated systems, CogTrack and the PROTECT test system, and assess major aspects of cognitive function including focused and sustained attention, information processing, reasoning and a range of aspects of memory. One of the lifestyle questions was ‘How frequently do you engage in word puzzles, e.g. crosswords?’ and the 6 possible answers were: never; occasionally; monthly; weekly; daily; more than once per day. We analysed the cognitive data from 17,677 individuals who had answered the question, and found that the more often the participants reported engaging in such puzzles, the better their cognitive function on each of the 9 cognitive tasks they performed. The group who never performed such puzzles were poorest on all measures, and the improvements were mostly incremental as the frequency of use increased. The findings were highly statistically reliable, and we controlled for factors including age, gender and education. To evaluate the magnitudes of these benefits, we calculated the average decline over the age-range on the various tasks in the study population. The average difference between those who ‘never’ did puzzles to those who did so ‘more than once a day’ was equivalent to 11 years of ageing; and between those who never did puzzles and all those who did was 8 years. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Cost of Health Care, JAMA, Mental Health Research / 20.07.2017 Interview with: Bastian Ravesteijn PhD Department of Health Care Policy Harvard Medical School What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We find that higher out-of-pocket costs for mental health care could have the unintended consequence of increasing the use of acute and involuntary mental health care among those suffering from the most debilitating disorders. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Radiology / 18.07.2017 Interview with: Liana Apostolova, MD, MSc, FAAN Barbara and Peer Baekgaard Professor  in Alzheimer's Disease Research Professor in Neurology, Radiology. Medical and Molecular Genetics Indiana University School of Medicine Indiana Alzheimer's Disease Center Indianapolis, IN 46202 What is the background for this study? Response: While many studies have evaluated the diagnostic or prognostic implications associated with amyloid PET, few have explored its effects on the patient or caregiver. Amyloid imaging does not only help clinicians with their diagnosis and management. It also affects patient and caregiver decisions related to lifestyle, financial and long-term care planning, and at times also employment. Few studies to date have explored patient and caregiver views on the clinical use of amyloid PET and the potential benefits they could derive from having more precise diagnosis. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Technology / 18.07.2017 Interview with: Douglas W. Scharre MD Professor of Clinical Neurology and Psychiatry Director, Division of Cognitive Neurology Department of Neurology Director, Center for Cognitive and Memory Disorders Director, Memory Disorders Research Center Co-Director, Neuroscience Research Institute Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Columbus, OH What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE) is a pen-and paper, valid and reliable cognitive assessment tool for identifying individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or early dementia. We published age and education normative data on SAGE and determined that one point be added to the scores when age over 79 and one point be added when education level is 12 years or less. We evaluated the identical test questions in digital format (eSAGE) made for tablet use, adjusted with previously published age and education norms, and determined eSAGE’s association with gold standard clinical assessments. eSAGE is commercially known as BrainTest. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Gastrointestinal Disease, Nutrition / 14.07.2017 Interview with: Bradley James Ferguson, PhD University of Missouri School of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and abdominal pain, but the cause of these GI issues is not currently known. Previous research from our laboratory showed a significant positive relationship between cortisol levels and GI problems, especially for constipation. However, it is possible that other factors such as diet may affect GI functioning, especially since many children have altered diets. This study examined 32 different nutrients in the children’s diets, as assessed by a food frequency questionnaire that assessed the participant’s diet over the past month, and how each nutrient was related to upper and lower GI tract symptom scores over the past month created from the Questionnaire on Pediatric Gastrointestinal Symptoms – Rome III. The results showed no significant relationships between any of the nutrients and GI symptoms, suggesting that diet was not associated with GI symptoms in this sample. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Gender Differences, Pediatrics / 12.07.2017 Interview with: Jie-Yu Chuang PhD Department of Psychiatry University of Cambridge Cambridge, United Kingdom What is the background for this study? Response: Men and women appear to suffer from depression differently, and this is particularly striking in adolescents. By 15 years of age, girls are twice as likely to suffer from depression as boys. There are various possible reasons for this, including body image issues, hormonal fluctuations and genetic factors, where girls are more at risk of inheriting depression. However, differences between the sexes don't just involve the risk of experiencing depression. Men are more liable to suffer from persistent depression, whereas in women depression tends to be more episodic. Compared with women, depressed men are also more likely to suffer serious consequences from their depression, such as substance abuse and suicide. Despite this, so far, most researchers have focused on depression in women, likely because it is more common. As a result, we'd like to make people more aware of the sex difference issue in depression. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Brain Injury / 10.07.2017 Interview with: Dr Lisa J Hill PhD Institute of Inflammation and Ageing Research Fellow Neuroscience and Ophthalmology Institute of Inflammation and Ageing College of Medical and Dental Sciences University of Birmingham UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability among young adults and, according to the World Health Organization, by 2020 TBI will become the world’s leading cause of neurological disability across all age groups.  Early and correct diagnosis of traumatic brain injury is one of the most challenging aspects faced by clinicians. Being able to detect compounds in the blood that help to determine how severe the brain injury is would be of great benefit to patients and aid in their treatment.  Inflammatory markers are particularly suited for biomarker discovery as TBI leads to very early alterations in inflammatory proteins.  The discovery of reliable biomarkers for the management of TBI would improve clinical interventions. We collected blood samples from 30 injured patients within the first hour of injury prior to the patient arriving at hospital and analysed them. Analysis of protein biomarkers from blood taken within the first hour of injury has never been carried out until now. We used a panel of 92 inflammation-associated human proteins when analysing the blood samples. The analysis identified three inflammatory proteins, known as CST5AXIN1 and TRAIL, as novel biomarkers of TBI. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, JAMA / 06.07.2017 Interview with: Robb B. Rutledge, PhD Max Planck University College London Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research University College London London, England What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Depression is associated with deficits in how the brain responds to rewards, something the neurotransmitter dopamine is strongly implicated in. Dopamine represents what is called a reward prediction error, the difference between experienced and predicted reward. This error signal is used for learning. For example, if the outcome of a decision is better than expected, you can update your expectations using this error signal and you should expect more next time. Previous research has shown that depression reduces these signals in the brain when people are learning about the world around them. We designed a task where participants did not have to learn anything during the experiment and we found that in this situation reward prediction error signals were not affected by depression. The signals we measured in the ventral striatum, a brain area with a lot of input from the dopamine neurons, looked the same in depressed and non-depressed individuals. We also found that the emotional impacts of reward prediction errors were similar in depressed and non-depressed individuals when we eliminated the need for learning during the task in both the lab and using a smartphone experiment with 1833 participants. (more…)
Author Interviews, Columbia, Memory / 24.06.2017 Interview with: Samuel Schacher, PhD and Jiangyuan Hu, PhD, Department of Neuroscience Columbia University Medical Cente New York State Psychiatric Institute New York, NY 10032, USA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: It is well established that learning and memory requires changes in the properties of specific neural circuits in the brain activated by the experience. The long-term storage of the memory is encoded through changes in the function of the synapses within the circuit. Synapses are sites of communication between neurons, and the changes in their function come in two varieties: increases in strength and decreases in strength. The encoding of memories typically requires some combination of these synaptic changes, synaptic plasticity, which can last a long time to contribute to long-term memory. Thus the maintenance of a memory will require the persistent change (long-term synaptic memory) in the function of specific synapses. But memories come in different flavors. In the original experiment by Pavlov, a neutral tone, which dogs ignore, came to predict the immediate appearance of a meal. After several of these pairings, the dogs would become happily excited just with the tone. The same type of conditioning could have a negative valence - the tone could proceed a shock to one of the dog's paw. Now the neutral tone would predict a negative stimulus and the dog would express fearful behavior just with the tone (associative learning). A non-associative form of memory would be the same types of stimuli but without the preceding neutral stimulus. At random times the animal will be given a meal or a shock. The behavior of the animal for some time will take on the positive or negative features of its environment - a contented versus depressed condition. Each of these forms of long-term memory would be maintained by increases in the strength of specific synapses. The questions addressed in our study published in Current Biology, based on previous work in my lab and the lab of my colleague Wayne Sossin at McGill, were: 1) Do the same molecules maintain increases in synaptic strength in the neurons of the circuit after stimuli that produce long-term classical conditioning (associative learning) and long-term sensitization (non-associative learning)? 2) If different molecules maintain the different synaptic memories, is it possible to reverse or erase the different synaptic memories by interfering with the function of the different molecules? 3) If true, can we reverse the different synaptic memories expressed in the same neuron by interfering with the function of the different molecules. (more…)
Author Interviews, Eating Disorders, Genetic Research / 24.06.2017 Interview with: Camron D. Bryant Ph.D Laboratory of Addiction Genetics, Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and Department of Psychiatry Boston University, Boston, MA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We previously used genome-wide linkage analysis, fine mapping, gene validation, and pharmacological targeting to identify a negative regulatory role for the gene casein kinase 1-epsilon (Csnk1e) in behavioral sensitivity to drugs of abuse, including psychostimulants and opioids. Parallel human candidate genetic association studies identified an association between multiple genetic variants in CSNK1E with heroin addiction in multiple populations. Drug addiction is a multi-stage process that begins with the initial acute subjective and physiological responses that can progress to chronic administration, tolerance, and withdrawal. The recovery process begins with abstinence from drug taking but can quickly be derailed by relapse to drug taking behavior. Preclinical pharmacological studies also support a role for CSNK1E in reinstatement of opioid self-administration and relapse to alcohol drinking. Despite the evidence that disruption of Csnk1e gene and protein function can affect various behaviors associated with drug and alcohol addiction, it is unclear what stage of the addiction process these genetic and pharmacological manipulations modulate. In this study, we show that disruption of the Csnk1e gene resulted in an enhancement of the rewarding properties of the highly potent and addictive opioid, fentanyl.  Unexpectedly, we also discovered that disruption of Csnk1e also enhanced binge eating – but only in female mice. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Genetic Research / 22.06.2017 Interview with: Mikko Hiltunen, PhD Professor of Tissue and Cell Biology University of Eastern Finland School of Medicine, Institute of Biomedicine Kuopio,  Finland What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response:  We wanted to assess among the population-based METSIM (METabolic Syndrome In Men) cohort whether protective variant in APP gene (APP A673T) affects the beta-amyloid levels in plasma. The rationale behind this was that previous genetic studies have discovered that the APP A673T variant decreases the risk of having Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the protective functional outcome measures related to this variant were lacking and thus we anticipated that the elucidation of plasma samples in terms of beta-amyloid levels would provide the much needed link between APP A673T variant and potential protective functions. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, OBGYNE, Pharmacology / 19.06.2017 Interview with: Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, MPH Associate Professor and Associate Chair for Faculty Development Director, Perinatal Psychiatry Program Director, Taking Care of Our Own Program Department of Psychiatry Chapel Hill, NC 2759 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The Lancet published results from a randomized, placebo-controlled, phase 2 clinical trial with the investigational medication, brexanolone, for women with severe postpartum depression (PPD). During the study, which was conducted at multiple sites across the country, physician researchers administered brexanolone in 21 women, 10 of whom were administered a 60-hour infusion of brexanolone. The other 11 women were given a placebo. Results from the trial showed that 70 percent of participants who received the drug saw remission of their PPD symptoms within 60 hours of treatment, an effect that was maintained until the 30-day follow up. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Pharmacology / 12.06.2017 Interview with: Greta A Bushnell, MSPH Doctoral Candidate, Department of Epidemiology UNC, Gillings School of Global Public Health What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Patients with depression may be co-prescribed a benzodiazepine at antidepressant initiation for a short period for a variety of reasons. Reasons include reducing concurrent anxiety and insomnia, reducing depression severity more quickly, and improved antidepressant continuation. However, there are concerns with benzodiazepines including dependency. As such, benzodiazepines are usually recommended for only short-term treatment. Prior to our study, little was known about a) how often new simultaneous antidepressant and benzodiazepine prescribing occurred among patients initiating antidepressant treatment for depression or b) whether new simultaneous users became long-term benzodiazepine users. In a large commercial insurance database, we identified adults aged 18-64 years with depression who initiated an antidepressant from 2001 to 2014. We found that 11% of adults simultaneously initiated benzodiazepine treatment, which increased from 6% in 2001 to a peak at 12% in 2012. We observed similar antidepressant treatment length at six months in simultaneous new users and among patients initiating antidepressants only. The majority of simultaneous new users had only one benzodiazepine prescription fill before benzodiazepine discontinuation; however, 12% were identified as long-term benzodiazepine users. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, MRI / 09.06.2017 Interview with: Joseph Piven, MD The Thomas E. Castelloe Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry UNC School of Medicine Director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities Co-senior author of the study What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Babies with older siblings with autism are at an increased risk (20%) of getting autism over the general population (1%).  Infants who later are diagnosed with autism don’t have any of the stigmata of autism in the first year of life. The symptoms of autism unfold in the first and particularly in the second year of life and beyond. We have evidence to support the idea that behavioral symptoms of autism arise from changes in the brain that occur very early in life. So we have employed MRI and computer analyses to study those early brain changes and abnormalities in infancy to see if early brain changes at 6 months of age can predict whether babies at high-risk of developing autism will indeed develop the condition at age two. For this particular study, we used data from MRIs of six-month olds to show the pattern of synchronization or connection across brain regions throughout the brain and then predict which babies at high familial risk of developing autism would be most likely to be diagnosed with the condition at age two. (more…)
Author Interviews, Emory, PTSD / 09.06.2017 Interview with: Jennifer Stevens, PhD Director, Neuroscience of Memory, Emotion, and Stress Laboratory Instructor, Dept of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Emory University School of Medicine What is the background for this study?  Response: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was once thought to be a disorder of combat veterans, however, we now know that more than 60% of Americans experience a traumatic event during their lifetimes, and that this can have negative consequences for mental and physical health. Many people recover from the psychological effects of trauma without any intervention, but a significant proportion have long-lasting debilitating symptoms. Supported by the NIH, the cutting edge of PTSD research includes new strategies for preventing the disease, rather than treating PTSD after patients have been living with symptoms for months to years. In order to prevent the disease, it is critical that we are able to quickly identify people who will be at risk for the disease following a trauma, so that preventive strategies can be deployed bedside in the emergency room or in the battlefield. In the current study, we used functional MRI to predict which individuals would recover from trauma, and which individuals would have long-lasting symptoms of PTSD. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Karolinski Institute, Pharmacology, Schizophrenia / 09.06.2017 Interview with: Jari Tiihonen, MD, PhD Professor, Department of Clinical Neuroscience Karolinska Institutet Stockholm, Sweden What are the limitations of existing analyses of the comparative effectiveness of antipsychotics? Response: It has remained unclear if there are clinically meaningful differences between antipsychotic treatments in relapse prevention of schizophrenia, due to the impossibility of including large unselected patient populations in randomized controlled trials, and due to residual confounding from selection biases in observational studies. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Kidney Disease / 06.06.2017 Interview with: Kathy Aebel-Groesch, MSW,LCSW Manager, Social Work Services DaVita Inc. What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Chronic pain and depression can impact quality of life and adherence to treatment regimen among patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Previous research has demonstrated that patients with ESRD experience pain and depression more frequently than the general population. From 2016, CMS has required that all eligible ESRD patients are evaluated regularly for pain and depressive symptoms. We assessed pain and depression symptom scores among patients of a large dialysis organization (LDO) over the period Mar-Oct 2016. Pain was assessed monthly by LDO nurses using the Wong-Baker pain scale (0-10). Depression screenings were conducted biannually by LDO social workers using the PHQ-2 (scale 0-6) and excluded patients with existing diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder, cognitive impairment or language barrier, and those who were hospitalized or refused screening. A total of 688,346 pain responses from 160,626 individual patients and 223,421 depression screening responses from 158,172 patients were considered. A score of 0 (no pain) was reported for 83.5% of pain responses and 65.7% of patients had a 0 score in all pain assessments. A score of 10 (most severe pain) was reported at least once during the study period by 3.0% of patients. Patients with a pain score of 10 were more frequently female (55%) and patients on peritoneal dialysis were less likely to have a pain score of 10 than those on other modalities. A depression score of 0 (patient answered "Not at all" to both “Little interest or pleasure in doing things” and “Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless”) was reported for 69.1% of all responses and 62.6% of patients had a 0 score in all assessments; 1.8% of patients had at least one score of 6 (patient responded “Nearly every day” to both questions) and 9.7% had at least one score of 3 or more. Patients with a score of 0 were more likely to be male vs. female, HHD vs. PD or ICHD, ≥ age 70 years. The majority of ESRD patients did not report pain symptoms and, among those not excluded from screening due to an existing diagnosis of depression or other reason, the majority did not report symptoms of depression. However, routine assessment of pain and depression enables the timely identification of new or increased symptoms, thus allowing earlier implementation of interventions that may improve patient experience. The LDO has since revised its depression screening policy to remove diagnosis of depression from exclusion criteria and to administer the PHQ-9 to patients with a PHQ-2 score ≥ 3. (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues / 05.06.2017 Interview with: Dr. Anya Topiwala, BA (Hons) BMBCh (Oxon) MRCPsych DPhil Clinical lecturer Department of Psychiatry University of Oxford What is the background for this study? Response: I thought the question of whether moderate alcohol consumption is harmful or protective to the brain was a really interesting and important one, particularly because so many people drink this amount. There were a few studies reporting that a little alcohol may protect against dementia or cognitive decline, but the few brain imaging studies were conflicting in their results and had methodological limitations. We examined whether alcohol consumption over a 30-year period was associated with brain imaging and memory decline in a group of 550 non-alcohol dependent individuals from the remarkable Whitehall II cohort. Subjects completed questionnaires and had clinical examinations approximately every 5 years over the 30 years of the study, and had detailed brain scans at the end. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Gender Differences, JAMA, Mental Health Research / 05.06.2017 Interview with: Carl G Streed Jr. M.D. Pronouns: he, him, his, himself Fellow, Division General Internal Medicine & Primary Care  Brigham & Women’s Hospital What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has underscored the need to better understand the health of gender minorities, including transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. Prior investigations of gender minorities are limited by the lack of national gender identity data. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a gender identity question for the Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System (BRFSS); states had the option to administer this module beginning 2014. Our study aims to examine the health status of gender minorities in the US compared to cisgender peers. Compared to cisgender adults, gender minority adults are younger, less likely to be non-Hispanic white, married or living with a partner, have a minor child in the household, or be English speaking; but are more likely to have lower income, be unemployed, be uninsured, have unmet medical care due to cost, be overweight, and report depression. Gender minority adults, compared to cisgender adults, are more likely to report: poor or fair health; difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; and being limited in any way. These outcomes remained significant after adjustment. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Mineral Metabolism, Nature, Pediatrics / 05.06.2017 Interview with: Manish Arora, PhD Associate Professor Environmental Medicine & Public Health Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Autism has both genetic and environmental risk factors. Our aim was to study if exposure to toxic metals, such as lead, or disruptions in the uptake of essential nutrient elements such as manganese or zinc would be related to autism risk. Furthermore, we were interested in not only understanding how much exposure had taken place but also which developmental periods were associated with increased susceptibility to autism risk. Researchers suspect that the risk factors for autism start early in life, even prenatally, but measuring in utero exposures is technically very challenging. We used a newly developed technique that uses lasers to map growth rings in baby teeth (like growth rings in trees) to reconstruct the history of toxic metal and essential nutrient uptake. We applied this technology in samples collected from twins, including twins who were discordant for autism. This allowed us to have some control over genetic factors. We found that twins with autism had higher levels of lead in their teeth compared to their unaffected twin siblings. They also had lower levels of zinc and manganese. The lower uptake of zinc was restricted to approximately 10 weeks before birth to a few weeks after birth, indicating that as a critical developmental period. (more…)
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Depression, Stroke / 04.06.2017 Interview with: Chung-Yen Lu, MD, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Sport and Health Management, Da-Yeh University, Changhua, Taiwan; Department of Chinese Medicine, Taipei Hospital, Ministry of Health and Welfare, New Taipei, Taiwan What is the background for this study? Response: Post-stroke depression is a common mood complication of patients with stroke and may deteriorate motor function and cognitive function. Acupuncture therapy is an alternative and supplementary medical care often used worldwide. Previous studies have reported that acupuncture therapy for post-stroke depression may involve multiple therapeuticeffects including treating neurological disorders and physical disabilities following stroke, which are predictors of post-stroke depression. However, population-based evaluations on the association between acupuncture treatment and prevention of post-stroke depression are rare.  (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, Depression / 02.06.2017 Interview with: Miranda T. Schram PhD Associate professor Department of Medicine Maastrich What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Late-life depression, also called vascular depression, is highly prevalent, recurrent and difficult to treat. Anti-depressants only relieve symptoms in about 50% of the patients. So we urgently need new treatment targets for this disease. In this study we found that microvascular dysfunction, irrespective if you measure this by biomarkers in the blood or in the brain, is associated with an increased risk for depression. Moreover, we found evidence from longitudinal studies that microvascular dysfunction, at least of the brain, may actually be a cause of depression. To investigate this, we undertook a meta-analyses of data from over 40,000 individuals of whom over 9,000 had a depression. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Microbiome / 01.06.2017 Interview with: Dr. Gerard Clarke PhD APC Microbiome Institute Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioural Science University College Cork, Cork, Ireland What is the background for this study? Response: Over the last decade or so, we and others have shown that the gut microbiome exerts a broad influence on the central nervous system, reflected in a range of abnormal behaviours and altered brain function in germ-free animals. These germ-free animals grow up in a sterile bubble and allow us to see what aspects of brain and behaviour could be under the influence of the microorganisms in our gastrointestinal tract. One of the most consistent findings to emerge relates to anxiety-like behaviours. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research / 31.05.2017 Interview with: Michael Large, BSc, MBBS, FRANZCP, DMedSci School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales,  The Prince of Wales Hospitals, Randwick New South Wales, Australia What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: It has been increasingly recognized that recently discharged patients have an increased suicide risk. We synthesized the global research over the last half century finding a dramatically elevated suicide rate in the months post discharge and a surprisingly high and enduring rate over much longer periods. (more…)
Author Interviews, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Pediatrics / 27.05.2017 Interview with: Antony Loebel, M.D. Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Sunovion, Head of Global Clinical Development Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma Group What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? In the six-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 347 children and adolescents (10 to 17 years of age) with bipolar depression received once-daily LATUDA flexibly dosed (20-80 mg/day) or placebo.The Phase 3 clinical study met its primary endpoint, showing statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in symptoms compared to placebo. LATUDA was generally well tolerated, with minimal effects on weight and metabolic parameters. The primary efficacy endpoint was change from baseline to week 6 on the Children Depression Rating Scale, Revised (CDRS-R) total score. LATUDA was associated with statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in bipolar depression symptoms compared to placebo, based on CDRS-R total score (-21.0 vs. -15.3; effect size = 0.45; p<0.0001) and CGI-BP-S score for depression (-1.49 vs. -1.05; effect size = 0.44; p<0.001). LATUDA also demonstrated statistically significant improvement on secondary efficacy endpoints. The most common treatment-emergent adverse events reported for LATUDA compared to placebo were nausea (16% vs. 5.8%), somnolence (9.1% vs. 4.7%), weight gain (6.9% vs. 1.7%), vomiting (6.3% vs. 3.5%), dizziness (5.7% vs. 4.7%) and insomnia (5.1% vs. 2.3%). LATUDA was associated with no increases in fasting glucose or lipids, and minimal increase in mean weight vs. placebo (+0.74 kg vs. +0.44 kg). (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Genetic Research, Schizophrenia, UCLA / 26.05.2017 Interview with: Carrie Bearden, Ph.D. Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychology Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior University of California, Los Angeles What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: A 22q11.2 deletion confers the highest known genetic risk for schizophrenia, but a duplication in the same region is strongly associated with autism and is less common in schizophrenia cases than in the general population. Thus, we became interested in trying to understand whether there were differences in brain development that might predispose to one condition vs. the other. (more…)
Author Interviews, Lancet, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics / 26.05.2017 Interview with: Dr Annie Herbert, PhD Department of Behavioural Science and Health, Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare University College London London  UK What is the background for this study? Response: 1 in 25 adolescents (i.e. one in every classroom) will be admitted to hospital as an emergency with injuries related self-harm, drug or alcohol misuse, or violence. Currently, the guidelines for how these adolescents are managed differ greatly depending on the type of injury they come in with (whether through self-harm, drug or alcohol misuse, or violence). What are the main findings? Response: In our study, we found that adolescents admitted with any of these injuries were at an increased risk of suicide and of drug or alcohol related death in the ten years after leaving hospital, compared to other admitted adolescents.While the overall risk is relatively low—for example, 2–3 girls out of 1000 and 7 boys out of 1000 who are admitted as an emergency to hospital with drug or alcohol related injuries die from suicide within 10 years—the rates are 5–6 times higher than among adolescents admitted to hospital following an accident. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Diabetes, McGill, Nature / 24.05.2017 Interview with: Ilse Gantois, PhD Research Associate Dr. Nahum Sonenberg's laboratory Department of Biochemistry McGill University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by cognitive impairment and affects 1 in 4000 males and 1 in 6000 females. About 60% of persons with Fragile X also have autism spectrum disorder. FXS is caused by absence of Fragile X protein (FMRP), which results in hyperactivation of ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) and mTORC1 (mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1) signaling. We show that treatment with metformin, the most widely used FDA-approved antidiabetic drug, suppresses translation by inhibiting the ERK pathway, and alleviates a variety of behavioural deficits, including impaired social interaction and excessive grooming. In addition, metformin also reversed defects in dendritic spine morphogenesis and synaptic transmission. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Mental Health Research / 23.05.2017 Interview with: Auriel Willette, M.S., Ph.D. Assistant Professor Departments of Food Science and Human Nutrition and Psychology Iowa State University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Translocase of Outer Mitochondrial Membrane 40 (TOMM40) is a gene that regulates the width of the outer mitochondrial pore, facilitating the transport of ribosomal pre-proteins into the inner mitochondrial matrix for translational modification into functional proteins. In 2010, Dr. Allen Roses, who discovered the Apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene, Dr. Michael Lutz, and other colleagues found that a variation in poly-T length at locus rs10524523 ('523) within intron 6 predicted Alzheimer's disease onset. Specifically, a "long" versus "short" poly-T length was related to earlier age of onset by 8 years. However, several multi-cohort studies either failed to replicate the findings or found the opposite relationship, where a "long" or "very long" poly-T length was related to later age of onset. The literature has remained mixed to this day. We were interested in testing factors that might change the relationship between TOMM40 and both cognitive decline and risk for having Alzheimer's disease. It is known that a family history (FH) of Alzheimer's disease has been associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. We reasoned, then, that FH may interact with TOMM40 to modulate how it was related to our outcomes of interest. We investigated this hypothesis in two separate cohorts: the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention (WRAP), a late middle-aged cohort, and the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a well-characterized sample of aged participants from across the Alzheimer's spectrum. (more…)