Author Interviews, Memory, Scripps / 19.09.2016 Interview with: Ron L. Davis, PhD Professor and Chair Department of Neuroscience Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: While calcium’s importance for our bones and teeth is well known, its role in neurons—in particular, its effects on processes such as learning and memory—has been less well defined. Our new study, published in the journal Cell Reports, offers new insights how calcium in mitochondria—the powerhouse of all cells—can impact the development of the brain and adult cognition. Specifically, we show in fruit flies, a widely used model system, that blocking a channel that brings calcium to the mitochondria called “mitochondrial calcium uniporter” causes memory impairment but does not alter learning capacity. That surprised us – we thought they wouldn’t be able to learn at all. This is important because defects in the same calcium channel function have been shown to be associated with intellectual disability in humans. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Diabetes / 16.09.2016 Interview with: Dr Cathy E. Lloyd Professor of Health Studies School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies The Open University Milton Keynes UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We know from earlier epidemiological research that people with diabetes have an increased risk of developing depression and other mental health problems compared to those without diabetes. However the impact of this and what treatment and care should be provided is still unclear, in particular in countries other than the US or the UK. Our study aims to redress that imbalance, collecting data on diabetes and depression in 16 countries across the globe. Ours is the first study to measure depressive symptoms but also use a standardised clinical interview to diagnose depression according to ICD criteria. Overall 10.6% received a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), however prevalence rates differed widely between countries with 1% diagnosed with MDD in Uganda and nearly 30% in Bangladesh. Twenty-five percent reported subthreshold levels (PHQ-9 score 5 -9) of depression. Those with MDD were significantly more likely to be female and living in an urban rather than rural location (p<0.001). Age and duration of diabetes did not significantly differ between those with and without MDD. Multi-variable analyses demonstrated that while controlling for country, a diagnosis of MDD was significantly associated with female sex, lower education, taking insulin, less exercise, higher levels of diabetes-related distress and a previous diagnosis of MDD. A negligible proportion of those with either MDD or subthreshold levels of depression had a diagnosis or any treatment for their depression recorded in their medical records. (more…)
Abuse and Neglect, Mental Health Research, Psychological Science, Technology / 15.09.2016 Interview with: Yu Chen, Ph.D. Post-doc researcher Department of Informatics University of California, Irvine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: College students are facing increasing amount of stress these days. We are interested in leveraging information technology to help them become happier. We week to implement happiness-boosting exercises in positive psychology using technology in a lightweight way. Since college students frequently take photos using their smartphones, we started to investigate how to use smartphone photography to help students conduct the happiness-boosting exercises. Participants were divided into three groups and instructed to take a photo per day in one of the following three conditions: 1) a smiling selfie; 2) a photo of something that makes himself/herself happy; 3) a photo of something that makes another person happy, which is then sent to that person. We found that participants have become more positive after purposefully taking the assigned type of photo for three weeks. Participants who took photos that make others happy also became calmer. Some participants who took smiling selfies reported becoming more confident and comfortable with their smiles. Those who took photos to make themselves happy reported becoming more reflective and appreciative. Participants who took photos to make others happy found connecting with strong ties help them reduce stress. (more…)
Author Interviews, Columbia, Depression, Nature, Orthopedics, Pharmacology / 09.09.2016 Interview with: Patricia Ducy, PhD Associate Professor Department of Pathology & Cell Biology Columbia University New York, NY 10032 What is the background for this study? Response: In the past few years, several large clinical studies have reported an association between the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and an increased risk of bone fractures. Yet, a few studies conducted on small cohorts using these drugs for a short time showed a decrease in bone resorption parameters and thus minor bone gain. To understand this paradox and to define how the deleterious effect of SSRIs could be prevented we conducted a series of studies in mice treated with fluoxetine, the active molecule of the widely prescribed SSRI Prozac. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Biomarkers / 01.09.2016 Interview with: Professor B. Paul Morgan Director, Systems Immunity Research Institute Institute of Infection and Immunity School of Medicine Cardiff University What is the background for this study? Response: Inflammation is a normal response of the body to infection or injury; however, it is well known that inflammation also has a dark side and when it escapes normal controls can cause disease. Some illnesses, like rheumatoid arthritis, have been known for many years to be caused by rogue inflammation and most of the drugs used to treat work by suppressing the inflammation (anti-inflammatories). More recently, it has become clear that inflammation is behind many other diseases that were previously thought of as diseases of ageing caused by wear and tear and lifestyle - these include heart disease and some brain diseases, notably Alzheimer's disease the commonest cause of dementia. Evidence that inflammation is one of the drivers of disease has come from many sources, including some where it was noticed that people on long-term anti-inflammatory drugs for other reasons appeared to be protected from developing Alzheimer's disease. A problem is that Alzheimer's disease, despite the name, is not a single disease but rather a group of conditions with similar symptoms, and inflammation is likely to be a cause in only some of the patients; further, most of the inflammation might be occurring very early in the disease, even before symptoms are obvious. So, there is an urgent need for a simple test or set of tests that can be used in individuals with the very earliest hints of Alzheimer's disease - mild memory loss - that will pick out those who have brain inflammation and are most likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. It might then be possible to treat this select group with anti-inflammatory drugs that will reduce brain inflammation and slow or stop progression of the disease. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Immunotherapy, Nature / 01.09.2016 Interview with: Roger M. Nitsch, MD Professor and Director Institute for Regenerative Medicine · IREM University of Zurich Campus Schlieren Switzerland What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The main finding is that treatment with aducanumab resulted in an unprecedented reduction of brain amyloid plaques in patients with Alzheimer's disease.  The removal of amyloid from patients brains were both dose- and time-dependent.  We also observed initial hints for stabilized brain functions in patients receiving aducanumab.  In contrast, patients in the placebo group continued to declined as usual in this stage of Alzheimer's disease. The main safety finding in 22% of all treated patients was ARIA - an Amyloid-Related Imaging Abnormality - suggestive of fluid shifts in the brains. In most cases, ARIA occurred in the absence of clinical signs and resolved spontaneously.  In one third of the ARIA cases, patients experienced transient headaches.  None of the patients had to hospitalized because of ARIA. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Genetic Research, Mental Health Research, Ovarian Cancer, Psychological Science / 31.08.2016 Interview with: Mag. Dr. Anne Oberguggenberger PhD Medizinische Universität Innsbruck Department für Psychiatrie, Psychotherapie und Psychosomatik Innsbruck Austria What is the background for this study? Response: Genetic counseling and testing is increasingly integrated in routine clinical care for breast- and ovarian cancer (BOC). Knowledge on follow-up psychosocial outcomes in all different groups of counselees is essential in order to improve follow-up care and counselees’ quality of life. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Education / 30.08.2016 Interview with: Deborah Blacker MD, ScD Director of the Gerontology Research Unit Department of Psychiatry Massachusetts General Hospital What is the background for this study? What are the main findings Response: Many observational studies have found that those who are cognitively active have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or any type of dementia. However, we and others have been concerned that these findings might be spurious due to two potential biases:
  • 1) “confounding,” meaning that those who are cognitively active have lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease for another reason, in particular the effect of greater education, which is associated with both lower risk of Alzheimer’s and higher levels of cognitive activity; and
  • 2) “reverse causation,” meaning that theassociation could be due to a reduction in cognitive activity among those already in the long preclinical phase of cognitive decline before Alzheimer’s dementia (rather than the lack of cognitive activity causing the Alzheimer’s). Our study performed a systematic review of the literature on the association, and then a set of bias analyses to assess whether confounding or reverse causation could account for the observed associations.
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Nutrition / 28.08.2016 Interview with: William B. Grant, Ph.D. Director, Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center San Francisco, CA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The present study is the culmination of 20 years of investigating dietary links to Alzheimer's disease (AD). I am a physicist by training and spent my salaried career as an atmospheric scientist. In the 1990s while studying the effect of acid rain and ozone on eastern hardwood forests, I became familiar with the geographical ecological study approach. In this approach, populations are defined geographically, such as by state or country, and health outcomes are compared statistically with risk-modifying factors. Ecological studies are an efficient way to analyze the results of unplanned experiments. In 1996, I read that Japanese-American men living in Hawaii had two and a half times the prevalence of  Alzheimer's disease as native Japanese. I knew that AD patients often had higher concentrations of aluminum in their brains than other people, and that acid rain increased the concentration of aluminum in trees. It quickly occurred to me that the American diet must be the cause of the increased AD rate, and that by using the ecological approach, I could prove it. My first study, published in 1997, compared AD prevalence rates for 11 countries with macro-dietary factors of national diets. Total fat was found to have the highest correlation with AD, followed by total energy (calories), with fish reducing risk slightly, while countries such as China, Japan, and India, with large amounts of rice in the diet, had very low  Alzheimer's disease rates. This study was the first major study linking diet to risk of AD and led to observational studies that confirmed the findings five years later. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Schizophrenia, Telemedicine / 26.08.2016 Interview with: Dror Ben Zeev, PhD Associate Professor of Psychiatry Director, mHealth for Mental Health Program Dartmouth College Hanover, NH What is the background for this study? Response: We deployed a mobile phone intervention called FOCUS as part of a larger multi-component effort called Improving Care Reducing Costs (ICRC). ICRC was the first technology-aided relapse prevention program of its kind for people with schizophrenia; a very exciting multi-state project funded by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) led by Dr. John Kane at the Zucker Hillside Hospital and a team of researchers from multiple institutions. Several other technological interventions were used in concert with mHealth, including a web intervention called Coping with Voices Developed by Dr. Jen Gottlieb and a Daily Support Website developed by Dr. Armando Rotondi. A truly multi-disciplinary effort designed to help prevent re-hospitalization in people with psychosis who were recently discharged from the hospital; this is a group that is at very high risk for relapse. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Mental Health Research, Sleep Disorders / 26.08.2016 Interview with: Donna Littlewood PhD School of Health Sciences Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health The University of Manchester What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This was the first qualitative study to examine the role of sleep problems in relation to suicidal thoughts and behaviours. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 participants, who all had experienced major depressive episode(s) and suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Data were analysed with thematic analysis which identified three interrelated pathways whereby sleep contributed to suicidal thoughts and behaviours. The first was that being awake at night heightened the risks of suicidal thoughts and attempts, which in part was seen as a consequence of the lack of help or resources available at night. Secondly, the research found that a prolonged failure to achieve a good night's sleep made life harder for respondents, adding to depression, as well as increasing negative thinking, attention difficulties and inactivity. Finally, participants said sleep acted as an alternative to suicide, providing an escape from their problems. However, the desire to use sleep as an avoidance tactic led to increased day time sleeping which in turn caused disturbed sleeping patterns - reinforcing the first two pathways. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Heart Disease, HIV, Vanderbilt / 25.08.2016 Interview with: Matthew S Freiberg, MD, MSc Cardiovascular Medicine Division, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Tennessee Valley Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, Nashville  TN Tasneem Khambaty, PhD Department of Psychology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida Jesse C. Stewart, PhD Department of Psychology, Indiana University–Purdue University , Indianapolis, Indianapolis What is the background for this study? Response: Due to highly effective antiretroviral therapy, people with HIV are living longer. Unfortunately, these HIV-infected individuals remain at a higher risk for other chronic diseases, with cardiovascular disease (CVD) being one of the leading cause of death in this population. In the general population, depressive disorders, such as major depressive disorder (MDD) and dysthymic disorder, are associated with increased risk of new-onset CVD. Given that roughly 24-40% of HIV-infected individuals have a depressive disorder, we examined whether MDD and dysthymic disorder are also associated with an increased risk of new-onset CVD in people with HIV. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research / 25.08.2016 Interview with: Ian Rockett, PhD, MPH, FACE Professor, Department of Epidemiology School of Public Health West Virginia University Morgantown, WV What is the background for this study? Response: Self-injury deaths in the United States are seriously underestimated because they are officially limited to registered suicides, and exclude non-suicide deaths from drug self-intoxication. Suicides themselves are undercounted due primarily to under-resourcing of medical examiner and coroner offices and associated challenges in detecting drug suicides. Although most drug-intoxication deaths involve deliberate behaviors that markedly elevate risk of premature death, they are formally classified, but mischaracterized, as “accidents” on death certificates. Representing self-injury mortality (SIM) as a combination of registered suicides and estimated deaths from drug self-intoxication (DDSI), this study compared its national trends and patterns with those of 3 proximally ranked top 10 causes of death. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Diabetes, Mental Health Research / 25.08.2016 Interview with: Evdokia Anagnostou MD Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Translational Therapeutics in Autism Senior Clinician Scientist and co-lead of the Autism Research Centre Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Researchers from Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital / University of Toronto (Canada), Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh, Columbia University, and Vanderbilt University, led a double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial to examine whether metformin, a common type-2 diabetes drug, may be effective in counteracting weight gain commonly seen with the use of atypical antipsychotic medications, indicated by the FDA for the treatment of irritability in children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Results showed that metformin was effective in helping overweight children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who take antipsychotic medications lower their body mass index (BMI). Both FDA-approved antipsychotic medications for treating irritability and agitation symptoms in children and adolescents with ASD can cause a significant increase in weight gain, which in addition to increasing BMI, enhances long-term risk of diabetes. This complicates an already challenging issue as adolescents with autism spectrum disorder are ~ two times more likely to be obese than adolescents without developmental disabilities. Findings of this research are important, especially for families of children with ASD, as managing long-term physical health while also treating irritability/agitation symptoms, can help ensure that their child can participate fully in life (school, etc.). (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Calcium, Neurology / 19.08.2016 Interview with: Silke Kern, MD, PhD Neuropsychiatric Epidemiology Unit and Clinical Neurochemistry Laboratory Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology Sahlgrenska Academy University of Gothenburg Gothenburg, Sweden What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Calcium has an important role in ischemic neuronal cell death and atherosclerosis. Several studies suggest that increased serum calcium increases the risk for vascular events and worsens the outcome after stroke. Widespread ischemic neuronal cell death and atherosclerosis might lead to dementia. We therefore examined if Calcium supplementation is associated with development of dementia. Our study is the first to show a relationship between Calcium supplementation and increased risk for dementia in older women. This risk is mainly confined to women with cerebrovascular disease (history of stroke or presence of white matter lesions). (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, JAMA, Mental Health Research, OBGYNE / 19.08.2016 Interview with: Krista F. Huybrechts, M.S., Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Medicine Harvard Medical School Epidemiologist Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics Brigham and Women’s Hospital Boston, MA 02120 What is the background for this study? Response: The use of antipsychotic medications during pregnancy has doubled in the last decade. Yet, information on the safety of antipsychotic medication use during pregnancy for the developing fetus is very limited: existing studies tend to be small (the largest study available to date includes 570 exposed women) and findings have been inconsistent. Concerns have been raised about a potential association with congenital malformations. The objective of our study was to examine the risk of congenital malformations overall, as well as cardiac malformations given findings from earlier studies, in a large cohort of pregnant women. We used a nationwide sample of 1.3 mln pregnant women insured through Medicaid between 2000-2010, of which 9,258 used an atypical antipsychotic and 733 used a typical antipsychotic during the first trimester, the etiologically relevant period for organogenesis. We also examined the risks associated with the most commonly used individual medications. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, Gender Differences, JAMA, Mental Health Research / 17.08.2016 Interview with: Edith Chen, Ph.D. Professor Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research Northwestern University Department of Psychology Evanston, IL 60208-2710 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Previous research has documented psychiatric consequences of childhood abuse, but less is known about possible physical health consequences. The main finding is that women who self-reported childhood abuse (in adulthood) were at greater risk for all-cause mortality compared to those who did not report abuse. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Genetic Research, NIH / 16.08.2016 Interview with: Karen Usdin, Ph. D. Senior Investigator Chief, Gene Structure and Disease Section Laboratory of Cell and Molecular Biology National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases National Institutes of Health Bethesda MD 20892 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Our laboratory is interested in the causes and consequences of the unusual repeat expansion mutation that causes the Fragile X-related disorders. However these disorders are challenging to study, in part because the repeat tract is difficult to amplify by PCR. This makes monitoring of repeat length, as well as other factors we are interested in such as methylation status and the presence of AGG interruptions, quite difficult. In our experience, both repeat number and methylation status are very variable in patient stem cells and in disease-relevant cell types derived from them. This variability arises because the repeat is prone to both expansion and contraction and because at different times there can be selection for smaller alleles or against unmethylated ones. Thus the frequent monitoring of repeat length and methylation status is critical for work with patient cells, particularly when those cells are to be used for drug screening or to examine the consequences of expansion. While other assays are available to determine one or more of these parameters, some are cumbersome to use or lack the necessary robustness and sensitivity, whilst others are prohibitively expensive for routine laboratory work. We thus saw a need for assays that are robust, sensitive and cost-effective for preclinical studies. (more…)
Author Interviews, Critical Care - Intensive Care - ICUs, Infections, JAMA, Mental Health Research / 11.08.2016 Interview with: Helene Lund-Sørensen BM Department of Biomedical Sciences Section of Cellular and Metabolic Research University of Copenhagen What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Accumulating research has shown that inflammation and infections are associated with psychiatric diagnoses and interactions between infectious agents, known to affect the brain, and suicidal behavior have been reported. We find an increased risk of death by suicide among individuals hospitalized with infections. The risk of suicide increased in a dose-response relationship with the number of hospitalizations with infections and with the number of days hospitalized with infections. We also examined the risk of suicide association with the time since the last hospitalization with infection and found that infection was linked to an elevated risk with the strongest effect after 1 and 2 years compared with those without infections. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, BMJ, Geriatrics, Mental Health Research / 10.08.2016 Interview with: Dr. Faiza Tabassum, PhD Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute  University of Southampton Southampton, UK What is the background for this study? Response: Previous research has shown that volunteering in older age is associated with better mental and physical health, but it’s unclear whether this extends to other age groups. We aimed to examine the association of volunteering with mental health or well-being among the British population across all ages. The British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) was used which has collected information from 1991 to 2008 from over 5000 households. The published study has analysed over 66,000 responses representing the whole of the UK. The BHPS included a wide range of questions on leisure time activities, which covered the frequency of formal volunteering—from at least once a week through to once a year or less, or never. The BHPS also included a validated proxy for mental health/emotional wellbeing known as the GHQ-12. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Mental Health Research, Primary Care / 09.08.2016 Interview with: David S. Kroll, MD Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry Brigham and Women's Hospital What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Our primary care clinic has the capacity to provide 9 psychiatry evaluations per week, but before we started this project nearly half of the evaluation appointments went unused due to no-shows, and meanwhile the waiting time was two months. We had tried appointment reminders but this had very little impact on the problem—it turns out that forgetting is only a small part of why patients miss their appointments and that instead they have competing obligations—family, housing, legal, etc. Since the traditional model of scheduling and keeping appointments wasn’t working for so many patients, we implemented a referral-based walk-in clinic instead and found that this significantly increased the number of patients who were seen while virtually eliminating our wait list. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Dental Research, Geriatrics, Kidney Disease / 05.08.2016 Interview with: Danielle Mairead Maire Ni Chroinin, MB BCh BAO BMedSc MD MRCPI FRACP Staff Specialist in Geriatric Medicine Liverpool Hospital and Senior Conjoint Lecturer UNSW What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Oral disease may have a large impact on older persons’ health and wellbeing, causing pain, impairing speech, adversely affecting nutrition, contributing to systemic infection and harming self-esteem. However, this important issue may be neglected in the acute hospital setting. Our aim was to investigate oral health status and abnormalities in older patients admitted acutely to hospital, exploring the association with medical co-morbidities. We included all individuals aged 70 and older admitted to a geriatric service over 3 months (N=202), and evaluated oral health using a simple bedside tool the Oral Health Assessment Tool (OHAT). Overall, we found that poor oral health was not uncommon, and was associated with dementia and renal impairment. This association persisted even after adjustment for anticholinergic medication and oral pH, highlighting that patients with these conditions may be particularly vulnerable. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Neurological Disorders / 05.08.2016 Interview with: Auriel Willette, PhD 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: The Alzheimer's disease (AD) field continues to look for biological markers that can detect onset and progression of the disease, mainly memory decline and atrophy of medial temporal lobe where conscious memories are formed. The immune system has long been known to affect the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD), usually through a process called inflammation in the brain that causes damage to brain cells called neurons. We wished to examine all available immune system data in a large, well-established cohort across the AD spectrum and discover which immune markers best explained memory decline and medial temporal atrophy over 2 years. In essence, among dozens of candidate immune markers, we consistently found two to be most relevant: neuronal pentraxin 2 (NPTX2) and chitinase-3-like-protein-1 (C3LP1). NPTX2 is important for facilitating communication between neurons, whereas C3LP1 is related to activation of a part of the immune system that causes inflammation in the brain. To our surprise, higher NPTX2 levels at baseline were potently related to less memory loss and less medial temporal atrophy over 2 years. C3LP1, by contrast, was a relatively poor predictor. NPTX2 also better predicted levels of amyloid and tau in the brain, which are generally thought to help cause AD. Finally, we found that more years of education led to higher NPTX2 levels, suggesting that more formal learning leads to more stable, stronger connections between neurons that give rise to memory. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, JAMA, Pediatrics / 02.08.2016 Interview with: Danny G. Thomas, MD, MPH Department of Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Corporate Center Milwaukee, WI What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This was a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial of strict rest after concussion published last year. We wanted to find out how mental and physical activity levels related to symptom spikes or sudden increases in concussion symptoms. We found that one in three patients had symptoms spikes in recovery. Patients who had symptom spikes tended to have higher symptoms in the emergency department and throughout recovery. Most symptom spikes were not associated with an increase in physical and mental activity level the day prior. We did find that a sudden increase in activity like returning to school did increase the risk of having a symptom spike, but the good news is these symptom spikes seemed to resolve the following day and did not impact recovery by 10 days. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Addiction, ADHD, Author Interviews / 29.07.2016 Interview with: Anna Chorniy PhD Postdoctoral Research Associate Center for Health and Wellbeing Princeton University Princeton NJ 08544 What is the background for this study? Response: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the common chronic mental conditions affecting children. In the U.S., 11% of children ages 4–17 (6.4 million) are estimated to have an ADHD diagnosis and almost 70% of them report taking medication for the condition (e.g. Visser et al., 2014). However, little evidence exists on the effects of ADHD treatment on children’s outcomes. We use a panel data set of South Carolina Medicaid claims paid out in 2003–2013 to investigate the effects of ADHD medication treatment on a seldom studied set of outcomes associated with this condition: adolescent risky behaviors and the incidence of injuries. The occurrence of injuries allows us to evaluate short-term effects of ADHD treatment, while substance abuse and risky sexual behavior outcomes speak for the long-term effects of medication. Second, we use Medicaid spending on treatment of these negative events to evaluate the impact of ADHD drugs on the severity of ADHD, and compare the cost of ADHD treatment with the costs of negative health events. (more…)
Author Interviews, Memory / 29.07.2016 Interview with: Flavio Frohlich PhD Assistant Professor Departments of Psychiatry, Cell Biology and Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurology Neuroscience Center School of Medicine University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill What is the background for this study? Response: Although we do not understand why we sleep, it is clear that sleep is very important for overall well being and health. One of many likely functions of sleep is memory consolidation, the process of stabilizing previously acquired memories. In particular, a brief electric brain activity pattern called the sleep spindle has been shown to correlate with memory consolidation and learning in general. We asked if this brain rhythm causes memory consolidation by using non-invasive feedback brain stimulation to selectively enhance sleep spindles. We applied a weak electric current in the shape of a sleep spindle to the scalp each time our algorithm detected a sleep spindle in the EEG. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, Columbia, Mental Health Research / 29.07.2016 Interview with: J. John Mann MD Paul Janssen Professor of Translational Neuroscience Director, Molecular Imaging and Neuropathology Division Department of Psychiatry Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In 2014 there were 21,000 firearm suicides in the USA. Overseas, programs that have resulted in major reductions in firearm availability have reduced firearm suicide rates which have also been shown in the USA to be closely correlated with risk of firearm suicide. Reducing access to firearms to those at risk for suicide would help reduce firearm suicide rates in the USA. Most such suicides involve a firearm purchased many years earlier. We recommend methods for reducing such access including improved gun safety and smart gun technology. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Medical Imaging, Mental Health Research, Radiology / 29.07.2016 Interview with: Maria A. Oquendo, M.D. Professor of Psychiatry Vice Chair for Education Columbia University Medical Center American Psychiatric Association, President International Academy of Suicide Research, President What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Our team has worked for years on identifying the biological underpinnings of both risk for suicidal behavior (SB) and for predicting the lethality or medical consequences of suicidal behavior. We have shown that if you compare those who are depressed and have had SB to those who are depressed but do not have suicidal behavior, you can see clear differences in the serotonin system using Positron Emission Tomography and a molecule tagged with radioactivity. We predicted that if you could see these differences cross-sectionally, then their presence might also predict suicidal behavior and its lethality in the future. Our study showed that those with higher serotonin 1a binding in the raphe nuclei, which likely indicates low serotonin functioning, made more medically damaging suicide attempts in the two years that followed. They also suffered from more pronounced suicidal ideation in the subsequent year. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Schizophrenia / 26.07.2016 Interview with: Professor Jayashri Kulkarni MBBS, MPM, FRANZCP, PhD Director, Monash Alfred Psychiatry research centre Vic Australia What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Schizophrenia is a complex psychiatric disorder and many patients are not able to achieve remission on the available treatments. There are clear sex differences in many aspects of the illness, which not only implicates a role for the sex hormone estrogen in schizophrenia, but also highlights the need for sex-specific treatments. Our group has conducted many clinical trials using adjunctive estradiol treatment, with excellent improvement in psychotic symptoms- however, there can be physical side effects with longer term estradiol use. Raloxifene and other selective estrogen receptor modulators ( SERMs) - the so-called "brain estrogens", with their more specific brain impacts and less body side effects - provide an option to use longer term estrogen in people with refractory schizophrenia. We conducted the first ever pilot study of raloxifene in 2010, and now present findings from a bigger study of adjunctive raloxifene treatment in schizophrenia. (more…)
Author Interviews, Gastrointestinal Disease, Mental Health Research / 24.07.2016 Interview with: Laureate Professor Nicholas J. Talley, MBBS (Hons.)(NSW), MD (NSW), PhD (Syd), MMedSci (Clin Epi)(Newc.), FRACP, FAFPHM, FAHMS, FRCP (Lond. & Edin.), FACP, FACG, AGAF, FAMS, FRCPI (Hon), GAICD Pro Vice-Chancellor, Global Research, University of Newcastle, Australia Professor of Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Newcastle, Australia President, Royal Australasian College of Physicians Chair, Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges Hon. Treasurer, Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences Editor-in-Chief, Medical Journal of Australia Senior Staff Specialist, John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle, Australia Professor of Medicine and Professor of Epidemiology, Joint Supplemental Consultant Gastroenterology and Health Sciences Research, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Functional gastrointestinal diseases (FGIDs) like the irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) are very common, cause major distress including pain and psychological dysfunction, impact on quality of life and drive high health care costs. We speculated that there are two distinct types of functional gastrointestinal disease that others have not recognized. For example, IBS in a subgroup may first begin with gut symptoms (pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating etc) in those free of psychological distress and only later does new onset anxiety or depression develop, implicating gut disease as the primary driver of the entire symptom complex (a gut-to-brain disease). On the other hand, we speculated there is another quite different subgroup where disease begins with anxiety or depression and only later do new onset gut symptoms develop, and this is likely primarily a central nervous system cause (probably through the stress system), or a brain-to-gut disease. This is exactly what we found, with gut disease occurring first followed by new onset psychological distress in about two thirds of people from the community over a one year follow-up. (more…)