Author Interviews, Neurological Disorders, PLoS / 21.07.2016 Interview with: Zoltan Toroczkai, PhD, Professor of Physics Concurrent Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Physics Department University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 46556 What is the background for this study? Response: The mammalian brain is arguably the most complex information processing network and with billions of neurons and trillions of connections it presents formidable challenges to deciphering its fundamental mechanisms for information processing. In the brain, information is encoded into the spatio-temporal firing patterns of groups of neurons (population coding), making the connectivity structure of the network crucial for brain function. Damages to this network have been associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, autism and schizophrenia, and thus understanding the cortical network would also help better understand certain diseases of the brain. An experimentally and computationally more feasible approach is to study the anatomical (physical connectivity) network between the functional areas of the cortex, a mosaic of brain patches, each associated with a specific function (e.g., visual, auditory, somatosensory). Based on phylogenic considerations one expects the existence of common fundamental network architectural (and implicitly, processing) principles to be present in all mammalian brains. However, the mammalian brain spans over five orders of variation in size and thus it is not clear at all what are this common architectural features and how would we find them. The challenge here is to compare networks of the same nature (information processing type) but of different orders, with different nodal identities, and of very different spatial embedding (geometrical size) properties. (more…)
Author Interviews, Karolinski Institute, Mental Health Research / 20.07.2016 Interview with: Lorena Fernández de la Cruz | Assistant Professor Department of Clinical Neuroscience | Karolinska Institutet Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Research Center Stockholm What is OCD? Response: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of the most common psychiatric disorders. OCD has a lifetime prevalence of about two per cent in the general population, generally runs a chronic course, and is often associated with a significantly reduced quality of life. Despite this, the risk of suicide in OCD has traditionally been considered low, probably due the particular personality profile of this patient group, typically described as “harm avoidant”. However, we have seen that the risk of suicide is higher than previously thought. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics, Telemedicine / 23.06.2016 Interview with: Mirna Becevic, PhD, MHA Assistant Research Professor University of Missouri - Department of Dermatology Missouri Telehealth Network What is the background for this study? Response: Psychiatry is, by far, the biggest utilizer of telemedicine services on the Missouri Telehealth Network (MTN). MTN supports an average of 4000 tele-psychiatry appointments every month, and 10% of those are provided by the University of Missouri Department of Psychiatry. Since we are all aware of the ever-increasing demand for child and adolescent psychiatry, but also the stigma that goes along with it, we wanted to examine more closely the actual usage of those services at the University of Missouri. (more…)
Anesthesiology, Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, NYU, Pediatrics, Science / 23.06.2016 Interview with: Guang Yang, Ph.D. Assistant Professor NYU Langone School of Medicine Alexandria Center for Life Sciences New York, NY 10016 What is the background for this study? How common is the problem of long-lasting behavioral deficits after repeated anesthesia exposure in neonates? Response: Each year, in the United States alone, more than 1 million children under 4 years of age undergo surgical procedures that require anesthesia. Many lines of evidence from animal studies have shown that prolonged or repeated exposure to general anesthesia during critical stages of brain development leads to long-lasting behavioral deficits later in life. The results from human studies are less clear, although some studies suggest a higher incidence of learning disabilities and attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorders in children repeatedly exposed to procedures requiring general anesthesia. To date, there has been no effective treatment to mitigate the potential neurotoxic effects of general anesthesia. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Mental Health Research, PNAS / 22.06.2016 Interview with: Brian W. Haas PhD Department of Psychology Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Graduate Program University of Georgia, Athens, GA What is the background for this study? Response: A burgeoning body of evidence highlights the role of several key genes within the oxytocin signaling pathway linked to sociability. Although many studies strongly supports the role of OXTR in the phenotypic expression of sociability in humans, the roles of other oxytocin pathway genes, such asOXT, has received relatively little attention. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics, Psychological Science, Radiology / 19.06.2016 Interview with: Dr. Luca Passamonti MD Department of Clinical Neurosciences University of Cambridge What is the background for this study? Dr. Passamonti: We wanted to study if the brain of young people with two different forms of conduct disorder (CD) (, a neuropsychiatric disease associated with severe and persistent antisocial behaviors (weapon use, aggression, fire-setting, stealing, fraudulent behavior), was different from that of young peers with no such abnormal behaviors. There is already evidence that conduct disorder may have a biological basis (i.e., reduced levels of cortisol under stress) and brain alterations but a whole “map” of the brain in conduct disorder studying cortical thickness was never been done before. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research / 14.06.2016 Interview with: Dr. Alexandra Pitman BA MSc(Econ) MBBS MRCPsych FHEA PhD Honorary Research Associate & Consultant Psychiatrist, Division of Psychiatry University College London London What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Pitman: We conducted this study to settle a long-standing debate over whether bereavement by suicide is more stigmatising than bereavement due to other causes of sudden death. This is important because the more we understand about the stigma of suicide bereavement, the better equipped we are to design services to support this group. Providing support for people bereaved by suicide is one of five key messages in WHO suicide prevention strategy, and features prominently in the suicide prevention strategies of high income countries such as England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the US, and Australia. The evidence to date suggests that we lack effective interventions to address their known risk of suicide and mental health problems, constituting a failure to tackle an important public health problem. Although suicide is commonly believed to be highly stigmatising for bereaved relatives and friends, qualitative work suggests that people bereaved by other causes of death also feel stigmatised by their loss. For example, a British study of people bereaved by suicide and other unnatural causes of death found that interviewees in both groups described societal pressure to contain their grief and even to hide it. Our earlier systematic review in the Lancet Psychiatry had identified studies comparing health and mortality outcomes in people bereaved by suicide and other causes of death, among which 7 studies had compared perceived stigma scores using a validated measure. In all cases the measure was the stigmatization subscale of the Grief Experience Questionnaire. Taken together these studies were inconclusive as to whether people bereaved by suicide and other unnatural mortality causes differed in relation to stigma scores. Partly the problem seemed to be one of sample size in having insufficient statistical power to demonstrate score differences, should they exist. We decided to conduct a large-scale British study to compare grief outcomes such as stigma, shame, responsibility and guilt, as well as clinical outcomes such as suicide attempt. Previously published findings from this study, reported in BMJ Open, show an increased risk of suicide attempt in people bereaved by suicide, whether related to the deceased or not. (more…)
ADHD, Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research, Neurological Disorders / 11.06.2016 Interview with: Katya Rubia, PhD Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience King’s College London London, England  What are the main findings? Dr. Rubia: ADHD and OCD patients both suffer from poor inhibitory control and in both disorders this has been associated with structural and functional deficits in fronto-striatal networks. However, it is not clear to what extent the two disorders differ in their underlying neural substrates. This study therefore conducted a meta-analysis of all published whole brain structural and functional MRI studies of inhibitory control in both disorders. What are the main findings? Dr. Rubia: The main findings are that ADHD and OCD patients differ quite fundamentally in their structural and functional brain abnormalities. OCD patients have enlarged volume in basal ganglia and insula, while ADHD patients have reduced volumes in these regions. In fMRI, in the left hemisphere this was also observed for the left insula and putamen, which were increased in OCD and reduced in ADHD. In addition both disorders have different frontal deficits. OCD patients have deficits in rostro-dorsal medial frontal regions that are important for top-down control of affect while ADHD patients had reduced activation in lateral inferior frontal cortex, a key area of attention and cognitive control. The findings fit into the notion of fronto-striatal dysregulation in OCD where basal ganglia are overactive and poorly controlled by medial frontal regions and a delayed fronto-striatal maturation in ADHD where both lateral frontal regions and the basal ganglia/insula are smaller, and presumably less developed in structure and in function in ADHD. (more…)
Annals Internal Medicine, Author Interviews, Mental Health Research / 07.06.2016 Interview with: Andrew Anglemyer, PhD MPH Operations Research Department U.S. Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, CA 93943 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Anglemyer: Suicide prevention programs in the military are ubiquitous. We aimed to identify the trends in suicide for each service specifically and explore any nonclinical factors that may be associated with the chosen methods of suicide. The trends in suicide are similar to what others have found. The differences in those rates between services are striking, though. Not only are most suicides in the active duty military among the Army personnel, but the suicide rate among Army personnel is the highest and has been every year since 2006. Additionally, among Army personnel and Marines who committed suicide, those with an infantry or special operations job classification were significantly more likely to use a firearm to commit suicide than those without those job classifications. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research / 02.06.2016 Interview with: rsz_1pasfoto_mark_de_jongMark de Jong, MD, Psychiatrist Yulius Academy, Yulius Mental Health Barendrecht, the Netherlands What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Compulsory psychiatric admission, defined as admission against the will of the patient, has a strong effect on psychiatric patients and their relatives, and can be traumatic. Compulsory admission also conflicts with human rights, principles of autonomy, shared decision making, and recovery focused care. We also see, that rates of compulsory admissions in several European countries are tending to rise. So, interventions that prevent patients from being compulsory admitted are urgently needed. We reviewed and meta-analyzed all currently available RCTs, that were designed to reduce compulsory admission rates in adult psychiatric patients with severe mental illnesses in outpatients settings. We found, that advance statements, like crisis plans, showed a significant 23% risk reduction in compulsory admissions. In contrast, community treatment orders and interventions for compliance enhancement showed no significant risk reduction in compulsory admissions. Although RCTs on integrated treatment showed no statistically significant risk reduction, we found a potentially clinically relevant risk reduction of 29%. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, JAMA, Mental Health Research / 27.05.2016 Interview with: Robert J. Ursano, M.D. Professor and Chair Department of Psychiatry/ Director Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Ursano: This study is part of STARRS-LS (Study to address risk and resilience in service members-longitudinal study). STARRS is a group of studies that address suicide risk in the US Army. Suicidal behavior includes suicide ideation, plans, attempts and completions. Understanding the transitions between these is an important goal. One component of STARRS is the examination of data available on all soldiers who were in the Army 2004-2009. This study examines suicide attempts in soldiers serving 2004-2009 in order to understand the association with deployment and the timing of suicide attempts as well as their association with mental health problems. STARRS is directed to identifying the who, when and where of service member risk. Then interventions can better be developed for these soldiers. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Mental Health Research / 26.05.2016 Interview with: Charles W. Hoge, M.D. Senior Scientist Walter Reed Army Institute of Research What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Hoge: Psychiatric definitions are revised periodically based on emerging science, with the intention of enhancing diagnostic accuracy, clinical utility, and communication. The latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published in 2013 (DSM-5). However, there were an unusually large number of changes to the PTSD definition compared with other common conditions affecting adults, raising concerns with how well these changes truly reflected emerging evidence. Since DSM-5 was published, evidence has accumulated that indicates that the revision did not improve the definition, and more importantly excludes nearly a third of individuals who would have met the previous DSM-IV definition. This article in JAMA Psychiatry provides a thorough critique of the problems with the new definition. It was written by 12 of the leading PTSD experts in the world, including strong representation from experts with experience treating veterans and service members. An accompanying editorial by U.S. Veterans Affairs researchers criticizes our findings, but lacks the scientific rigor of our analysis; for example, every reference they cite we also cite in direct support of our conclusions. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, JAMA, Karolinski Institute, Mental Health Research / 28.04.2016 Interview with: Donghao Lu MD, PhD candidate Department of Medical Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet Stockholm What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Lu: Psychiatric comorbidities are common among cancer patients. However, whether or not there is already increased risk of psychiatric disorders during the diagnostic workup leading to a cancer diagnosis was largely unknown. We found that, among cancer patients, the risks for several common and potentially stress-related mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, somatoform/conversion disorder and stress reaction/adjustment disorder started to increase from ten months before cancer diagnosis, peaked during the first week after diagnosis, compared to cancer-free individuals in Sweden. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, NYU, PLoS, PTSD / 06.04.2016 Interview with: Glenn Saxe, MD Arnold Simon Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Chair, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry NYU Langone’s Child Study Center Dr. Saxe’s bio page What is the background for this approach? What are the main advantages and drawbacks to the CS-CN method in psychiatry research? Dr. Saxe: Psychiatric disorders are complex and, in all likelihood, emerge and are sustained over time because they form what is called a complex system, involving the interaction between a great many variables of different types (e.g. molecules, neurons, brain circuits, developmental, social variables). There is a strong literature on complex systems in other fields that show remarkably similar properties between vastly different types of systems. Unfortunately, data methods used in research in psychiatry are not designed to ‘see’ the possible complex systems nature of a psychiatric disorder. Our method is designed to identify networks of variables related to psychiatric disorders that, together, have properties of complex systems. If such a system is identified, it may reveal new ways to treat these disorders. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Gender Differences, JAMA, Sexual Health / 27.03.2016 Interview with: Dr. Sari L. Reisner PhD Research Fellow in the Department of Epidemiology Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Associate Scientific Researcher in the Division of General Pediatrics Boston Children’s Hospital/ Harvard Medical School What are the main findings? Dr. Reisner: Transgender youth—including adolescent and young adult transgender women assigned a male sex at birth who identify as girls, women, transgender women, transfemale, male-to-female, or another diverse gender identity on the transfeminine spectrum—represent a vulnerable population at-risk for negative mental health and substance use/abuse outcomes. Although community surveys of transgender people in the United States have found a high prevalence of depression, anxiety, and substance use relative to the general adult U.S. population, studies typically utilize screening instruments or sub-threshold symptom questions and do not use diagnostic interviews. Diagnostic interview data are scarce among young transgender women; such data are important to establish guidelines for diagnosis and treatment for this youth group given their complex life experiences. The aim of this study was to report the prevalence of mental health, substance dependence, and co-morbid psychiatric disorders assessed via a diagnostic interview in an at-risk community-recruited sample of young transgender women. This observational study reported baseline finding from a diverse sample of 298 sexually active, young transgender women ages 16-29 years (mean age 23.4; 49.0% Black, 12.4% Latina, 25.5% White, 13.1% other minority race/ethnicity) enrolled in Project LifeSkills, an ongoing randomized controlled HIV prevention intervention efficacy trial in Chicago and Boston, between 2012-2015 (NIMH-funded, multiple PIs: Rob Garofalo, MD, MPH & Matthew Mimiaga, ScD, MPH). (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, PTSD / 18.03.2016 Interview with: Donna L. Littlewood PhD Student School of Psychological Sciences University of Manchester, UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Every year over 800,000 people die by suicide, and for every individual’s death, it is estimated that another 20 people will make a suicide attempt. Therefore, to be able to prevent suicide, we need to understand the different factors that can combine to make an individual think about ending their own life. Recent research indicates that nightmares are associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and that this association is independent of other related suicide risk factors, such as, depression and PTSD. However, it is now important for research to examine the mechanisms that underpin this association, as this information will support the development of clinical interventions to prevent subsequent suicide attempts and deaths (more…)
Author Interviews, Cannabis, Lancet, Mental Health Research / 08.03.2016 Interview with: Dr Sagnik Bhattacharyya Reader in Translational Neuroscience and Psychiatry Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, KCL Consultant Psychiatrist, Early Intervention Pathway Director, Maudsley Early Intervention in Dual Diagnosis clinic Psychosis Clinical Academic Group, South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust King’s Health Partners What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Bhattacharyya: Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in the world and its use has been linked to the onset of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Whilst a lot of research has investigated the association between cannabis use and the development of psychosis, there is less clarity regarding the consequences of continued cannabis use in those with an established psychotic disorder. We therefore pooled together all available evidence from studies that specifically looked at the effects of cannabis use on outcome following the onset of psychosis. Based on data from more than 16000 patients with a first episode or more established psychosis, our results show that continued cannabis use is consistently associated with poor outcome in the form of more relapses (as indexed by psychiatric hospitalisation), longer hospitalisations and increased positive symptoms. However, outcomes were not as bad if cannabis use was discontinued following the onset of psychosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cannabis, Mental Health Research / 06.03.2016 Interview with: Dr. Rashmi Patel MA (Cantab) MA BM BCh PGDip (Oxon) MRCPsych Clinical Lecturer in General Psychiatry Kings College London What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Patel: Previous studies suggest that cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of developing a psychotic disorder but, until now, little was known about the effects of cannabis on people with an established psychotic disorder. Using novel text mining techniques, we investigated the association of cannabis use with the clinical outcomes of over 2,000 people following their first episode of psychosis. We found that cannabis use was associated with significantly poorer clinical outcomes including a 50% increased frequency of hospital admission and 35 additional days spent in hospital in the 5 years after first receiving treatment. We also found that the poor outcomes associated with cannabis use may be linked to antipsychotic treatment failure. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Eating Disorders, Mental Health Research, Nutrition, OBGYNE, Pediatrics / 23.02.2016 Interview with: Lisanne de Barse PhD Department of Epidemiology Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. de Barse: Fussy (or “picky”) eating behaviour, which is characterised by consistent rejection of particular foods, is common in childhood and a source of concern for parents. It is not well understood what affects fussy eating. It is, however, well known that internalizing psychiatric problems of parents (i.e. anxiety and depression) have an impact on children’s health and development. Studies have also shown that mothers’ internalizing problems during the child’s preschool period was linked to child fussy eating. It was not clear whether the child’s eating problems causes stress and psychiatric symptoms in mothers or whether mothers’ symptoms predict child eating behaviour. Nor was it known what potential impact the dads’ state of mind have. The purpose of this study was to examine whether mothers’ and fathers’ internalizing problems during pregnancy and during the child’s life predicts child fussy eating. MedicalResearch: What are the main findings? Dr. de Barse: Our main findings indicate that mothers’ anxiety and depressive symptoms during pregnancy could have an influence on children’s fussy eating. This was irrespective of mothers’ internalizing symptoms at the child’s preschool period. We also found indications that fathers’ anxiety and depressive symptoms might influence children’s fussy eating behaviour. This was studied in Generation R, a study that has been tracking the health and wellbeing of children from conception onwards, conducted by the Erasmus Medical Centre, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. (more…)
Author Interviews, Emergency Care, Mental Health Research / 19.02.2016 Interview with: Paul E Ronksley, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Community Health Sciences Cumming School of Medicine University of Calgary Calgary, AB Canada Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Response: Numerous studies have shown that high users of the emergency department (ED) are often patients with complex medical needs and limited personal and social resources. It is also recognized that high users are a heterogeneous group driven by variability in the operational definition used to define this patient population. “High use” of ED services is often defined by the number of visits per year (namely ≥3 or ≥4 visits to the ED in a 1-year period) with little exploration of the distribution/pattern of these visits over time. The purpose of our study was to examine patient and encounter-level factors and costs related to periods of short-term resource intensity (clustered ED visits) among high users of the ED within a tertiary-care teaching facility. This is important as it may inform interventions that can focus on a more defined group with the goal of providing the needed care in a setting outside of the ED. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Response: Our main findings demonstrate that among high  emergency department users (i.e. patients with 3 or more ED visits in a 1-year period), approximately 1 in 7 patients had a period of high-intensity ED use (3 or more visits clustered within a week). These patients with clustered visits were more likely to be homeless, require psychiatric emergency services, and revisit the  emergency department for the same presenting complaints. The high-intensity users were also less likely to be admitted, more likely to leave without being seen and had lower costs per encounter, although their total ED cost across all visits was higher. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, JAMA, NYU, Pediatrics / 01.02.2016 Interview with: Briannon O'Connor PhD New York University Child Study Center Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry New York University School of Medicine New York Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. O'Connor: a.      As the health care system continues to emphasize accountability for providing high quality care, the development of meaningful quality standards is critical.  This study came from NCQA’s work to develop these quality measures for adolescent depression care.  Prior to this study, little was known about what routine care looked like for adolescents who showed up at their primary care visits with significant symptoms of depression. This study looked at follow up care documented in an electronic health record in the three months after an adolescent was first identified with significant symptoms of depression. Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. O'Connor:    Key findings from this study include:
  1. Most adolescents (nearly two-thirds) with newly prescribed depression symptoms received some treatment, usually including psychotherapy, within the first 3 months after depression symptoms were first identified.
  2. Among those adolescents who were prescribed antidepressant medications, 40% had no other follow up care in three months, which is quite concerning since current black box warnings highlight the risk for increased suicidality for youth prescribed antidepressants and clearly recommend close monitoring in the few months following initial prescription.
  3. There were low rates of other follow up care events in the three month follow up period:  19% of adolescents  did not receive any follow up care at all, 36% did not receive any treatment, and the majority (68%) lacked documentation that symptoms were monitored or re-assessed using a valid questionnaire
  4. The sites that participated in the study are highly regarded health care institutions, often looked to as leaders in cutting-edge care. Thus, results from this study, discouraging as they are, may overstate the quality of care in other settings.
Author Interviews, Autism, Genetic Research, JAMA, Schizophrenia / 30.01.2016 Interview with: Andrea J. Gonzalez-Mantilla, M.D. Postdoctoral Fellow Andres Moreno-De-Luca, M.D. Investigator I Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute Department of Radiology Geisinger Health System Danville, PA 17822 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Developmental brain disorders (DBD), such as autism, intellectual disability, and schizophrenia are a group of heterogeneous conditions characterized by deficits that affect multiple functional domains, such as cognition, behavior, communication, and motor skills. Previous studies provide strong evidence of common underlying molecular pathways and shared genetic causes among apparently different DBDs. Large-scale genomic studies of individuals with developmental brain disorders have found that identifying multiple, independent de novo pathogenic loss-of-function (pLOF) variants in the same gene among unrelated individuals is a powerful statistical approach to reliably identify disease-causing genes. However, genomic data from smaller cohorts and case reports are not routinely pooled with data from larger studies. Moreover, most previous studies have been restricted to cohorts of individuals ascertained based on a single diagnosis (e.g., a study will focus on only individuals with a diagnosis of autism and not consider other genomic data from individuals with a different diagnosis). Therefore, genomic data from individuals across DBD are not being jointly analyzed in search of pLOF variants in the same gene that may help build evidence for a causative role in developmental brain disorders. In this study, we carried out data mining of previously published data to identify genes related to the DBD phenotype. We expanded the aforementioned method and developed a multilevel data-integration approach, which capitalizes on three genotype-phenotype data sources: (1) genomic data from structural and sequence pLOF variants, (2) phenotype data from six apparently distinct DBD (autism, intellectual disability, epilepsy, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and (3) data from large scale studies, smaller cohorts, and case reports. We identified 241 candidate genes for developmental brain disorders, including 17 genes that had not previously been associated with developmental brain disorders. (more…)
Author Interviews, Heart Disease, Mental Health Research / 29.01.2016 Interview with: Dr Jodie Ingles GradDipGenCouns MPH PhD Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow Conjoint Senior Lecturer, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney National Coordinator, Australian Genetic Heart Disease Registry Research Officer, Molecular Cardiology Centenary Institute Newtown Australia Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Ingles : Sudden cardiac death of a young relative is devastating for the family. Not only are they grieving, but must come to terms with the familial risk to other family members. The clinical and genetic aspects of family management are beginning to be better understood, but there has been a lack of research regarding the psychological impact to family members. We found 1 in 2 family members report significant symptoms of prolonged grief and posttraumatic stress warranting need for specialized intervention by a clinical psychologist. Furthermore, we found those family members who witnessed the death or discovered the decedents body were 3 to 4 times more likely to report these symptoms. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, Autism, Mental Health Research, PLoS, Schizophrenia / 25.01.2016 Interview with: Dr. Richard Deth PhD Professor of Pharmacology Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences Nova Southeastern University Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Deth: Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in regulating and promoting methylation reactions (the attachment of a carbon atom to molecules), including DNA methylation. Recent research has identified methylation of DNA and consequential changes in gene expression as crucial factors in brain development, as well as in memory formation and maintenance of brain function during aging. More specifically, the cause(s) of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism remain obscure, although numerous studies have demonstrated oxidative stress and low plasma levels of the antioxidant glutathione (GSH) in autism.  Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Deth: We found that brain levels of vitamin B12, especially the methylation-regulating form known as methylB12, decrease significantly with age, even though blood levels don’t show a similar decrease. Importantly, much lower levels of methylB12 were found in subjects with autism and schizophrenia compared to normal subjects of a similar age. Animal studies showed that impaired GSH formation is associated with decreased brain B12 levels. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, JAMA, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics, Pharmacology / 20.01.2016

More on Mental Health on Interview with: Christoph U. Correll, MD Professor of Psychiatry and Molecular Medicine Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine Hempstead, New York, USA Investigator, Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Manhasset, New York, Medical Director, Recognition and Prevention The Zucker Hillside Hospital, Department of Psychiatry  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Correll: Antipsychotics have been used increasingly for psychotic, but also for many non-psychotic conditions, including for disorders and conditions for which they have not received regulatory approval. Moreover, antipsychotics have been associated with weight gain and abnormalities in blood fat and blood glucose levels. Although data in youth have been less available than in children and adolescents, youth appear to be more sensitive to the cardiometabolic adverse effects of antipsychotics than adults in whom significant weight gain might have already occurred due to long-term prior antipsychotic treatment. Nevertheless, type 2 diabetes, which is related to weight gain, overweight and obesity, seemed to be more common in adults than youth, likely due to the fact that it takes a long time for the body to develop diabetes. Recently, several individual epidemiologic or database studies with sufficient long-term follow-up durations suggested that the type 2 diabetes risk was higher in youth exposed to antipsychotics than healthy control youth and, possibly, even compared to psychiatrically ill patients treated with non-antipsychotic medications. However, a meta-analytic pooling of all available data has not been available to estimate the absolute and relative risk of type 2 diabetes in youth receiving antipsychotic treatment.  Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Correll: The main findings of the study that meta-analyzed data from 13 studies with 185,105 youth exposed to antipsychotics (average age 14.1 and 59.5 percent male) are that the absolute rates of type 2 diabetes are fortunately still relatively low, i.e. a cumulative type 2 diabetes  risk of 5.7/1,000 patients and an exposure adjusted incidence rate of 3.1/1,000 patient-years. Nevertheless, the cumulative risk of type 2 diabetes and its exposure adjusted incidence rate per patient were 2.6 times and three times higher compared with 298,803 healthy controls. Furthermore, the cumulative risk of type 2 diabetes and its exposure adjusted incidence rate per patient were 2.1 times and 1.8 times higher compared with 1,342,121 psychiatric patients not exposed to antipsychotics. Main modifiable risk factors for type 2 diabetes development in antipsychotic-treated youth were treatment with the antipsychotic olanzapine and longer antipsychotic exposure time. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, NYU, Pain Research / 15.01.2016

More on Mental Health Research on Interview with: Dr Mia Tova Minen Department of Neurology NYU Langone Medical Center New York, NY 10016 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Minen: Migraine affects 12% of adults in the United States, and is thus a very common condition. There are effective treatments for migraine patients, but we also know that if patients and their doctors do not consider the psychiatric disorders that can co-occur with migraine, migraines can worsen, a term called migraine chronification. Thus, we felt that it was important to discuss the various psychiatric disorders associated with migraine, the screening tools available to assess for them, and various treatment considerations for patients with migraine and psychiatric conditions. We also discussed potential explanations for the relationship between migraine and these psychiatric conditions. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Hormone Therapy, JAMA, Menopause / 08.01.2016 Interview with: Eleni Petridou, MD, MPH, PhD Marios K. Georgakis, MD Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics School of Medicine National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Athens, Greece Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Response: Previous epidemiologic studies have shown that women during their reproductive life are more vulnerable (by a factor of two) to depression than men; this has been particularly evident during peaks of intense fluctuations of ovarian hormones, like the premenstrual, perimenopausal and postpartum periods. Endogenous (natural) female sex hormones, however, have been shown in various experimental studies to possess neuroprotective and anti-depressive properties. Production of these hormones is diminished after menopause; therefore, age at menopause can be used as a proxy of the lifetime exposure to endogenous hormones. Our research hypothesis was whether longer exposure to endogenous sex hormones has a cumulative anti-depressive action, i.e., whether later age at menopause decreases the risk for postmenopausal depression. (more…)