Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hickenlooper Signs Ban on Long-Term Solitary for Mentally Ill Prisoners


That is the title of this article I am writing about.  “Gov. John Hickenlooper this morning signed a bill that bans the practice of keeping seriously mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement.  The bill, which passed with strong bi-partisan support, won the support of advocates and rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, who say the isolation of prisoners with mental illness violates the constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment and endangers public safety.  But as Rocky Mountain PBS I-News has reported, state prisons aren’t the only place in Colorado where offenders with mental illness are subject to lengthy periods of solitary confinement.  In the state’s county jails, solitary confinement- or administrative segregation- remains common for inmates with serious mental illness.  The isolation can last days, months, or even years. In jails, this practice is left intact by the latest state law. The new legislation came on the heels of a series of tragedies in Colorado, including the killing last year of prisons chief Tom Clements by a man who had been released directly from long-term solitary confinement into the community. In an irony often noted, Clements had worked to reduce the use of administrative segregation in state prisons.” Why am I writing about this it is because it is a good?  My mental illness came when I was in prison and had been caught gambling and was sent to the hole or solitary confinement for three days.  I was locked in the hole and that is the last thing I remember.  I woke on a different tier than the hole and was insane. I must have blacked out when I was put in the hole because I do not remember anything after I was put in the cell. I know I was angry when they put me in there.
The article goes on to say: “The current corrections chief, Rick Raemisch, has continued the work that his predecessor started, publicly calling for a rethinking of the practice of solitary confinement in general, and pledging to remove seriously mentally ill inmates from isolation in the state prisons.  His concerns were echoed by Colorado legislators who worried about the damaging effects of solitary confinement on mental health, and the risks to the public from prisoners who will someday be released.  The law now etches some of Raemisch’s policies in stone, and adds funding and a level of oversight. Prisoners with mental illness won’t be kept in confinement for longer than 30 days, and will be guaranteed a period of therapeutic activity and out-of-cell time each week.”  I was wrong to keep gambling although I know all the stress that was happening to be prior to being put in the hole had a lot to do with what happened.  Although prison is not the best place to finally have a breakdown, my friends were trying to stick by me although I was mentally ill and did not understand. I knew done of the people on this new tier and that did not help.  I cut myself with a razor because I did not understand what was happening to me.
The article ends with: “The Colorado chapter of the ACLU took the lead in campaigning against the isolation of mentally ill prisoners. Denise Maes, the organization’s public policy director, told I-News the law signed today ‘makes a very important policy statement that it’s wrong to place seriously mentally ill offenders in solitary confinement.’  Now, Maes said, the ACLU-Colorado intends to turn its attention to the isolation of mentally ill inmates in county jails. But she acknowledged that a policy change there may be a heavier lift.  “Municipal jails are just a hodgepodge of different activities not very well regulated by the state,” said Maes. At the same time, a shortage of psychiatric beds and a lack of funding for alternative mental-health treatment put a huge burden on jails, she said. Resources are thin.  Still, said Maes, the same arguments that changed the policies in the state prisons also apply to jails.  “Keeping a seriously mentally ill offender in solitary confinement is unconstitutional, and at some point the state has to have the resources to deal with it. Otherwise, they’ll be faced with it in court,” said Maes. ‘Communities have to find the resources.’”  To be put in the hole after a person is already mentally ill is wrong can you imagine what a person would go through?  If you are not working or taking classes to help you spend your time the best way possible as can be is wrong.  From experience it is hard doing time when you are mentally ill.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Some Anti-inflammatory Drugs May Aid Schizophrenia Treatment


That is the title of this article I am writing about. “Emerging research suggests that some anti-inflammatory medicines can improve the efficacy of existing schizophrenia treatments.  A group of researchers at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands discovered anti-inflammatory medicines such as aspirin, estrogen and fluimucil can help improve schizophrenia symptoms. This work was presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) conference in Berlin. Although physicians believed that helping the immune system may aid the treatment of schizophrenia, until now there has not been any conclusive evidence that this will be effective.  In the study, researchers carried out a comprehensive meta-analysis of all robust studies on the effects of adding anti-inflammatories to antipsychotic medications.”  I hope it helps with a lot of symptoms to be effective. To think that aspirin can help schizophrenia is something.
The article goes on to say: “This has allowed them to conclude that anti-inflammatory medicines, such as aspirin, can add to the effective treatment of schizophrenia. Experts have known that the immune system is linked to certain psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  Schizophrenia in particular is linked to the HLA gene system, which is found on chromosome six in humans.  The HLA system controls many of the characteristics of the immune system.  According to lead researcher Iris Somner, Ph.D., of the Utrecht psychiatry department, ‘the picture on anti-inflammatory agents in schizophrenia has been mixed, but this analysis pulls together the data  from 26 double-blind randomized drug trials, and provide significant evidence that some (but not all) anti-inflammatory agents can improve symptoms of patients with schizophrenia. ‘In particular, aspirin, estrogens in women and the common antioxidant N-acetylysteine (fluimucil) show promising results.  Other anti-inflammatory agents, including celecoxib, minocycline, davunetide, and fatty acids showed no significant effect.’  Although schizophrenia affects around 24 million people worldwide, treatment of the condition has remained consistent over the past 50 years.” It is good that they found how it affects people with schizophrenia and hopefully it will make treatment better.  Especially for those people that have a hard time with medicine and do not like to take because of side effects.
The article goes on to say: “Current pharmacological therapy for schizophrenia consists of correcting the regulation of dopamine. This strategy has shown to help symptoms of such as hallucinations and delusions, but has been unable to help many other symptoms such as decreased energy, lack of motivation, and poor concentration.  In addition, around 20 to 30 percent of all patients don’t respond to antipsychotic treatment.  Researchers and other experts believe co-treatment with anti-inflammatory agents holds the possibility of improving patient’s response to treatment. ‘The study makes us realize that we need to be selective about which anti-inflammatory we use,’ Somner said. ‘Now that we know that some effects are replicated, we need to refine our methods to see if we can turn it into a real treatment. ‘We have just started a multicenter trial using simvastatine to reduce inflammation in the brain of patients with schizophrenia.  Studies like these will provide the proof-of- concept for targeting the immune system in schizophrenia.”  I am glad to read that it will help with decreased energy.  I hear that affects a lot of people with schizophrenia and if something can help the better.
The article ends with: “An expert associated with the ECNP, psychiatrist Dr. Celso Arango of the Hospital General Univesitario Greforio Maranon in Madrid, said, ‘Inflammation and oxidative stress seem to be important factors in different mental disorders. ‘Patients with different mental conditions, including schizophrenia, have been shown to have reduced antioxidants in the brain as well as excess inflammatory markers. Arango said animal models and clinical trials have shown that antioxidants and anti-inflammatory drugs could not only reduce symptoms associated with the disorders but also prevent the appearance of neurobiological abnormalities and transition to psychosis, if given early enough during brain development. ‘This work is a step towards the possibility of better treatment, but we need more research in this area, especially with younger subjects where we might expect more brain plasticity, he said’” It was the stress that finally made my mental illness appear. I hope this brings treatment that can help with negative symptoms for people with schizophrenia.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Work Proceeds to Address Cognitive Impairment in Schizophrenia


That is the title of this article I am writing about today. “The better- known symptoms of schizophrenia are devastating enough: hallucinations, delusions, agitated body movements, the inability to experience pleasure.  Yet even when these facets are controlled with antipsychotic drugs, cognitive deficits that make it hard to maintain relationships or hold a job can still consign patients to a life in the shadows, with few friends or little contact with family.  Those impairments – which include things like working memory, processing speed or the ability to interpret the emotion on someone’s face – affect 98% of schizophrenia patients to varying degrees according to a study at Sunday’s lunchtime session ‘Recognizing Cognitive Impairment in Schizophrenia: Neurobiology and Clinical Implications.’ Part of the US Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress in Orlando Florida.  Speakers Henry A. Nasrallah, MD, chairman of the Department if Neurology and Psychiatry, St. Louis University School of Medicine; Richard S. E. Keefe, PhD, Professor if Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Duke University Medical Center; and John M. Kane, MD, chairman, Department of Psychiatry, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine; discussed background implications, and current research efforts by academia and the pharmaceutical community to find treatments for cognitive impairments in schizophrenia.”  These are bad negative symptoms to have.  It does make it hard to hold friends when you cannot read emotions on someone’s face. I work on my memory that is one thing I do not want to lose.
The article goes on to say: “Cognitive impairment is a core feature of schizophrenia, not a secondary element of the disease, Dr Nasrallah said. Its near universal appearance among patients is made more complicated by the fact that fewer than half are aware of these deficits, and thus interactions with everyone from family, to strangers, to prospective employers are marked by failures to connect. ‘They may interpret a neutral facial expression as threatening,’ Dr Nasrallah said.  For decades, schizophrenia research focused on managing symptoms that could cause the patient immediate harm, or harm to others.  Only in the 1990s did cognition come back into focus, Dr Nasrallah said, and it’s long overdue, for these deficits that keep patients from fully taking their place in the world. ‘It’s a huge unmet need,’ he said; if this area is not addressed, most schizophrenia patients will remain on disability.  For years, there was debate whether cognitive deficits were caused by the disease or antipsychotic drugs that controlled its symptoms.  That has been settled, Dr Nasrallah said.  Cognitive decline is present early, and it picks up speed in the period before psychosis occurs, although improper dosing of some therapies can make the deficits worse.”  It is not the medicine that causes this.  It could hinder someone trying to work. I myself can never read people.
The article goes on to say: “ Dr Nasrallah and the later speakers suggested the knowledge of how early cognitive decline happens, and the fact that the loss of brain tissue at the onset of schizophrenia has now been documented, could provide an opportunity for clinician and researchers to create therapies to halt the worst effects. The ultimate goal, Dr Kane said later, would be to tailor treatment to a patient’s genetic profile.  Why is treating cognitive impairment just as important as treating symptoms like hallucinations? As Dr Keefe explained, these deficits contribute to functional outcomes, and they are the reason why schizophrenia is third-leading cause of life-years on disability for persons aged 15 to 44 years old. (They first is unipolar depression, the second I alcoholism). Data are compelling and sad. ‘Two-thirds of these patients never marry,’ Dr Keefe said.  Some 20% are homeless at any one time.  Fewer than 15% hold competitive employment.  Most chilling, 40% of individuals with severe mental illness are incarcerated, Dr Keefe said.  ( A study in The American Journal of Managed Care earlier this year linked prior authorization policies in Medicaid in certain states with higher incarceration rates for persons with schizophrenia.)  Cognitive impairment, Dr Keefe said, cause persons with schizophrenia to lead, ‘impoverished, challenging lives.’” If they can help more people with schizophrenia to work and lead content lives then I am all for it.
The article ends with: “As an example, he discussed how if an average person is given 16 words, he can remember 10, while a person with schizophrenia can only recall 6. ‘Try developing an intimate relationship when you can’t remember the things that he other person told you, things that re keys to your intimacy,’Dr Keefe said.  MATRICS.  As Dr kane explained, the age of onset of schizophrenia comes as a patient’s peers are moving into the world, making connections, finding jobs, are getting married. ‘ All of that delayed in someone with cognitive impairment,’ Dr Kane said.  Right now there aren’t any FDA approved treatments for cognitive impairment, but much work is going on to change that. Promoted by the National Institute of Mental Health, the MATRICS (Measurement and Treatment Research to Improve Cognition in Schizophrenia) project seeks to speed up the process of developing therapies to treat cognitive impairment in schizophrenia.  According to Dr Kane, MATRICS represents a collaboration among government, academia and the pharmaceutical sector, it was also described in a 2006 journal article as a ‘consensus-building’ process to agree not only on what are the best molecular targets for drug development, but also what the standards should be for measuring progress in cognition.  The project developed the MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery, or MCCB, which take 75 minutes to complete and measures not only cognition but also functional improvement as a co-primary endpoint.  As for therapies, Dr Kane said. ‘Pharmacologic interventions that target molecular mechanisms beyond  dopamine are in development to address cognitive impairment.’  Numerous potential therapies are being studied" That is good news. I hope they can find something that will help us all.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Schizophrenia is not a fatal illness, yet suffers are still dying 20 years to soon


That is the title of this article I am writing about. “We have to go beyond the well-meaning commitment to ‘combat stigma’ and be willing to share our time – that extra twenty years we currently have to ourselves – even when we are unable to measure what this will mean. In the UK today, people with schizophrenia have the same life expectancy as the general population of 1930s Britain.  Schizophrenia is not a fatal illness.  It can be hard to treat and the severity of symptoms can vary enormously.  It should not, however, kill you.  On the other hand, here are some things that can: heart disease; diabetes; respiratory disease.  Schizophrenia sufferers are dying prematurely, not from the disease itself but from conditions that are treatable and often preventable.  This is why today, at the start of Schizophrenia Awareness Week, Rethink are launching their +20 campaign, so called because sufferers of severe mental illness die, on average, 20 years earlier than the rest of the population.  You may be assuming that the main cause of premature death in schizophrenia is suicide. It is not.  Most deaths have physical causes, arising due to a mix of factors, such as failure to manage the side-effects of medication, unhealthy lifestyle and poor health monitoring.” I am writing about this because it is important if you want to live a full life that you monitor your health.  I have said before that this disease does not run in my family.  I was wrong to forget my cousin. We both were released from a state hospital about the same time. His was in Oregon.  They told him the same thing that was told to me if you do not make it on the streets you will be back and for life. He committed suicide when it looked like he was going to have to go back there. He was younger than me and did not know there is always hope.  Although it would be change of lifestyle for him.  I also knew a guy in the state hospital that committed suicide there.  I finally met his dad where I used to live.  This disease has downfalls.
The article goes on to say: “A fourth factor is ‘diagnostic overshadowing’, where a physical condition is overlooked or not taken seriously due to the patient’s mental state.  As sibling of a schizophrenia sufferer, this last one in particular resonates with me.  I know that doctors have done this to my brother; I have done it to him myself.  In theory it should be easy to accept that suffering from severe mental illness does not make one immune to the same ailments which affect the rest of the population.  In practice, however, this can seem ‘a bit much’.  Mental illness can be so overwhelming and so all-consuming, it can be hard to believe there is space for anything else.  Physical health then becomes subordinate to disease management.  Anti-psychotic drugs are necessary, therefore the side-effects must be borne without complaint.  Smoking is a comfort, therefore the normal rules of harm do not apply.  These are just some of the assumptions that Rethink are seeking to challenge, in what is a drive not just to promote healthy lifestyles, but to show that physical health matters for everyone.  Schizophrenia sufferers do not merely have symptoms to manage but lives to life.  And by that one doesn’t  have to mean getting a job/ partner// whatever else passes for ‘normality’ – it can simply mean living a life that is of value to you, with as much joy and as little pain as possible.” It is hard for a person with this disease alone to figure out if they are having something wrong with them.  Let alone have someone believe them.  The people who have this disease are just trying to cope with it besides being unwell.
This article ends with: “When I first heard the ’20 years earlier’ figure, I’ll admit that some small part of me felt relief.  So it’s 55 rather than 75, or 66 rather than 86.  How bad is that really, given how much pain and suffering the intervening year could contain? You can almost kid yourself it’s a mercy killing.  A slow, painful death, borne of ignorance and neglect, can be repositioned – by the living- as what was meant to be.  We can pretend it is a rational play-off between quality and quantity of life. It’s not that anyone has sat down and reviewed the pros and cons of all these needless deaths; no one has to. Collectively, as a society, we’re making all the little decisions which mean we never have to face the big one at all. Oh look! It’s just happened! How terrible! The drip-drip effect of not caring quite enough permits us to pretend the end result is out of our hands.  And yet however awful schizophrenia is – and when it is treatment resistant, with not periods of respite, it can be awful- so many other things are entirely within the control of the society surrounding the sufferer: whether you can walk down the street without being feared or mocked; whether anyone visits you when you are too afraid to leave the house; whether anyone cares that you are healthy and secure; whether you find places – any places at all – where there are people with whom you can talk and laugh.  None of this can be achieved by some vague but well-meaning commitment to ‘combat stigma’ on the part of non-sufferers. We have to be willing to share our time- that extra twenty years we currently have to ourselves- even when we are unable to measure what this will mean.  Even if there is a point at which empathy fails, we have to push onwards.  I am frightened of the future, but I want to face it with my brother. I want him to grow old with me and to live through that extra twenty years – the twenty years I simply expect – with as little fear as possible, I don’t believe any human being loses the ability to be happy, or to feel the warmth that comes from others.  Much as I’d like to picture old-aged us by some cosy fireside, exchanging fond reminiscences on 1980s TV, I know it’s unlikely to be that way.  But it is possible to imagine life and hope, and for some to be denied this due to stigma is a disgrace.”  As I have said before I want to see my grandkids grow up.  I do not want to suffer anymore though. I do not want to be a burden now that I am self-sustaining. I have always pictured when I get old to reminisce with my old friends to remember what we with through and talk about our kids.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Brainwave ‘fingerprint’ could detect psychosis


That is the title of this article I am writing about today. “The development of an early-warning test could drastically help those young people most at risk of developing severe mental illness, researchers claim.  A team of psychologists and psychiatrists at the University of Glasgow, Scotland had received L1million of funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to begin research on a brainwave ‘fingerprint’ which could be used to help identify young people at risk of developing serious mental illness.  Researchers are currently looking to recruit 100 volunteers aged between 16 and 35 for the project which will measure their brain activity and examine changes in their mental state for a period of up to two years.  According to the researchers, the Youth Mental Health Risk and Resilience Study (YouR-Study) will use Magentoencephalography(MEG). A brain imaging technique unique to the University in Scotland, to examine a specific set of brainwaves know to be involved in cognitive functions.” This is very interesting if they can really be able to find out if you are going to get a mental illness.  That way they can treat you sooner and maybe not have as many negative symptoms down the road and closer to fixing mental illness.
The article goes on to say: “The researchers said that one of the main aims of the project is to develop an early-warning system capable of identifying young people at high risk of developing psychosis before they fully manifest the symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions.  YouR-Study will be led by Peter Uhlhass of the University of Glasgow’s Institute of neuroscience and Psychology.  ‘The study will be the first of its kind to use MEG to investigate links between neural oscillations and their synchronization, which recent research has shown may well play a role in the development of psychosis,’ Uhlhass said. ‘MEG, which is similar to electroencephalography (EEG) uses very sensitive magnetometers to record magnetic fields produced by electrical currents occurring naturally in the brain, creating a sophisticated map of brain activity,’ he added.  Uhlhass claims that the particular frequencies his research team is looking at play a key role in controlling cognitive and perceptual processes, which are seriously affected in those suffering from psychosis. ‘By identify share characteristics in the brainwaves of those in early stages of risk, we’re hoping to find a specific ‘fingerprint’ which we can use to more easily identify people before they become seriously ill,’ he said.”  I know they can do a lot if they can identify people early.  It opens the door to a lot of research.  It would be nice if this works to help.
The article ends with: “Uhlhass also identified treatment costs as a considerable barrier to those who suffer the effects of psychosis and mental illness. ‘We’re hoping  that closer examination of these brainwaves will help lead to a better outcome for patients and also a reduction in the cost impact that serious mental illness can have on healthcare services,’ Uhlhass said. Uhlhass said that the ‘holy grail’ of this research would be the reliable and accurate diagnosis of a patient making the early-stage transition into psychosis over a period of time. ‘On the basis of the measurement at the baseline, we could [hopefully] then say clearly whether or not someone is going to develop psychosis,’ he said.” If they can predict who would and who would not get mental illness that is great and it would cut down costs. Because everyone would know if they have a mental illness and what can be done to treat it.  Hopefully there will be better treatments.
“In similar news, researchers in Sweden last week made ground on identifying why physical exercise helps protect the brain from stress-induced depression. In that instance researchers revealed that exercise training induces changes in skeletal muscle that can purge the blood of a substance that accumulates during stress, and is harmful to the brain.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Schizophrenia is eight different diseases, not one


That is the title of this article I am writing about today. “New research shows that schizophrenia is not a single disease, but a group of eight distinct disorders, each caused by changes in clusters of genes that lead to different sets of symptoms.  The findings sets the stage for scientists to develop better ways to diagnose and treat schizophrenia, a mental illness that can be devastating when not adequately managed, says C. Robert Cloninger, co-author of the study published Monday in the American Journal of Psychiatry. ‘We are really opening a new era of psychiatric diagnosis,’ says Cloninger, professor of psychiatry and genetics at the Washington University of Medicine in St. Louis.  Cloninger says he hopes his work will ‘allow for the development of a personalized diagnosis, opening the door to treating the cause, rather than just the symptoms, of schizophrenia.”  All people are different that is why I believe this approach should work. I know from reading everybody has different problems with this disease.
They go on to say: “Cloninger and colleagues found that certain genetic profiles matched particular symptoms. While people with one genetic cluster have odd and disorganized speech- what is sometimes called ‘word salad’ – people with another genetic profile hear voices, according to the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health.  Some genetic clusters gave people higher risks of the disease than others, according to the study, which compared the DNA of 4,200 people with schizophrenia to that of 3,800 healthy people.  One set of genetic changes, for example confers a 95% chance of developing schizophrenia.  In the new study, researchers describe a woman with this genetic profile who developed signs of the disorder by age 5, when she taped over the mouths of her dolls to make them stop whispering to her and calling her name.  Another patient- whose genetic profile gave her a 71% risk of schizophrenia – experienced a more typical disease course and began hearing voices at age 17.  The average person has less than a 1% risk of developing schizophrenia, Cloninger says.” I know this disease is bad and yet where my life was going and the bad luck I was having I do not know if I could have changed my life around as I did after I received this disease.  After my release from prison and my appeal I wanted to change my life.  With drugs and alcohol I do not know if I ever could.  I had to stop and get some sobriety in my life without doing while I was locked up.
The article goes on to say: “Psychiatrists such as Stephen Marder describe the study as a step forward.  Today, doctors diagnose patients with mental illness with a process akin to a survey, asking about the person’s family history and symptoms, says, Marder, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California-Los Angeles. ‘It underlines that the way we diagnose schizophrenia is relatively primitive,’ Marder says. Patients may wait years for an accurate diagnosis, and even longer to find treatments that help them without causing intolerable side effects.  Doctors have long known that schizophrenia can run in families, says Robert Freedman, editor in chief of the American Journal of Psychiatry and chair of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.  If one identical twin has schizophrenia, for example, there is an 80% chance that the other twin has the disease as well.  In the past doctors looked for single genes that might cause schizophrenia, without real success, Freedman says.” I know the side effects can be horrendous. The people are still left with some negative symptoms.  There really was no family history with me maybe a cousin that I never met.
I goes on to say: “The new paper suggests that genes work together like a winning or losing combination of cards in poker, Freedman says. ‘This shows us that there are some very bad hands out there,’ Freedman says.  In some cases- in which a genetic profile conveys close to a 100% risk of schizophrenia- people may not be able to escape the disease, Cloninger says.  But if doctors could predict who is at high risk, they might also be able to tailor an early intervention to help a patient better manage their condition, such as by managing stress.  Doctors don’t yet know why one person with a 70% risk of schizophrenia develops the disease and others don’t, Cloninger says. It’s possible that environment plays a key role, so that child with a supportive family and good nutrition might escape the diagnosis, while someone who experiences great trauma or deprivation might become very ill.  The study also reflects how much has changed in the way that scientists think about the genetic causes of common diseases, Marder says.  He notes that diseases caused by a single gene – such a sickle-cell anemia and cystic fibrosis – affect very few people. Most common diseases, such as cancer, are caused by combinations of genes. Even something as apparently simple as height is caused by combinations of genes, he says.  Doctors have known for years that breast cancer is not one disease, for example, but at least half a dozen diseases driven by different genes, says study co-author Igor Zwir, research associate in psychiatry at Washington University.  Doctors today have tests to predict a woman’s risk of some types of breast cancer, and other tests that help them select the most effective drugs. 
Those sorts of tests could be extremely helpful for people with schizophrenia, who often try two or three drugs before finding one that’s effective, Cloninger says. ‘Most treatments are trial and error,’ Cloninger says. If doctors could pinpoint which drugs could be more effective, they might be able to use lower doses, producing fewer of the bothersome side effects that lead many patients to stop taking their medication, Cloninger says.” Not only lower doses but also new drugs that work hopefully so people do not have any side effects. I believe it has a lot to do with environment and what a person is going through at the time this disease hits.  Stress has a lot to do with it.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Game your brain: the new benefits of neuroplasticity




That is the title of this article I am writing about. “Merzenich runs Posit Science from a suite of offices in downtown San Francisco.  He has a team of 36 people, including neurologists, computer scientists and game designers. Using the same brain plasticity principles that he and Tallal used to treat children with Fast ForWord, Posit has developed an online software package called BrainHQ, a set of brain-training exercises aimed not only at treating neurological conditions, but also to arrest the normal cognitive decline that comes with age, and to improve the cognitive abilities of normal individuals. ‘I’ve looked at old brains, brains of animals we’d expected would die within months,’ Merzenich says. And you look at the various capabilities of these brains and everything that disadvantages them.  And which of these capabilities can we reverse by intensive, progressive training? All of them.  Their decline is inherently reversible.  As far as we can see, the same is true for humans.” I once used a game by Posit my old boss had us try it out.  It had a lot to do with memory and I am pretty good at that.  I have a new computer now and it is not on this one.  It does help I was better if I used it every day.
Why is this article being written because this could help schizophrenia people. “To understand how Posit Science tackles neurological diseases, let’s consider schizophrenia.  Schizophrenics typically suffer from hallucinations, delusion and disorganized reasoning.  These symptoms result from an excess dopamine and noradrenaline, the neurotransmitters that modulate the reward feedback-loop control-arousal levels in the brain.  Underlying this chemical reaction are what Merzenich calls ‘failure modes of plastic brain’: weakness in the neurological apparatus, specifically in working memory- - a cognitive skill that indicates a person’s capacity to manipulate information, such as computing sums- - and the ability to make predictions.  Antipsychotic medication, which suppresses these neurotransmitters, is effective in mitigation symptoms such as hallucinations but doesn’t fix the cognitive structure. ‘Drugs are an extremely primitive method to treat the neurology,’ Merzenich says. ‘We’re manipulating machinery that is controlled by dozens of variables, by powerfully distorting one particular chemical.  What we’re doing instead is replacing that chemical approach with strategies that actually correct the neurological underpinnings of these problems. And the only way is to have the brain correct itself.’”  The only thing I kept is my memory from before my illness. That does not mean I do not have to work on it, I do.  These programs work for a variety of things that we need as schizophrenics.
The article goes on to say: “Using BrainHQ, monitored schizophrenic patients can work on computer exercises that specifically target those cognitive weaknesses.  Two recent studies led by Sophia Vinogradov, vice chair of psychiatry at the UCSF, have shown that 50 to 80 hours of using BrainHQ significantly improved not only patients’ working memory and learning, but also their social functioning and ability to distinguish reality.  Posit Science is currently conduction studies to gain US Food and Drug Administration approval to treat schizophrenia, brain injury and stroke. “We’re transforming neuroscience-based software into medicine,’ Merzenich says.  To show how BrainHQ’s exercises work, Merzenich instructs Wired to take a 36-part cognitive assessment that lasts three hours and purports to measure everything about cognitive abilities.  ‘It allows us to tailor a programme to someone’s specific needs,’ says Merzenich.  In all, there were more than 40 exercises. One, called Hawk Eye, aims to sharpen visual perception and expand one’s field of view.  A set of identical birds flashes briefly on-screen, except for one of a different colour that needs to be identified.  A simpler exercise is Sound Sweeps, which tests auditory accuracy by requiring subjects to identify whether a sound, which might last only milliseconds, is going up or down in frequency.  Even harder is Mixed Signals, which requires subjects to watch a string of symbols, listen to a piece of information and react when they match. As new levels are unlocked, colourful fireworks explode on-screen.  The exercises in Merzenich’s brain gym are simple but strangely compelling.” I used the bird one before it is hard to get used to and find that bird that is different when it flashes.  I would like to be measured to see which I could use and find out a little more about myself.  They came along way since I used their programs.  There is so much information here that this is going to be in three parts.  I will put up part two tomorrow and finish this next week.