Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Eye Test Identifies People with Schizophrenia

That is the title of this article I am writing about. "Impaired eye movements have long been associated with schizophrenia. In a new study, researchers have discovered they can distinguish people with and without schizophrenia through the use of simple eye movement tests with over 98 percent accuracy.  'It has been known for over a hundred years that individuals with psychotic illnesses have a variety of eye movement abnormalities, but until our study, using a novel battery of tests, no one thought the abnormalities were sensitive enough to be used as potential clinical diagnostic biomarkers,' say Dr. Philip Benson and Dr. David St. Clair, lead authors on the paper.
The series of tests included smooth pursuit, free-viewing, and gaze fixation tasks." That is cool that they now have another test that can say if you have schizophrenia or not.  They have to get people diagnosed early so that they have a better chance of succeeding in life with this mental illness.  It took the state hospital to diagnose me.  If they could have found out when I had my breakdown in prison it would have saved me a lot of trouble.  I do not know if my life would have been better or worse.
The article goes on with: "In smooth pursuit, people with schizophrenia have difficulty following slow-moving objects smoothly with their eyes. Their eye movements tend to fall behind the moving object and then catch-up with the moving object using a rapid eye movement, called a saccade.
In the free-viewing test — in which a picture is shown — those with schizophrenia follow an abnormal pattern as they look at the picture, compared to the general population.
In the fixation task, the individual is asked to keep a steady gaze on a single unmoving target, which tends to be difficult for individuals with schizophrenia.  In each of the eye tests, the performance of individuals with schizophrenia was abnormal compared to the healthy volunteer group. The researchers then used several methods to model the data. Combining all the data, one of the models achieved 98.3% accuracy." That is a good accuracy number. I know there a lot of things that the eyes can tell so why not tell if you have schizophrenia or not?
The article ends with: "We now have exciting unpublished data showing that patterns of eye movement abnormalities are specific to different psychiatric subgroups, another key requirement for diagnostic biomarkers.
'The next thing we want to know is when the abnormalities are first detectable and can they be used as disease markers for early intervention studies in major mental illness,' say the researchers.
'We are also keen to explore how best our findings can be developed for use in routine clinical practice,' they add.  Typical neuropsychological assessments are time-consuming, expensive, and require highly trained individuals to administer, while these eye tests are simple, cheap, and take only minutes to conduct.  A predictive model with such accuracy could potentially be used in clinics and hospitals to aid doctors by supplementing other symptom-based diagnostic criteria."  It could be used all over.  It would really help.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dopamine: Psychotic fire-starter? The Paykel Lecture 2014

That is the title of this article I am writing about. "The eye-catching title of the 2014 Paykel Lecture certainly lived up to its promise of a fascinating talk. Delivered by Dr Oliver Howes of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN – King’s College London), the title made reference to an early paper on the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia, where dopamine was referred to as “the wind of the psychotic fire.” An eloquent review of the dopamine hypothesis followed, from the perspective of studies employing positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter, playing a crucial role in brain processes such as how we predict events and experience rewards. Its over-abundance in the brain has long been posited as a theory for the symptoms of psychosis seen in people with schizophrenia. Brain imaging techniques such as PET, which uses a radioactively labelled tracer, can help us obtain information about all aspects of the dopamine system. We can specifically study dopamine receptors, dopamine synthesis, its transportation or its release from neurons, and these methods have allowed scientists to pinpoint abnormalities in schizophrenia.  Using this technology, Dr. Howes and colleagues studied people with schizophrenia who had received very little treatment, and found that the abnormality of dopamine appears to be at the level of synthesis and release from brain cells, rather than at the receptor as was initially believed." Wow they found out where it is released from. They can find out how it works.
  The article goes on to say: "But this, Dr. Howes went on to explain, does not tell us whether schizophrenia is caused by an abnormality in dopamine regulation, or whether increased dopamine is a result of having schizophrenia. Therefore, his group decided to conduct research studies with a group of people who were at high risk of developing schizophrenia but do not yet show symptoms adequate for a diagnosis. These people are said to be in the prodromal, or sub-clinical, phase of schizophrenia. Whilst many go on to develop further symptoms, some remain stable at the sub-clinical phase and are able to function perfectly well. A prominent historical example of such a person, Dr. Howes explains, was Joan of Arc. Despite hearing voices (which she attributed to angels), she was able to lead the French army to victory over the British.Thus, using the same PET imaging techniques, Dr Howes and his team found elevated dopamine synthesis in the striatum of people with sub-clinical symptoms, which appeared to be around halfway between controls and people diagnosed with schizophrenia. Further investigation found that this increase in dopamine was in fact specific to those who would go on to develop a full clinical syndrome of schizophrenia, while those with long term sub-clinical symptoms did not demonstrate any increase in dopamine synthesis.
But what is it, Dr. Howes pondered, that the biology of schizophrenia needs to explain? The answer he came up with: Neurodevelopmental and sociodevelopmental risk factors (e.g drugs or stress), and symptoms.  Stay away from drugs and you probably will not get schizophrenia.  Stress is a hard one to stay away from.  That is what brought on my mental illness.  Anger, stress that all brought it on not knowing what was going to happen to me.
The article ends:"Based on research ongoing in his group, Dr. Howes (alongside Professor Sir Robin Murray) proposed a model to explain how these risk factors and symptoms might fit into the dopamine hypothesis. They proposed that a combination of genes and hazards to the brain disrupt the development of the dopamine system, and cause it become very sensitive. Social stress then acts on this sensitised system, increasing dopamine release, leading to irregular cognitive processing of events. This in turn leads to a paranoid interpretation of events and eventually psychosis, which in itself is a stressful experience, causing a vicious cycle of stress and increased dopamine release.
While this model both supports and is supported by much of the research into the dopamine hypothesis, there are many questions outstanding, and the hypothesis is far from being finally accepted or refuted. Dr Howes identified that further work needs to be done to understand why approximately one third of people with schizophrenia are resistant to treatment with antipsychotic drugs, which act on the dopamine system. The causes of the ‘negative symptoms’ of schizophrenia (e.g. affective flattening, or a reduced display of emotion) and the relationship with substance misuse (such as cannabis, which was not found to increase dopamine in the striatum when cannabis smokers experienced psychotic like symptoms as a result of their drug use).
Dr. Oliver Howes is a group head and reader in imaging of neurochemical processing in psychosis at Kings College London and at the MRC CSC psychiatric imaging group, Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College. Dr. Howes has been the recipient of many prestigious awards, including most recently the Schizophrenia International Research Society Rising Star Award 2013." If it can help those people who are resistant to antipsychotics that would be a big help. If it is the dopamine that is causing schizophrenia then why are they resistant to drugs that help the dopamine?  I believe we are far away from discovering what actually causes schizophrenia.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Discovery of novel drug target may lead to better treatment for schizophrenia

That is the title of this article I writing about.  "A novel drug target that could lead to the development of better antipsychotic medications has been discovered by researchers.  Current treatment for patients with schizophrenia involves taking medications that block or interfere with the action of the neurotransmitter dopamine.  However, because this D2-blocking action my cause unwanted side-effects, such as slow gait, stiffness and tremor, the team looked for new ways to interfere with the action of D2 receptors, without causing these side-effects.  Scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have identified a novel drug target that could lead to the development of better antipsychotic medications. Dr. Fang Liu, senior scientist in CAMH's Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute and professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, and her team published their results online in the Journal Neuron.  Current treatment for patients with schizophrenia involves taking medications that block or interfere with the action of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which acts on dopamine D2 receptors in the brain. However, because this D2-blocking action may cause unwanted side-effects, such as slow gait, stiffness and tremor, Dr. Liu and her team looked for new ways to interfere with the action of D2 receptors, without causing these side-effects."  Nobody wants to have side-effects.  It could be the reason that a lot of people with mental illness do not like taking the medication.  I know when my arm was shaking with stelazine I did not want to take who wants to look like a freak just to be well.
The article goes on to say: " Dr. Liu and colleagues showed that the D2 receptor could combine with a protein called the Disrupted-In-Schizophrenia (DISC1) protein. Then, they showed that levels of this combined protein were higher in post-mortem brain tissues of deceased patients with schizophrenia, suggesting it was associated with the illness. Delving even further, the researchers identified the regions where the two proteins bound together. With this information, they were able to generate a peptide to disrupt the binding of the two proteins, speculating that it may reduce symptoms. In animal models of schizophrenia, they were able to demonstrate that this disruption led to antipsychotic effects, comparable to commonly used antipsychotic medications, but without their side-effects."  That would be great news if this new medication really works in people.  No side effects will really be big news.
The article ends: "'The most exciting aspect of our finding is not the antipsychotic effect of this peptide, which all current antipsychotics have, but rather the possibility of a lack of the side-effects in humans compared to current medications,' says Dr. Liu. 'We hope that it will lead to a better treatment for schizophrenia patients who experience side-effects from current medications.'These side-effects discourage some patients from taking their medications, which impacts recovery. Schizophrenia is a chronic, often severe and disabling mental illness that affects one percent of the general population. 'Our future steps are to determine how this discovery can be translated into a novel treatment for patients as soon as possible,' says Dr. Liu. 'We are optimistic that our findings will lead to new and better options for treatment for schizophrenia.'"  For all those people who do not like to take their medication because of the side effects help might be on the way.  They do not say how long though until they find out if it works on people.  News this good has been slow in coming we really need more research done.  To help people who suffer from this disease. I do not have side-effects anymore.  I am glad as I had them in the past and it was hard to take the medication.  It got rid of the positive effects but not the negative.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Battle Plan to Lose Weight

That is the title of this article  I am writing about. "Laura Ward, 41, had always attributed her excess pounds to the drugs she takes for major depression. So Ms. Ward, who is 5-foot-6 and once weighed 220 pounds, didn't try to slim down or avoid dietary pitfalls like fried chicken. But in a clinical trial, Ms. Ward managed to lose more than 30 pounds doing low-impact aerobics three times a week. During the 18-month experiment, she was introduced to cauliflower and post-workout soreness for the first time. She and the other participants attended counseling sessions where they practiced refusing junk food and choosing smaller portions. She drank two liters of Diet Dr Pepper daily instead of eight. Eventually, Ms. Ward, who lives in Baltimore, realized her waistline wasn’t simply a drug side effect. 'If it was only the medications, I would have never lost all that weight,' she said.
People with serious mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression, are at least 50 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than the general population. They die earlier, too, with the primary cause heart disease.Yet diet and exercise usually take a back seat to the treatment of their illnesses. The drugs used, like antidepressants and antipsychotics, can increase appetite and weight." I do not have increase appetite as I have cut down the size of my portions I eat.  Although when I go out to eat or thanksgiving I might have more. My cutting my portions to half of what I used to eat and cutting down the number and the kinds of soda I lost twenty pounds although I have plateaued.  I drink coke zero or Pepsi max as it does not taste bad except if I go to a restaurant that does not have those drinks. 
The article goes on to say: "'Treatment contributes to the problem of obesity,' said Dr. Thomas R. Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health. 'Not every drug does, but that has made the problem of obesity greater in the last decade.”
It has been a difficult issue for mental health experts. A 2012 review of health promotion programs  for those with serious mental illness by Dartmouth researchers concluded that of 24 well-designed studies, most achieved statistically significant weight loss, but very few achieved “clinically significant weight loss.'  But now a trial published online in The New England Journal of Medicine in March has provided the most comprehensive evidence yet that people with serious mental illness can lose weight, despite the challenges. Nearly 300 people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder or major depression — including Ms. Ward — were assigned to either a control group given basic nutrition and exercise information or one whose members exercised together and attended weight-management sessions.
The mean difference between the groups at 18 months was a modest seven pounds, but studies have shown that it is enough to reduce cardiovascular risks, the researchers noted. Nearly 38 percent of participants in the intervention group lost 5 percent or more of their initial weight, compared with only 22.7 percent of members of the control group. The difference between the groups could have been bigger, as the control group benefited from one aspect of the intervention: healthier dietary choices offered at the 10 psychiatric programs where the study took place, like baked fish instead of fried. 'This population can make a change,' said Dr. Gail L. Daumit, the study’s lead author and an internist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 'There’s been a lot of stigma that they can’t do it.' Most other trials had “a narrowly defined population that excluded people with lots of co-morbidities,” said Dr. Caroline Richardson, at Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan. But this study 'applies to a lot of people.'"  I would like to lose more weight I am happy though that I have not gained it back except a couple of pounds then I lose that again. Although if I could lose thirty more pounds I would be happier.
The article ends with: "The study suggests that weight loss may take a different trajectory for those with mental illness. Weight loss in the intervention group didn’t 'peak early' and then rebound a bit, as sometimes happens in programs targeted to people without mental illness, Dr. Daumit said. Instead, it 'progressed over the course of the trial.'  Since the study, Ms. Ward said she had regained at least 15 pounds. Still, every other day she walks for 20 minutes.  Dr. Stephen J. Bartels, a professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth and co-author of the 2012 review, said the more effective interventions for people with mental illness combined education and structured activity, focusing on both exercise and diet.  Classes and exercise programs seem to work better when they are available where mental health services are provided. And these programs should probably run six months or longer, he said.
Losing weight is challenging for anyone, let alone people with problems with executive function and memory. In Dr. Daumit’s trial, researchers gave cards to carry in wallets and purses that emphasized messages like avoiding sugary drinks.  One of the few widely tried health-promotion programs for people with mental illnesses is InShape, available at 10 sites in New Hampshire and 9 programs in 5 other states. One of its tenets is to have patients set their own goals, with the help of a health 'mentor' who also sometimes accompanies them to the gym to get them past any feelings of discomfort.
In a randomized controlled yearlong intervention using InShape, to be published in Psychiatric Services next month, almost half of the 133 participants had either clinically significant weight loss (5 percent or more of body weight) or clinically significant improvements on a six-minute walk, said Dr. Bartels, the lead author.  'Many of them come to feel helpless about how they will avoid gaining weight,' Ken Jue, who started InShape at Monadnock Family Services in Keene, N.H., in 2003. “We try to encourage people and say, ‘You do have some control in this.’" I  started walking again. The treadmills in my building are broke. I get left off on the bus farther from my apartment and then walk home. That way I get exercise everyday unless I have to be home at a certain time for something. It's time to lose this weight once and for all time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fish Oil reduces Smoking, Israeli study suggests

That is the title of the article I am writing about. "Haifa University researcher finds that omega-3 supplements help reduce the number of cigarettes that addicts smoke in a given day, a new Israeli study found.  The study, conducted by Dr. Rabinovitz Shenkar of the University of Haifa, indicated that the fish oil capsules significantly reduced nicotine cravings and helped participants cut down their cigarette consumption by at least 11 percent.  According to Rabinovitz Shenkar, head of the addictions program at the University of Haifa's School of Criminology, current medications used to help quit smoking are not effective and carry adverse effects.  'Omega-3, an inexpensive and easily available dietary supplement with almost no side effects, reduces smoking significantly,' Rabinovitz Shenkar said in the study, published in the Journal or Psychopharmacology."  Eleven percent that is a lot of cigarettes you will cut down on when you are trying to quit.  I quit sixteen years ago.  I would not have gained as much weight as I did if I kept smoking.  All I bought back then was cigarettes and frozen dinners all on a budget.
The article goes on to say: "Smoke-derived toxicants greatly reduce the level of essential fatty acids in the brain, particularly omega-3, damaging areas of the brain involved with pleasure and satisfaction. Damage in these areas of the brain is directly related to the inability to stop smoking. 'Earlier studies have proven that an imbalance in omega-3 is also related to mental health, depression and the ability to cope with pressure and stress.  Pressure and stress, in turn, are associated with the urge to smoke,' Rabinovitz Shenkar said, adding that despite the findings, the connection between these factors has not been studied thus far."  Well when I quit I used Wellbutrin and did I have the side effects.  I was so bothered by the side effects that I did not have time to worry about my smoking.  After thirty days I did not refill the prescription my doctor wrote.  I had quit smoking and id not have to take it anymore.  I quit for a reason my granddaughter was born and my daughter did not want her around smoking.
The article ends with: "Forty-eight smokers aged 18 to 45 who smoked an average of 14 cigarettes a day participated in the study.  They were divided into two groups, one given omega-3 capsules containing omega-3 950, and the other a placebo.  The participants were asked to take 5 capsules a day for 30 days, and at no point were they asked to stop smoking.  After 30 days, smokers who received the omega-3 capsules were found to cut down their cigarette intake by an average of two a day (roughly 115 in total), also displaying a significant decrease in craving levels.  In contrast, the group receiving the placebo showed no significant changes in their craving levels, and did not reduce the number of cigarettes they smoked a day. Rabinovitz Shenkar added that further research will indicate whether the supplement can effectively help smokers quit altogether."  That would be nice if it helped someone like me that used to smoke a pack and half a pack a day.  That would really help.  Also if it could cut down the cravings I am sure a lot of smokers would have a chance at quitting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hearing Voices at 20? A New Look at How and When Schizophrenia Starts

That is the title of this article I am writing about. “PHILADELPHIA The traditional view was that schizophrenia, the most devastating of mental illnesses, struck young people on the cusp of adulthood, often without much warning.  In their late teens or early 20s, previously healthy men and women would suddenly begin hearing voices no one else could hear and withdrawing from a world teeming with delusional threats. They faced a lifetime of disability even with strong medication and —in a country without adequate care —of increased risk of homelessness, suicide and prison.  Raquel Gur, a University of Pennsylvania neuropsychiatrist and nationally known expert on schizophrenia, is at the forefront of the new way of thinking about the disorder, which affects 1 percent of the population.  Scientists now view it as a neurodevelopmental condition that begins years before its most disturbing symptoms appear, in much the same way that heart disease begins long before the first heart attack.  Gur's painstaking work, done with the help of 9,500 Philadelphia children and their families, finds that those at risk for psychosis diverge from their peers in important ways as early as age 8. The differences in brain functioning —these are thinking skills, not psychosis —widen in the mid-teens.” I believe it starts at a younger age before you develop full blown psychosis.  Even though mine did not come on until I was twenty seven something was wrong when I was nineteen.
The article goes on to say: “The tantalizing question is whether early identification and treatment can delay or prevent the onset of psychosis, allowing young sufferers time to build a firmer foundation for life.  It's early, but there is some evidence that the answer is yes.  Schizophrenia experts are excited by promising results for cognitive behavioral therapy and, surprisingly, fish oil.  Work on the first stages of schizophrenia —what is often called the prodrome —is unfolding at a time when scientists are learning the brain is a far more dynamic organ than was once thought. True, the brains of people with schizophrenia do not look or function normally, but all of our brains are changing more than we realize. ‘Most people have gotten far more hopeful that we will be able to use experience or training or something else to help the brain rewire," said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  He sees hope in teaching people with schizophrenia how to focus and control their thoughts. Lack of cognitive control, he said, "is the on-ramp to psychosis.’  Gur's work, undertaken with $26 million in NIMH funding since 2009 and help from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, is an ambitious effort that is following children over time to see how psychotic illnesses unfold. Four percent of the teenagers had symptoms of psychosis. The rates were higher for 8- to 10-year-olds, but Gur chalks some of that up to "vivid imagination." Because of funding constraints, Gur's team is closely following only 250 at-risk children and 250 who are normal. The researchers are analyzing genes and brain images, family history, neighborhood environment, and early life experiences as well as measures of perceptual and cognitive abilities and emotion processing. While much previous research has focused on positive symptoms —hallucinations and delusions —in schizophrenia, there is growing recognition that negative symptoms —problems with working memory, advanced decision-making and social skills —are equally disabling.”  I’ve read that they are using fish oil with some good results before you develop mental illness. I take it although for my eyes.  I really do not notice anything different mentally.  Although my Geodon works so well I would not know the difference. 
The article ends: “Gur's husband, Ruben, a brain/behavior expert at Penn who collaborates with her, will soon start testing the theory that acting may help at-risk youths recognize and express emotions better. Raquel Gur will test cognitive retraining as a therapy. That program will focus on improving attention, working memory (the ability to hold thoughts in your head while working with them) and problem-solving. Gur hopes for results within a year. Like other experts, she thinks early intervention will be better for schizophrenia, as it is for so many other diseases. ‘If you want somebody to continue on a fairly normal trajectory of development,’ she said, ‘you need to capture them before they fall off the track so much that it's difficult to bring them back.’  If schizophrenia strikes before victims have grown up, it's hard for them to catch up later. ‘They're not equipped to become adults,’ she said.  William Carpenter, a well-known schizophrenia researcher at the University of Maryland, says that, even if early treatment only delays the worst symptoms, it has to be better to have more time to develop life skills and relationships. Those make it easier to cope.  ‘If you have to become psychotic,’ he said, ‘it's a whole lot better to do it after you've finished school and got a job and got married.’  Carpenter chaired the American Psychiatric Association committee that decided not to list ‘attenuated psychosis syndrome,’ a term for people with psychotic like symptoms that are not strong enough to meet the definition of schizophrenia, in the official list of psychiatric disorders last year. The group questioned whether most therapists could identify the condition properly. There were also worries about stigmatizing young people and exposing them to antipsychotic medications, which don't work in this group.  And, there was the problem of false positives. Only about 30 percent of people who get what Carpenter called the "placeholder diagnosis" progress to having psychosis within two years. In Gur's sample, about half the children who had psychotic symptoms at intake still had persistent or worsening symptoms two years later. Among those who at first seemed normal, 17 percent later developed sub-psychotic or psychotic symptoms. One of the things she's learning is that a surprising number of children have perceptual problems that go away or don't become severe.  Her study could help define who is most likely to become schizophrenic as well as factors common in those who are most resilient. ‘It will become a national resource,’ she said. What she knows already is that the children most likely to have serious problems are different from an early age. If you look back at family pictures taken at 7 or 8, these are kids who are always at the corner, looking down. They often start to experience more serious interpersonal problems, perception changes and heightened anxiety two to three years before they have a ‘break’ or become actively psychotic. ‘It's not overnight,’ she said. ‘It's insidious.’ The Philadelphia Inquirer” I believe early intervention would be good if a person could just help these young people live the best lives’ that they can.  I have always been quiet person I do not know how that fits into my mental illness although I believe it does.  My only problem now is that my concentration is not the best.  If I could fix that I would be ok.

Monday, November 17, 2014

New Hope for Patients with Treatment-Resistant Schizophrenia

That is the title of this article I am writing about. “Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have discovered a genetic biomarker that could help identify schizophrenia patients who are resistant to antipsychotic drugs (about 30 percent of all schizophrenia patients).  ‘Many treatment-resistant patients are not identified as such and are treated with mixtures of ineffective antipsychotic and other drugs, accruing little benefit and serious side effects, said Herbert Meltzer, M.D., professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, pharmacology, and physiology.  By definition, treatment-resistant schizophrenia patients are those who continue to have psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and hallucination, after they have completed at least two rounds of conventional antipsychotic medications.” This is hope I know a lot of people still have voices when they are taking antipsychotics medications and that is a hard pill to swallow.  If there is some way to help them it would be great.
The article goes on to say: “For the research, Meltzer, Jiang Li, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, conducted a genome-wide association study on a group of Caucasian schizophrenia patients – a combination of both treatment-responsive and treatment-resistant patients. In the treatment-resistant group, the researchers found a mutation in the dopa decarboxylase gene, which is involved in the production of dopamine and serotonin. Certain variations of this gene have been linked to psychosis in previous studies.  Many patients who were once treatment-resistant do eventually respond to a drug called clozapine.  However, it’s usually not administered in early treatment stages due to potentially severe side effects and required weekly blood monitoring.”  They need something that works as soon as possible so they do not get discouraged with seeking treatment.  They need some kind of medication that manages their symptoms and gives them some kind of relief.
The article ends with: ‘“This biomarker can be used to easily identify patients who should be treated with clozapine, avoiding the use of drugs that are not able to help them.  This can be life-saving,’ said Meltzer, who has dedicated years to developing atypical antipsychotic drugs to help these patients.  He was the lead researcher in the landmark clinical trial that led to FDA’s approval of clozapine in 1989.  Not every patient who benefits from clozapine, however, has the specific dopa decarboxylase genetic mutation.  The researchers will work with a greater variety of schizophrenia patients in the future – particularly patients from other ethnic groups – to look for other biomarkers and treatment options for those who don’t get better with conventional treatments. ‘In a broader sense, this work defines treatment-resistant schizophrenia as a distinct subtype of the illness,’ said Meltzer.  Schizophrenia is one of the most severe and rarest of the mental health disorders, occurring in about one in 100 people. It is characterized by symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, cognitive impairment, social withdrawal, self-neglect, and loss of motivation and initiative.  The finding were published in the journal Schizophrenia Research.” It is finally defined as treatment-resistant.  Again we cannot lump all schizophrenics in the same category.  I just wish there were more options there just clozapine for treatment.  I do not know in my lifetime if I will ever find out everything about this disease.  I would like to also to find out why I have it and how.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Scientist spends nine months in max-security prison to learn how prisons manage mental illness in inmates

That is the title of this article I am writing about. “Case Western Reserve University mental health researcher Joseph Galanek spent a cumulative nine months in an Oregon maximum-security prison to learn first-hand how the prison manages inmates with mental illness. What he found, through 430 hours of prison observations and interviews, is that inmates were treated humanely and security was better managed when cell block officers were trained to identify symptoms of mental illness and how to respond to them. In the 150- year-old prison, he discovered officers used their authority with flexibility and discretion within the rigid prison structure to deal with mentally ill inmates.  Galenek’s observations and interviews with 23 staff members and 20 inmates with severe mental illness, are described in Medical Anthropology Quarterly article, ‘Correctional Officers and the Incarcerated Mentally Ill: Responses to Psychiatric Illness in Prison.’ The National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health supported his research. ‘With this research, I hope to establish that prisons, with appropriate policies and staff training, can address the mental health needs of prisoners with severe mental illness,’ said Galenek, PhD, MPH a medical anthropologist and research associate at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences’ Begun Center for Violence Education and Prevention Research at Case Western Reserve.” He looks like he has the skills necessary to find out how to best treat mentally ill prisoners.  I know that this is a prison and they are there to do time.  Although I was once one of them and there is nothing crueler than being mentally ill while you are locked up.
The article goes on to say: “ Additionally, he said, ‘I show that supporting the mental health needs of inmates with severe mental illness concurrently supports the safety and security of prisons, and that these two missions are not mutually exclusive.  With the number of prisoners with severe mental illness increasing, efforts need to be made by all prison staff to ensure that this segment of the prison population has appropriate mental health care and safety.’ Galanek saw how administrative policies and cultural values at the prison allowed positive relationships to develop between officers and prisoners diagnosed with severe mental illness, among the prison’s 2,000 inmates. In this maximum-security prison, left unidentified for the study to protect the confidentiality of officers and inmates officers received training to identify symptoms of mental illness, which, in turn, led to better security, safety and humane treatment of potentially volatile inmates.  But officers were also able to use their discretion in handling some situations. Galanek observed, for example, the following instances where an officer’s decision—rather than rigidly enforcing prison rules—helped mentally ill inmates and maintain order within the institution.” It is always better when you can work a situation for the better for both parties involved.  A person just wants to make life easier for themselves and all.  If no inmates get hurt in prison it would be all the better.
The article ends with: “Prisoners are required to work 40 hours at an assigned job.  But one inmate chose to remain in his cell instead of reporting to work—a prison offense.  The inmate told the officer he was experiencing auditory hallucinations.  Instead of sending the prisoner to a disciplinary unit, the officer allowed the prisoner to remain in his cell until the hallucinations passed.  A correctional officer confronted a violent prisoner, who was off his medication and began smashing a TV and mirror and threatened other prisoners.  Instead of disciplinary confinement, the officer conferred with mental health workers, who sent the prisoner to the inpatient psychiatric  unit to get him back on his medication.  Prisoners aren’t allowed to loiter or talk to other inmates outside their cells.  But a high-functioning inmate with a bipolar disorder worked a janitorial job that allowed him to talk to other mentally ill inmates.  Through those conversations, he was able to let officers know when inmates were exhibiting symptoms of their mental illness.  That information allowed officers to quickly address potential problems and decrease security risks.  Conversely, Galanek said, if these inmates were sent to the segregation unit (“the hole”) to sit isolated for hours their thoughts could lead to agitation and hallucinations that often bring on prison security problems.  Mentally ill prisoner’s work was important and meaningful because it acted as a coping mechanism to decrease the impact of psychiatric symptoms, he said.  To gain such access to prison culture is highly unusual.  In fact, such ethnographic studies have declined in past 30 years due to perceptions that researchers are seen as security risks within these highly controlled environments.  But as a mental health specialist in Oregon’s Department of Corrections from 1996-2003, Galanek was uniquely prepared to navigate the prison for his research. ‘They trusted me,’ he said. ‘I knew how to move, talk and interact with staff and inmates in the prison.

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.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Game your brain: the new benefits of neuroplasticity Part two

This is the second part of last week’s article I am writing about. “On average, cognitive decline in humans starts when we’re between the ages of 20 and 30.  At the onset of this steady downfall, the brain slows down and its reliability deteriorates. Listening becomes less accurate. Peripheral vision narrows.  Attention and memory begins to falter.  To make matters worse, this gradual decline is usually accompanied by social withdrawal, egocentrism and a loss of confidence.  As Merzenich like to put it, everything is going to hell.  This problem is compounded by our laziness.  When we get older, we rest on our laurels, auto-piloting our behaviours, operating effectively throughout the day using skills that we learned when we were younger.  The problem with that approach is that our brain can be maintained only by a life of continual learning- - but, as older people effectively decide to stop challenging the brain, like an unused car, the learning machinery slowly seizes up. ‘Like every organ in our bodies, the brain undergoes changes in how it performs.  You see it in your muscles, your bones, your hair- - and you feel it in your brain,’ says Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. ‘That is not helped by people seeking comfort and a less demanding life when they are older.  The fact is that the brain is still plastic even when they are 70 or 80 years old. It can still be optimized - - but instead, many people unwittingly accelerate its deterioration.’” That is what worries me about getting older what problems will I face? Life is continuing learning about everything. One thing I have to learn is how to slow down I do all things pretty fast.  Really have to slow down on my reading.
The article goes on to say: “Gazzaley is best known for demonstrating some of the mechanisms behind cognitive decline.  He showed, for instance, that as we get older we are more susceptible to interference- - be that in the form of distractions, irrelevant information or multitasking.  The problem with older adults is that they don’t filter information, and consequently they overprocess irrelevant information that they can’t seem to ignore.  One of the consequences of interference is poor memory: it’s difficult to recall something that was never properly imprinted in the brain in the first place.  One evening in 2008, Gazzaley had a strange vivid dream about video game. In that game, the player was driving a car along a winding road in the mountains and, at random intervals, a sign would pop up on the screen.  If the sign had the right shape and colour, the player had to shoot it down while steering the car.  Gazzaley realised that he could design a video game to induce improvements in the brain.  Later that day, Gazzaley called Matt Omernick, a friend who worked at the now-defunct games company LucasArts Entertainment, and recounted his dream.  Omernick liked the idea and spoke to Eric Johnston, the legendary games developer who created the classic Monkey Island series, and Noah Falstein, who had been on of LucaArts’ first game designers and was now Google’s chief game designers. ‘I explained to them the concept and Matt drew it out,’ Gazzaley says. ‘I didn’t have any funding, but they wanted to work on it anyway.  They said to me, ‘We spent our whole careers teaching teenagers how to kill aliens.  We’re ready to use our skills to do something of impact.’”  They all made games for people now they would use their skills to help people use their brain better.  I never played games although I do know that my grandkids play them all the time.  If they can make something for people with schizophrenia to use that works that would be great.
I am going to end this second part with: “Like FastWord, Gazzaley’s game, called NeuroRacer, was designed according to the rules of how plasticity is induced in the brain.  Gazzaley’s team used an ‘adaptive staircase algorithm’ that constantly matched the difficulty of the game to the player’s skill. ‘Adaptivity is at the core of our game mechanics because that’s how you tap into plasticity,’ Gazzaley says. ‘Between 70 to 80 per cent difficulty is the sweet spot.  That’s where the player gets into a flow state and plasticity is maximal.’  When the game was completed, Gazzaley recruited 174 people, with ages ranging from 20 to 80.  In the first phase of the study, they tested the multitasking skills of their participants, confirming that older players had more multitasking deficiencies than younger ones.  They recruited 46 participants aged 60 to 85 and put them through a four week training period with NeuroRacer. ‘After training period, the multitasking skill levels of the older guys exceeded even the levels of the 20- year olds who had played the game once,’ says Gazzaley, ‘ Those levels were sustained six months later.’ Also, Gazzaley found that the older players not only improved their ability to multitask, which the game explicitly trained, but others abilities, such as working memory and sustained attention.” It is good that the older guys were able to keep the skill level that they had achieved. I know this is long and I will finish it tomorrow with the last part.  I feel this is important for all schizophrenics to learn about and maybe it can help.  That is one reason I do not want to paraphrase it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Game your brain: the new benefits of neuroplasticity Part three

This is the third part of an article I am writing about.  “Last year, Gazzaley cofounded a company called Akili Interactive Labs, which is developing an upgrade of NeuroRacer called Evo.  Like Posit Science, Akili is seeking FDA approval for EVO as a possible software-based treatment for ADHD. ‘Most people associate medicine with drugs, and that’s the result of a big, successful brainwashing campaign by pharma companies,’ Gazzaley says. ‘But when it comes to brain health, drugs don’t work very well- - and the drug companies know that. If you look across the world’s top – ten pharma companies, four have withdrawn research from neuroscience.  That’s not because we’ve cured any of these diseases. Hopefully now we’ll start thinking of software and hardware as a form of medicine.’  Gazzaley has been preparing to open a new neuroscience laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. ‘We’re going to be able to record real-time EEG data as you play one of our games,’ Gazzaley says.  ‘The challenge won’t just be correlated to your performance, but also directly by neural process in your brain.’ He gives Wired a copy of the November 2013 issue of the scientific journal Nature.  The cover headline is ‘Game Changer’ and the image shows the cartoon of an old balding man driving a car through NeuroRacer’s mountainous roads. ‘Before I’d developed NeuroRacer, I used to give talks to groups of colleagues and present my data on cognitive decline and its mechanisms, and they would love it, find it fascination.  But when I gave talks about it to a public audience of older people, like the American Association of Retired Persons, it was horrifying.  If you give a lot of talks you get good at reading subtle signs in the audience.  Every year at the AGM, I had over a thousand people in the audience, all grey, and at the end of my talk, I could just see them asking ‘Is this it?  Is this the end of the movie?’ There was this feeling like that was not really the right ending.’ He points to the Nature cover. ‘That is the right ending.’” It all sounds promising. It is the right ending if it can rewire the brain so that schizophrenics feel that they are doing better my having participated in sound research.
I will end this article with: “Older adults are often advised to keep their minds sharp, but such advice is so generally as to be useless.  ‘It’s true that we lose abilities as we get older, but I believe that most of that loss is driven by a lack of effort to sustain brain fitness,’ says Alvaro Pascual-Leone, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School and one of the most-cited scientists in the field of brain plasticity. ‘We’re lazy, we don’t get out of our comfort zones, we stop learning new things.  The fact is that whatever you do, from activities to relationships to thoughts, ultimately enters the brain and affects it.  But we can harness that property of the brain for our own benefit. Ultimately, it’s a message of hope for people.’  The science of neuroplasticity illuminates the dynamic evolution of our brains throughout life, documenting how different experiences can dramatically change it. Its most pertinent insight, however, is that we can take control of such transformation.  Merzenich’s and Gazzaley’s brain training exercises provide us with a tool to do it.  They are a gym for the brain, a place where we can go to strengthen and expand our cognitive capabilities, which, to a very large extent, define who we are and determine what we are capable of.” How far can we go?  Makes me which I was younger and get into a field where the possibilities are endless with the brain.  It is the new frontier.