Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Worst Part Of Schizophrenia Isn’t What You Think It Is

That is the title of this article I am reviewing today and this is the last part of two parts. "'It’s like having a personal trainer in the gym, keeping you in just the right zone to build strength and fitness, without slacking or overtraining. And like a physical fitness regime, improvement only comes with persistence — Vinogradov’s experiments typically involve up to 50 hours of training, given over 8 to 10 weeks. 'If you don’t do it intensively, you’re not going to get the same results,' Vinogradov told BuzzFeed News. 'You need to come back every three days, and do your reps again.' After his first psychotic episode, Staglin returned to his classes at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, but his grades plummeted. He was eventually able to drag them back up, but only by isolating himself socially to devote his mental energy to his studies. Reading was an effort. He felt socially awkward and struggled to make friends. After college, Staglin worked for a satellite engineering company in Palo Alto, California, and was applying to grad school at MIT when the pressure became too much again. 'I had to resign from my job. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t concentrate,' Staglin said.
It wasn’t until the late 1990s that Staglin took part in some of Vinogradov’s earliest experiments, which were designed to help people with schizophrenia make sense of speech and other sounds. Among other tasks, he had to tell whether a rapidly played tone was rising or falling in pitch. Staglin diligently did his reps and saw some benefits after many years of struggling with the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia.'" After my first episode of mental illness I do not think I could concentrate on anything.  An example when I had a episode in the state hospital I was in school there and could not concentrate on anything I asked the teacher to take me back to the ward.
The article goes on to say: "'For Staglin, realizing that he was getting better at the games boosted his confidence. As his performance improved, he became more outgoing. 'I think it’s because of the cognitive benefits of being able to perceive and understand conversations better,' he said.
Despite the initial experiment’s benefits to Staglin and other volunteers, it took several years to win funding for the work. In their first major study, published in 2009, Vinogradov’s team invited people with schizophrenia to visit their lab and play a variety of games to improve how they understood sounds. As well as distinguishing the rising or falling tones, they also had to distinguish between distorted syllables containing similar sounds, such as 'pag' and 'bag,' and were given more complex tasks including remembering details from conversations played on the screen. The volunteers who’d trained on these tasks subsequently took tests in which they had to recall words. They performed better than a control group who had trained on computer puzzle games. They also did better on general tests of cognitive ability. Encouragingly, the gains were about twice as large as those typically reported in previous cognitive training studies. And the benefits could still be seen six months later.
Since this initial success, Vinogradov and her colleagues have experimented with different training games, some targeting brain circuits that process social information — for example, by asking volunteers to read the emotions on pictures of people’s faces. The researchers have also tried to intervene earlier in the disorder. (Like Staglin and Webster, most people with schizophrenia experience their first psychotic episode as young adults.)  Last year at the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research in Colorado Springs, Vinogradov’s team reported that the training did more than boost the cognitive abilities of recently diagnosed young people: It also seemed to reduce the severity of their psychotic symptoms, measured six months later.'" The games I played did not have sounds they were pictures of birds and you had to remember them.  They were not all birds but picture of things that you had to remember that is why the guy that took them with me said they did not work because it was memory.
The article ends: "'That doesn’t mean that brain training can replace the drugs that keep hallucinations and delusions at bay. But it suggests that the games may help to protect the brain from the disrupted wiring that is thought to be the root cause of schizophrenia’s symptoms. The researchers want to turn the cognitive improvements into real life-changers, but it’s not yet clear whether the training can make a big difference to holding down a job and building friendships. Vinogradov thinks this may require combining the computer games with other treatments, such as occupational therapy to help people with schizophrenia manage everyday tasks, and low doses of stimulant drugs that can improve focus. Webster got involved in Vinogradov’s research last year, volunteering for a study to see whether the training would work on an iPad — so that young people with schizophrenia can give their brains a workout at home. Like Staglin, Webster had struggled with mental tasks and felt socially isolated. These problems were compounded, he said, by several concussions during his time in jail, when he was beaten by fellow inmates. Unfamiliar with the jail’s unspoken rules, he first got into trouble by sitting in a part of the canteen claimed by black prisoners. After his release, Webster found it difficult to resume his studies. 'I would do homework and I would feel that I had to get up and stop and go listen to music or something,' Webster said. Trying to keep working wasn’t a good idea, he found: 'I get extremely frustrated when I’m in that state. I’ll start slamming doors and stuff, and throwing things across the room.'  Webster felt that the iPad training helped. 'I started noticing that I was less anxious when I was in public,' he said. 'My thoughts became less disorganized.'
Games designed to help a patient understand what they are seeing, in particular, seemed to boost his peripheral vision, increasing his awareness while driving. And his mom noticed that he responded more quickly when they talked — previously, their conversations had been punctuated by long pauses. Still, Webster would often quit the games before he was supposed to, because he found the exercises boring. 'I was supposed to do five hours a week. I ended up doing three,' he said. 'With schizophrenia, it’s really common to have a lack of motivation.' Cameron of UC Davis, who has collaborated with Vinogradov’s group, believes that the computer games industry — masters of cliff-hangers and cinematic thrills — should be able to solve that problem.  Vinogradov's team is  now concentrating on intervening even earlier, in young people who haven’t experienced a full-blown psychotic episode but are starting to behave oddly or having trouble distinguishing dreams from reality. The researchers have already shown that the training helps young people rated at high risk of developing psychosis get better at remembering words. But the idea of starting treatment before people have experienced a psychotic break is controversial. 'Attenuated psychosis syndrome,' intended to describe people at risk of schizophrenia, was rejected  as a new psychiatric diagnosis in 2012. Critics argued that more than 70% of young people who have strange thoughts and minor hallucinations do not go on to develop schizophrenia. If this diagnosis became mainstream, they worried, it could lead to a massive and unwarranted expansion in the prescription of powerful antipsychotic drugs. Getting young people to play computer games doesn’t arouse quite the same fears. 'Cognitive training is probably benign enough,' Allen Frances of Duke University, who led the opposition to the proposed diagnosis, told BuzzFeed News by email. But he remains worried about young people who may never develop schizophrenia being stigmatized by an 'at risk' label.
Webster would have welcomed the opportunity to seek early treatment. He began to have problems concentrating from the age of 14, and found it hard to socialize with other kids. 'I think my life would have different,' he said, 'if they’d caught this disease before I had a full-blown episode.'" Yeah you have to worry that the games get boring.  That is what happened to us that tried the games here at work. I could do better at remembering everyday that I would not play it every morning like I was supposed to.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Worst Part Of Schizophrenia Isn’t What You Think It Is

That is the title of this article I am reviewing today.  This will be a three part series. "'Brandon Staglin lost touch with reality in the summer of 1990, after his freshman year of college. His first serious relationship had just broken down. Back home in Walnut Creek, California, he was struggling to find a summer job. That’s when the voices became impossible to ignore. 'Baby Brandon!' they taunted. 'Mixed-up kid!' Staglin couldn’t sleep and thought that a wall had come down inside his head, leaving the right side hollow. 'I felt I’d lost half of my spirit,' Staglin told BuzzFeed News. So he covered his right eye with his hand, fearful that a new personality would fill the void if he let any experiences in. Delusional thinking like this, often accompanied by voices and other hallucinations, is a classic symptom of the psychosis that grips people with schizophrenia. Travis Webster’s lowest ebb also came when he was 18, back in 2013. Diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which combines psychosis with wild mood swings, he’d stopped taking his medication. That led to a conflict with his parents: Webster thought they were conspiring against him, despite their efforts to help. He was filling out a restraining order against his family when two police officers and a social worker knocked on his door in downtown San Diego.'" Yeah I remember when I had psychosis for the second time all I did was lay in bed. I did not understand what was happening to me.  Even though I had my first breakdown in prison.  Then the psychiatrist just said I needed sleep and put me on Halcyon.
The article goes on to say: "'Things quickly got out of hand, as the former high school water polo player resisted the officers’ attempts to restrain him. 'I am 6-foot-5, 220 pounds,' Webster told BuzzFeed News. 'The cops were so small.” He punched one of them in the face and was sentenced to two months in the county jail. Travis Webster at his mother’s house in La Jolla, California. Ariana Drehsler for BuzzFeed News ID: 9240472 Life has gotten better for both Staglin and Webster. Today, their psychosis is controlled by medication, and they’ve become advocates for mental health: Staglin helps run the One Mind Institute, a research organization set up by his family, and Webster speaks about his experiences in schools. But silencing the voices and banishing delusions doesn’t mean that everything is OK. Once high-flying students, both men’s grades went into free fall when they were gripped by psychosis. And even after those symptoms were under control, they found it hard to concentrate on their studies. Hallucinations and delusions may be the public face of schizophrenia, but the hidden cognitive symptoms — which include difficulty focusing on mental tasks, understanding speech, and remembering what just happened — make it very hard for people with the condition to live satisfying, productive lives." I remember when the police arrested me they had to hold me down and one officer said I tore his pocket when they were trying to arrest me.  I had never fought the police before.
The article ends: "They might hear voices and learn not to respond to them,” Cameron Carter of the University of California, Davis, a specialist in the cognitive aspects of schizophrenia, told BuzzFeed News. But it’s hard to follow people’s conversations if you literally can’t process what they’re saying. And there’s no compensating for an inability to concentrate. Staglin and Webster, together with dozens of other volunteers, have found some relief, however, by playing computer games designed to strengthen their mental abilities. They have participated in trials led by Sophia Vinogradov and her colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), which draw from research into 'neuroplasticity' — the idea that the brain changes in response to how it is used. This means that neural circuits can be strengthened through mental training, much like an athlete builds muscle by pumping iron at the gym. The games are designed by a company called Posit Science, launched by one of the pioneers of neuroplasticity, Michael Merzenich, also at UCSF. They automatically adjust their difficulty so that players succeed on only around 80% of the tasks. Improve your performance, and the game gets harder. If your concentration slips, the tasks get a little easier until you’re back in the groove."  The games must be better than the one I tried six years ago.  All it did was improve your memory. My memory is pretty good with numbers although math is a different subject that I cannot do.  My tutor use to say he remembers it good when were sitting here but once he walks out the door he cannot remember all we learned.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Does the Media Unfairly Portray Mentally Ill People as Violent?

That is the title of this article I am reviewing today. "Nearly 40 percent of news stories about mental illness report a mentally ill person committing violence toward others. These numbers paint a misleading portrait of those with mental illness, because in reality, less than five percent of violence in the United States is directly related to mental illness, according to a new analysis by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The researchers, who studied news articles from top-tier media outlets over a 20-year period, say that this heavy reporting of such a small figure unfairly alters the perception of the readers to believe that most people with mental illness are prone to violence when extensive research has shown that only a small percent ever commit such acts.
The researchers were quite surprised at how little has changed regarding this subject over the last several decades. In fact, the portrayals may have increased the stigma toward people with mental illness. For example, in the first decade of the study period (1994 to 2005), just one percent of newspaper stories linking violence with mental illness appeared on the front page, compared with 18 percent in the second decade (2005 to 2014). 'Most people with mental illness are not violent toward others and most violence is not caused by mental illness, but you would never know that by looking at media coverage of incidents,' says study leader Emma E. “Beth” McGinty, Ph.D., MS, an assistant professor in the departments of Health Policy and Management and Mental Health at the Bloomberg School.'" A person with mental illness gets very tired of hearing all theses stories of violence and mental illness.  It has been twenty seven years since I had a drink of Alcohol and twenty eight years since I have been locked up for any crime under the influence.  Twenty eight years since a police officer has even stopped me.
The article goes on to say: "'Despite all of the work that has been done to reduce stigma associated with mental health issues, this portrayal of mental illness as closely linked with violence exacerbates a false perception about people with these illnesses, many of whom live healthy, productive lives.
'In an ideal world, reporting would make clear the low percentage of people with mental illness who commit violence.'  In any given year, 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from mental illness and, over a lifetime, roughly 50 percent receive a diagnosis. For the study, the researchers studied a random sample of 400 news articles that had covered some aspect of mental illness over a 20-year period. All articles appeared in 11 high-circulation, high-viewership media outlets in the United States. The findings show that the most frequently mentioned topic across the study period was violence (55 percent), with 38 percent mentioning violence against others and 29 percent linking mental illness with suicide. Treatment was mentioned in 47 percent of the stories, but just 14 percent described successful treatment for or recovery. 'Stories about successful treatment have the potential to decrease stigma and provide a counter image to depictions of violence, but there are not that many of these types of narratives depicted in the news media,' McGinty says. A deeper look into the media coverage found that stories of mass shootings by individuals with mental illness increased over the course of the study period, from nine percent of all news stories in the first decade to 22 percent in the second decade.'" I hate to admitted it but I had some violence on my record and went to prison for two years where I had my first breakdown before I won my appeal.  I was provoked although that is not an excuse but I would have only done six months in the county jail instead of prison but the judge did not want to give me the law because she knew I would win.
The article ends: "'The number of mass shootings, however, has remained steady over that time period, according to FBI statistics. Among the stories that reported violence toward others, 38 percent mentioned that mental illness can increase the risk of such violence while only eight percent mentioned that most people with mental illness are never or rarely violent toward others.
The specific mental illness most frequently connected to violence in the news was schizophrenia (17 percent) and the two most frequently mentioned risk factors for violence other than mental illness were drug use (five percent) and stressful life events (five percent). One limitation of the study is that it did not include stories from local television news, where a large proportion of Americans get their news. McGinty says that the negative reporting adds to the perception that people with mental illness are dangerous. This is a stigmatizing portrayal that prior studies have shown leads to a desire for social distance from people with mental illness. She concedes, however, that it may be difficult for members of the news media not to assume mental illness is in play because of the idea among many that anyone who would commit violence, especially mass shootings, must have mental illness.
'Anyone who kills people is not mentally healthy. We can all agree on that,' McGinty says. 'But it’s not necessarily true that they have a diagnosable illness. They may have anger or emotional issues, which can be clinically separate from a diagnosis of mental illness.' 'Violence may stem from alcohol or drug use, issues related to poverty or childhood abuse. But these elements are rarely discussed. And as a result, coverage is skewed toward assuming mental illness first.'" I know all my times being arrested were the result of alcohol. After twenty eight years of not drinking I do not miss it at all.  For me it a matter of being free to do what I want to do. I can say today if I was provoked again I would walk away it is wrong for me to put my freedom in the hands of others.  Plus I now have my grandkids that I do not want to grow up the way I did I do not blame anyone but myself because I was a lot smarter than that but alcohol changes a person to make stupid mistakes.