Archive for category ADHD

Gene Related to Autism Behavior ID’d in Mice Study


Gene Related to Autism Behavior ID'd in Mice StudyIn a new mouse study, University of California, Davis, researchers have found that a defective gene is responsible for brain changes that lead to the disrupted social behavior that accompanies autism.

Investigators believe the discovery could lead to the development of medications to treat the condition.

Prior research had determined that the gene is defective in children with autism, but its effect on neurons in the brain was not known.

The new studies in mice show that abnormal action of just this one gene disrupted energy use in neurons. The harmful changes were coupled with antisocial and prolonged repetitive behavior — traits found in autism.

The research is published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE.

“A number of genes and environmental factors have been shown to be involved in autism, but this study points to a mechanism — how one gene defect may trigger this type of neurological behavior,” said study senior author Cecilia Giulivi, Ph.D.

“Once you understand the mechanism, that opens the way for developing drugs to treat the condition,” she said.

The defective gene appears to disrupt neurons’ use of energy, Giulivi said, the critical process that relies on the cell’s molecular energy factories called mitochondria.

In the research, a gene called pten was modififed in the mice so that neurons lacked the normal amount of pten’s protein. The scientists detected malfunctioning mitochondria in the mice as early as 4 to 6 weeks after birth.

By 20 to 29 weeks, DNA damage in the mitochondria and disruption of their function had increased dramatically.

At this time, the mice began to avoid contact with their litter mates and engage in repetitive grooming behavior. Mice without the single gene change exhibited neither the mitochondria malfunctions nor the behavioral problems.

The antisocial behavior was most pronounced in the mice at an age comparable in humans to the early teenage years – a period in which schizophrenia and other behavioral disorders become most apparent, Giulivi said.

The research showed that, when defective, pten’s protein interacts with the protein of a second gene known as p53 to dampen energy production in neurons.

The interaction causes severe stress that leads to a spike in harmful mitochondrial DNA changes and abnormal levels of energy production in the cerebellum and hippocampus — brain regions critical for social behavior and cognition.

Investigators report that pten mutations previously have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease as well as a spectrum of autism disorders.

The new research shows that when pten protein was insufficient, its interaction with p53 triggered deficiencies and defects in other proteins that also have been found in patients with learning disabilities including autism.

Source: University of California – Davis Health System

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Brain Scans Show Teen Drinking Impairs Brain Efficiency


Brain Scans Show Teen Drinking Impairs Brain EfficiencyNew research suggests brains scans can identify patterns of brain activity that may predict if a teen will develop into a problem drinker.

The study also confirms that heavy drinking affects a teenagers’ developing brain.

Using special MRI scans, researchers looked at forty 12- to 16-year-olds who had not started drinking yet, then followed them for about three years and scanned them again.

Researchers discovered that half of the teens started to drink alcohol fairly heavily during this interval.

Investigators also found that kids who had initially showed less activation in certain brain areas were at greater risk for becoming heavy drinkers in the next three years.

However, once the teens started drinking, their brain activity looked like the heavy drinkers’ in the other studies — that is, their brains showed more activity as they tried to perform memory tests.

“That’s the opposite of what you’d expect, because their brains should be getting more efficient as they get older,” said lead researcher Lindsay M. Squeglia, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Diego.

Researchers say an operational definition of heavy drinking typically included episodes of having four or more drinks on an occasion for females and five or more drinks for males.

The findings add to evidence that heavy drinking has consequences for teenagers’ developing brains. But they also add a new layer: There may be brain activity patterns that predict which kids are at increased risk for heavy drinking.

“It’s interesting because it suggests there might be some pre-existing vulnerability,” Squeglia said.

Researchers say they are not advocating for teens to receive MRIs to determine their risk of excessive alcohol consumption. But the findings do give clues into the biological origins of kids’ problem drinking.

Experts say the findings suggest that heavy drinking may affect young people’s brains right at the time when they need to be working efficiently.

“You’re learning to drive, you’re getting ready for college. This is a really important time of your life for cognitive development,” Squeglia said.

She noted that all of the study participants were healthy, well-functioning kids. It’s possible that teens with certain disorders — like depression or ADHD — might show greater effects from heavy drinking.

Source: Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

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Colleges Gear Up to Help Students with ADHD


Colleges Gear Up to Help Students with ADHDSummer is winding down and colleges are ramping up for a new influx of recent high school graduates.

Given the steady increase in students diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), some colleges are proactively developing programs to help the student make a successful transition to college.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, affects 1 to 4 percent of college students, according to national studies. For freshmen with ADHD, the transition to college can be especially difficult.

Many previous studies have shown ADHD among college students can be a serious disorder that is an everyday struggle.

Kristy Morgan, a recent Kansas State University doctoral graduate in student affairs and higher education, studied how students with ADHD make the transition from high school to college.

“Nobody had really studied the transition from high school to college,” Morgan said.

“Transitions can be the toughest time for people. This can be especially true when the transition is from the home environment where parents have been involved in daily plans, schedules and medication.”

“Kristy’s research is an important contribution to understanding and facilitating the transition to college for students with ADHD,” said Kenneth Hughey.

“The results and the recommendations that followed are intended to help students with ADHD make a successful transition, their parents as they support their children in the transition, and student affairs professionals who work with the students once they are on campus.”

In her small exploratory study, Morgan interviewed eight freshmen — four men and four women — to talk about their transition during their first semester of college. The freshmen were all living on campus and were at least an hour away from home.

Morgan found a common thread among these students with attention deficit disorder was a failure to adequately plan their college transition.

The students did not factor ADHD into their decision-making about college, but rather chose a college based on how the campus felt, the reputation of the school or that it was where they had always wanted to attend.

“Most of the students found college to be tougher than they had expected,” Morgan said. “Even with the availability of resources, they still felt overwhelmed with accessing these resources.”

Morgan found that preplanning was a significant factor for success. Students who had established an ADHD management strategies — such as ways to keep a schedule or study for tests were able to adjust to the new college life — while students who did not have strategies in place before they went to college, felt overwhelmed.

“A big struggle for students was adjusting to increased freedom and increased responsibility,” Morgan said.

“They anticipated loving the freedom of college and being away from their parents. But they also realized that college required responsibility and that responsibility was overwhelming to them.”

Morgan was amazed to find that parents were very involved in the transition from home to college. She discovered that some parents were instrumental for students’ college activities — they served as alarm clocks, organized their rooms and continued to manage medical care.

“The parents filled prescriptions and contacted doctors even while the student was at college, which was surprising to me,” Morgan said. “The students really did not handle it independently.”

Morgan discovered the reliance on parents became a negative as students often lacked basic knowledge of ADHD and how their medication worked. However, students did understand that medication was crucial to their success in college because they needed it to help focus during lectures and studying time.

“There were some students who took medication sporadically prior to college,” Morgan said. “They realized that to be successful in college, their medication moved from optional to mandatory.”

Morgan discovered that side effects influenced how often students took medication. For example, some students would not take medication because they felt it made them not as fun in social situations.

The women in the study were more likely to consistently take medication because it helped suppress their appetites and manage weight. The men were more likely to skip their medication to have a good time.

Helping Students with ADHD

The findings suggest that a combined effort between families, students and the university staff is needed to help students with ADHD adjust and succeed in college.

Morgan has developed the following recommendations for universities and families to support college students who have ADHD:

  • Families should inform students about their diagnoses. All too often, families have not educated students with ADHD because they think it might be just a childhood condition that they will outgrow.
  • Universities can streamline processes and make it easier for students to access resources. Students with ADHD are not likely to wait in long lines or fill out a lot of paperwork for resources.
  • Academic advisers can help students carefully structure their schedules for success. Many students with ADHD benefit when classes are scheduled close to each other, rather than spread out during an entire day. Advisers can also help students schedule classes with engaging professors and in rooms that have few distractions, such as windows or high-traffic hallways.

Source: Kansas State University

Young college student with books photo by shutterstock.

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Close Friend’s Social Phobia Off The Charts


A close friend told me in March that she has had social phobia/anxiety for over 4 years. I was stunned by her revelation. She has always been reserved in general. She is in the medical profession with advanced degrees and is generally a pleasant, but very driven person. She had started some therapy due to becoming physically ill before some meetings, even if she knew the attendees. Since January, she has taken about 30 days of sick time, which isn’t a problem as far as work goes. This is unheard of for her! She travels a great deal with her work and last Saturday started to become unhinged. I drove over an hour to meet her since we now live a couple of hours apart. Saying she was distraught doesn’t do it justice. I literally held her for hours, getting her to a place where she could let it out. This went on all night at a hotel. The next day, she was more herself and we went our separate ways and I felt okay with that. I was prepared to follow her back to her city if need be.

On Monday morning, I get a call from her brother that she has taken scores of Adderall tablets. REALLY? She doesn’t have ADHD that I know of, but the RX had her name on it I’m told. There was a strangely written note and after reading it, I can’t say it’s a traditional suicide note. This is all so out of character and it’s nearly overwhelming. I have healthcare POA for her and she for me along with access to bank accounts and some other account types when she travels. I now have everything business-related under control, but I am now processing my own feelings about what was a very real attempt at ending her life. I feel empathy and love for my close friend, not anger. We have never let each other down. She is done with observation and will go to another place for at least a couple of weeks- by choice. Another first and I’m happy for that. Besides being supportive and meeting with her Psychiatrist soon, is there something I should or shouldn’t do? There was a situation for me in 2001 where I could have given up my survival skills also. It was a specific event that triggered that thought process in me and she helped get me through it. This is far different for her. I just want to be loving, supportive and empathetic, but I’ve never dealt with a suicide attempt of someone close to me. Any suggestions?

Thank you.

A. Your friend is fortunate to have someone in her life who cares so deeply about her well-being. There are several ways that you can assist your friend in this situation. You could offer to drive her to therapy appointments or attend the first several with her, if she allows or believes that it would be helpful. You could also encourage her to attend a support group for individuals who are experiencing severe anxiety.

Psychoeducation about severe anxiety may help you to better support your friend during this difficult time. The more you know about anxiety the better able you can empathize with her situation.

Finally, being able to empathize, love, care, and support your friend during this difficult time are some of the greatest gifts that you can offer. Focus on providing your emotional support and don’t feel obligated to offer psychological advice. Suicide is a very complex matter that requires the treatment of mental health professionals. Though friends and family mean well, they’re simply not trained to deal with the complexities of mental illness and suicide. I hope this helps. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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