Posts Tagged Brain and Behavior
Posted by psychieblogger in 3 Fatty Acids, American Chemical Society, Chemical Compounds, Chemistry Institute, Chocolate Blueberries, Cognitive Health, Common Foods, Depakene, Depression, Dietary Recommendations, Drug Molecules, Flavor Components, Manic Depressive Disorder, Mental Alertness, Mood Effects, Mood Enhancers, Mood Modulators, Mood Swings, National Autonomous University, National Autonomous University Of Mexico, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Pines Institute, Psychology, Research, Specific Foods, Stress, Striking Similarity, Valproic Acid on August 19, 2012
New research reveals that some common foods enhance moods with a striking similarity to valproic acid, a widely used prescription mood-stabilizing drug.
“Molecules in chocolate, a variety of berries and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids have shown positive effects on mood. In turn, our studies show that some commonly used flavor components are structurally similar to valproic acid,” said Karina Martinez-Mayorga, Ph.D., leader of the research team, which presented its findings at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Valproic acid, which is sold under brand names such as Depakene, Depakote and Stavzor, is used to smooth out the mood swings of people with manic-depressive disorder and related conditions, she said.
“The large body of evidence that chemicals in chocolate, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, teas and certain foods could well be mood-enhancers encourages the search for other mood modulators in food,” she added.
While people have recognized the mood-altering properties of food for years, Martinez-Mayorga’s team is looking to identify the chemical compounds that moderate mood swings, help maintain cognitive health, improve mental alertness and delay the onset of memory loss.
Her study involved the use of techniques associated with chemoinformatics ― the application of informatic methods to solve chemical problems ― to screen the chemical structures of more than 1,700 food ingredients for similarities to antidepressant drugs and other agents with reported antidepressant activity.
She noted her team plans to move from analyzing the database to actually testing the flavor/mood hypothesis experimentally. The end result may be dietary recommendations or new nutritional supplements with beneficial mood effects, she said.
“It is important to remember that just eating foods that may improve mood is not a substitute for prescribed antidepressive drugs,” Martinez-Mayorga cautioned.
She added that eating specific foods and living a healthful lifestyle can generally boost moods for people who don’t require medication.
Karina Martinez-Mayorga, Ph.D., who described research done while working at the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, is now with the Chemistry Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Source: The American Chemical Society
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Individuals with schizophrenia experience more intense perceptual illusions while gazing into a mirror than do healthy people, according to a new study.
The new research also showed that patients with schizophrenia were more likely to believe the illusions they see in the mirror were real.
The research highlights the underlying ego dysfunction and body dysmorphic disorder found in schizophrenia.
According to the researchers, gazing at one’s own reflected face under low light can lead to ghostly experiences called “strange-face in the mirror” illusions. No study has previously focused on mirror gazing in schizophrenic patients, who already experience delirium, hallucination and self mis-attribution.
Stefano Zago of the University of Milan conducted the study to compare strange-face apparitions in response to mirror gazing in 16 patients with schizophrenia and 21 mentally healthy controls.
Subjects took a 7-minute mirror-gazing test, after which they filled out a specially designed questionnaire asking them to describe their strange-face perceptions.
The results show a number of differences between patients with schizophrenia and mentally healthy controls. Patients on average reported a greater total number of strange faces than controls, at 2.8 versus 1.5.
The types of strange faces also differed between patients and controls. Hugely deformed features were seen by all schizophrenia patients and 71% of controls, archetypal faces by 50% of patients and 19% of controls, and monstrous faces by 88% of patients and 29% of controls. Patients’ archetypical and monster faces were typically described as satanic beings.
Furthermore, patients tended to report greater intensity in the strange faces and were more likely to say that they felt real than controls.
Of note, mentally healthy participants felt dissociative experiences during the strange-face illusions and never identified with them.
Overall, the research suggests that strange-face illusions in schizophrenia can be caused by ego dysfunction, body dysmorphic disorder, or by misattribution of self-agency, said Zago.
The research is published in Schizophrenia Research.
Source: Schizophrenia Research
Current and former soldiers who seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) should be screened closely for major depression since the disorder is the single strongest driver of suicidal thinking, say authors of a new Canadian study.
Researchers evaluated 250 active duty Canadian Forces, RCMP members and veterans. The study comes at a time when record numbers of suicides are being reported among American troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, and the number of suicides reported among Canadian forces last year reached its highest point since 1995.
In veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, about half also have symptoms of major depressive disorder during their lifetime, said the researchers.
But “the task of predicting which people may be at an increased risk of completing suicide is a complex and challenging care issue,” they said.
The study included 193 Canadian Forces vets, 55 active troops and two RCMP members referred to the Parkwood Hospital Operational Stress Injury Clinic in London, Ontario.
Soldiers and vets were screened for PTSD, major depression, anxiety disorders and alcohol abuse. The depression questionnaire also included questions about suicidal thinking.
Study participants served an average of 15 years and had been deployed an average of three times. About one-fourth had been deployed to Afghanistan at least once. Ninety-two per cent were men.
Most met the criteria for “probable” PTSD, and almost three-fourths screened positive for probable major depression.
Overall, about one-fourth — 23 percent — said that they had experienced thoughts of self-harm, or that they would be better off dead, for several days over the prior two weeks.
Another 17 percent said they had those thoughts more than half of the days in the past two weeks; six percent reported feeling this way almost every day for the previous two weeks.
As found in other studies, the researchers showed that PTSD is linked to suicidal thoughts. But “what became the biggest predictor was, specifically, depression severity,” said Dr. Don Richardson, a consultant psychiatrist at the Operational Stress Injury Clinic and an adjunct professor in the department of psychiatry at Western University in London.
“It really stresses the importance that when you’re assessing someone for PTSD it’s also critical that you assess specifically for major depression,” Richardson said. “From our limited study, it was depression severity that was the most significant predictor of having suicidal ideation.”
The concern is that soldiers seeking treatment for military-related trauma might not receive aggressive therapy for depression. Instead, the focus might be more focused on PTSD and exposure therapy.
“There’s potentially a lot of people out there who are suffering who might not be aware that there are effective treatments, and that there are clinics available across Canada that specialize in military trauma,” said Richardson.
New research has demonstrated that the effects on white matter brain volume from long-term alcohol abuse are different for men and women.
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Veterans Affairs (VA) Boston Healthcare System also suggest that when they stop drinking, women recover their white matter brain volume more quickly than men.
Previous research has linked alcoholism with white matter reduction, according to the researchers, who explain that white matter forms the connections between neurons, allowing communication between different areas of the brain.
In this latest study, a research team, led by Susan Mosher Ruiz, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research scientist in the Laboratory for Neuropsychology at BUSM and research scientist at the VA Boston Healthcare System, and Marlene Oscar Berman, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, neurology and anatomy and neurobiology at BUSM and research career scientist at the VA Boston Healthcare System, employed structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the effects of drinking history and gender on white matter volume.
They examined brain images from 42 abstinent alcoholic men and women who drank heavily for more than five years and 42 nonalcoholic men and women. The researchers found that a greater number of years of alcohol abuse was associated with smaller white matter volumes in the alcoholic men and women. In the men, the decrease was observed in the corpus callosum, while in women this effect was observed in cortical white matter regions.
“We believe that many of the cognitive and emotional deficits observed in people with chronic alcoholism, including memory problems and flat affect, are related to disconnections that result from a loss of white matter,” said Mosher Ruiz.
The researchers also found that the number of daily drinks had a strong impact on alcoholic women, with the volume loss 1.5 to 2 percent for each additional drink. Additionally, there was an 8 to 10 percent increase in the size of the brain ventricles, which are areas filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that play a protective role in the brain. When white matter dies, CSF produced in the ventricles fills the ventricular space.
The researchers also found that in men, white matter brain volume in the corpus callosum recovered at a rate of 1 percent per year for each year of abstinence. For people who abstained less than a year, the researchers found evidence of increased white matter volume and decreased ventricular volume in women, but not in men. However, for people in recovery for more than a year, those signs of recovery disappeared in women and became apparent in men.
“These findings preliminarily suggest that restoration and recovery of the brain’s white matter among alcoholics occurs later in abstinence for men than for women,” said Mosher Ruiz. “We hope that additional research in this area can help lead to improved treatment methods that include educating both alcoholic men and women about the harmful effects of excessive drinking and the potential for recovery with sustained abstinence.”
The research was published online in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
Source: Boston University Medical Center