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News and Multimedia from 2009 Featuring DNBBS

Runaway Vigilance Hormone Linked to Panic Attacks

Science Update

A study has linked panic disorder to a wayward hormone in a brain circuit that regulates vigilance. While too little of the hormone, called orexin, is known to underlie narcolepsy, the new study suggests that too much of it may lead to panic attacks that afflict 6 million American adults.

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Non-Invasive Technique Blocks a Conditioned Fear in Humans

Press Release

fMRI scan showing amygdala

Scientists have for the first time selectively blocked a conditioned fear memory in humans with a behavioral manipulation. Participants remained free of the fear memory for at least a year. The research builds on emerging evidence from animal studies that reactivating an emotional memory opens a 6-hour window of opportunity in which a training procedure can alter it.

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Behavioral Training Improves Connectivity and Function in the Brain

Press Release

Changes in white matter of poor readers compared to average readers

Children with poor reading skills who underwent an intensive, six-month training program to improve their reading ability showed increased connectivity in a particular brain region, in addition to making significant gains in reading, according to a study funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The study was published in the Dec. 10, 2009, issue of Neuron.

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Silenced Gene for Social Behavior Found in Autism

Science Update

epigenetic mechanism

For the first time, inherited disruption of gene expression in a brain system for social behavior has been implicated in autism. NIMH grantee Margaret Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., at the University of Miami and Simon Gregory, Ph.D., at Duke University, and a multinational team of researchers found evidence for such epigenetic effects on the gene for the oxytocin receptor -- part of a brain system that mediates social behaviors disturbed in autism. The findings suggest a potential genetic biomarker for the disorder.

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NIMH Seeks More BRAINS

Press Release

lighted brain with blue glow

The National Institute of Mental Health is seeking more BRAINS for 2010 by offering a second round of Biobehavioral Research Awards for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS). The program calls for innovative and groundbreaking research projects from early stage investigators to explore the complex mechanisms underlying mental disorders or novel treatments and prevention strategies. Proposed projects should address research priorities and gap areas identified in the NIMH Strategic Plan. Researchers interested in applying for these awards must submit their applications by Dec. 9, 2009.

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Clinical Tests Begin on Medication to Correct Fragile X Defect

Press Release

fragile X chromosome

NIH-supported scientists at Seaside Therapeutics in Cambridge, Mass., are beginning a clinical trial of a potential medication designed to correct a central neurochemical defect underlying Fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited cause of intellectual disability. There has to date been no medication that could alter the disorder’s neurologic abnormalities. The study will evaluate safety, tolerability, and optimal dosage in healthy volunteers.

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Animal Kingdom: Lessons Learned

Video.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) sat down with researcher Dr. Robert Sapolsky to discuss his ground-breaking research and to answer the question: Can we learn to handle stress by observing animals in the wild?

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High-Tech Robots’ Efforts Bear Fruit Thanks to NIH Roadmap

Science Update

Robots working at NCGC

Researchers recently announced discovery of a new class of molecules that holds promise for blocking the clumps of protein that clog the brain in Alzheimer’s disease. The new findings are the latest made possible by the NIH Roadmap Molecular Libraries initiative, which employs high-tech robots and molecular genetics to speedily screen molecules for their biological effects. The discovery required testing nearly 300,000 compounds – a task thought insurmountable just a decade ago.

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Atlas Will Reveal When and Where Genes Turn On in the Brain

Science Update

helix

When and where in the brain a gene turns on holds clues to its possible role in disease. For example, a recent study found that forms of a gene associated with schizophrenia are over-expressed in the fetal brain, adding to evidence implicating this critical developmental period.

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NIH Funds Four Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science

Press Release

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), both part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced grants expected to total approximately $45 million to establish new Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science at the Medical College of Wisconsin and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill as well as to continue support of existing centers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Southern California.

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Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Share Genetic Roots

Press Release

gene chip

A trio of genome-wide studies – collectively the largest to date – has pinpointed a vast array of genetic variation that cumulatively may account for at least one third of the genetic risk for schizophrenia. One of the studies traced schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, in part, to the same chromosomal neighborhoods.

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Gene On/Off Instructions Inherited Via Shadowy Mechanism

Science Update

The first large-scale study of its kind in twins has turned up evidence that we inherit instructions for the turning on and off of genes via mechanisms beyond the traditional sequence differences in the genetic code. Moreover, the results suggest that early random errors in replicating these instructions may trump environmental influences in shaping us.

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Key Molecule in Inflammation-Related Depression Confirmed

Science Update

Scientists have confirmed the role of an immune-activated enzyme in causing inflammation-related depression-like symptoms in mice.

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New Silvio O. Conte Centers Address Brain Development, Disorders

Science Update

With a mandate to use innovative, multidisciplinary research approaches to address important mental health questions, four newly funded centers have begun investigations of schizophrenia, brain development, and adolescent mood disorders.

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Expert Panel Addresses High Rates of Smoking in People with Psychiatric Disorders

Science Update

Numerous biological, psychological, and social factors are likely to play a role in the high rates of smoking in people with psychiatric disorders, according to the report of an expert panel convened by the National Institute of Mental Health. The report reviews current literature and identifies research needed to clarify these factors and their interactions, and to improve treatment aimed at reducing the rates of illness and mortality from smoking in this population.

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