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Science News from 2008

Consortium Moves Quickly to Study Resilience Following Hurricane Ike

Science Update

A consortium of research programs funded by NIMH to conduct post-disaster mental health research mobilized this year following hurricane Ike to study the factors that influence resilience after disasters.

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NIMH Staff Honored for Work on Behalf of Returning Veterans

Science Update

Several NIMH staff members will be awarded the 2008 Hubert H. Humphrey Award for Service to America for their work in addressing the mental health needs of returning veterans.

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Three NIMH Grantees Receive White House Award

Science Update

Three NIMH grantees were among the 67 recipients of Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE) for 2007:

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NIMH Grants Focus on Innovative Autism Research

Science Update

Autism is a complex brain disorder involving communication and social difficulties as well as repetitive behavior or limited interests.

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Study Probes Environment-Triggered Genetic Changes in Schizophrenia

Science Update

The first study of its kind to pinpoint environment-triggered genetic changes in schizophrenia has been launched with $9.8 million in funding from NIMH. The five-site study seeks telltale marks in the genome that hold clues to how nurture interacts with nature to produce the illness.

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Intervention Helps Reduce Risky Sexual Behavior Among Homeless HIV-positive Adults

Science Update

An NIMH-funded program already shown to reduce risky sexual and substance abuse behavior among HIV-infected adults also appears to be effective in improving the lives of HIV-infected homeless or near-homeless adults, according to a new report.

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Not All Antipsychotics Created Equal: Analysis Reveals Important Differences

Science Update

An analysis of studies on antipsychotics reveals multiple differences among the newer, second-generation antipsychotics as well as the older medications, and suggests the current classification system blurs important differences, rendering it unhelpful.

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Caffeine No Substitute for a Nap to Enhance Memory

Science Update

Hoping to improve your tennis serve? It's probably better to catch a few winks than load up on java after a lesson, results of a NIMH-supported study suggest.

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Depression Relapse Less Likely Among Teens Who Receive CBT After Medication Therapy

Science Update

Adolescents with major depression who received cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) after responding to an antidepressant were less likely to experience a relapse or recurrence of symptoms compared to teens who did not receive CBT, according to a small, NIMH-funded pilot study published in the December 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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Anxious and Depressed Teens and Adults: Same Version of Mood Gene, Different Brain Reactions

Science Update

An NIMH study using brain imaging shows that some anxious and depressed adolescents react differently from adult patients when looking at frightening faces.

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Long-term Academic Effects of Child’s ADHD May Extend to Siblings

Science Update

The long-term academic problems that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often experience may affect their siblings as well, according to an analysis partially funded by NIMH and published in the Journal of Health Economics.

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Learning Disability Reversed in Mice

Science Update

Just as traffic signals enable safe traversing of the roadways, so too does the brain's machinery for learning and memory rely on its own stop-and-go signals.

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NIMH, U.S. Army Sign MOA to Conduct Groundbreaking Suicide Research

Science Update

NIMH and the U.S. Army have entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to conduct research that will help the Army reduce the rate of suicides.

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Genomic Dragnet Finds Clues to Likely Suspects in Alzheimer’s

Science Update

In the first study of its kind, researchers have pinpointed four genes likely associated with risk for the most common, late-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease, including a very strong candidate on chromosome 14.

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Cells May Provide Target for New Anxiety Medications

Science Update

A specific population of brain cells could provide a target for developing new medications aimed at helping people learn to mute the fears underlying anxiety disorders, according to NIMH-supported scientists.

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Anxious and Healthy Adolescents Respond Differently to an Anxiety-provoking Situation

Science Update

Brain scans show heightened activity among anxious adolescents exposed to an anxiety-provoking situation when compared with normal controls, according to an NIMH study published in the November 2008 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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Genes That Turn On Together Hold Secrets of Brain’s Molecular Instructions

Science Update

For the first time, scientists have mapped groups of genes that turn on together in the human brain, revealing a kind of Rosetta Stone of its molecular organization.

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Brain’s Response to Scary Faces Imaged Faster Than You Can Say “Boo!”

Science Update

Scientists have captured the split-second workings of the brain’s fear circuitry in people viewing frightful faces.

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New Grant Aims to Reduce Rate of College Suicide by Helping Students Better Adjust

Science Update

A new grant funded by NIMH will test an intervention designed to prevent or reduce suicide among college students.

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Study Identifies Three Effective Treatments for Childhood Anxiety Disorders

Press Release

Treatment that combines a certain type of psychotherapy with an antidepressant medication is most likely to help children with anxiety disorders, but each of the treatments alone is also effective.

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Brain’s Wiring Stunted, Lopsided in Childhood Onset Schizophrenia

Science Update

Growth of the brain’s long distance connections, called white matter, is stunted and lopsided in children who develop psychosis before puberty, NIMH researchers have discovered.

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Task Force Finds Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Effective for Children and Adolescents Exposed to Trauma

Science Update

Individual and group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) were the only interventions found effective in an evaluation of seven commonly-used approaches to reduce the psychological harm to youth who experience trauma.

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Symptoms Persist as Bipolar Children Grow Up

Science Update

Bipolar disorder (BD) identified in childhood often persisted into adulthood in the first large follow-up study of its kind.

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Lack of Eye Contact May Predict Level of Social Disability in Two-Year Olds with Autism

Science Update

By age 2, children with autism show unusual patterns of eye contact compared with typically developing children.

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Social Phobia Patients Have Heightened Reactions to Negative Comments

Science Update

In a study using functional brain imaging, NIMH scientists found that when people with generalized social phobia were presented with a variety of verbal comments about themselves and others (you are ugly, or hes a genius, for example) they had heightened brain responses only to negative comments about themselves.

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Certain Antipsychotic Medications May Increase Risk for Heart Disease

Press Release

Certain atypical antipsychotic medications may raise the risk for heart disease in people with schizophrenia, according to an analysis of data from the NIMH-funded Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) study.

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Viral Genetic Underpinnings of HIV-associated Dementia Explored

Science Update

A new study identifies differences between genetic variants of HIV that are associated with HIV-associated dementia (HAD).

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Pilot Study Will Test New Treatment to Reduce Self-Harm in Borderline Personality Disorder

Science Update

NIMH recently funded Kim Gratz, Ph.D., University of Mississippi Medical Center, and colleagues to continue to test a new group therapy to help women with borderline personality disorder reduce self-harm behaviors and to improve functioning.

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Millisecond Brain Signals Predict Response to Fast-Acting Antidepressant

Press Release

Images of the brains fastest signals reveal an electromagnetic marker that predicts a patients response to a fast-acting antidepressant, researchers have discovered.

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Emotion-Regulating Circuit Weakened in Borderline Personality Disorder

Science Update

Differences in the working tissue of the brain, called grey matter, have been linked to impaired functioning of an emotion-regulating circuit in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

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New Study to Evaluate Ways to Control Metabolic Side Effects of Antipsychotics

Press Release

A new NIMH-funded grant will examine ways to control the metabolic side effects associated with the use of the newer atypical antipsychotic medications in children with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

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Study Examines the Prevalence and Impact of Gastrointestinal Problems in Children with Autism

Science Update

A new study examines the characteristics of children with pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) who also have gastrointestinal problems.

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New Grants Will Further Understanding of the Biology, Genetics and Treatment of Eating Disorders

Science Update

Eating disorders, which include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder, are complex and often life-threatening illnesses.

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Why “My Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Went”

Science Update

If, as the song laments, our get up and go fades as we get older, it may stem from aging-related changes in a brain reward circuit.

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Gene Variants Force Mental Trade-offs: Efficiency vs. Resiliency

Press Release

Mice genetically engineered to have an over active version of a human gene, like their human counterparts, gain in emotional mettle under stress, but at a cost of less efficient thinking, NIMH scientists have discovered.

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Newer Antipsychotics No Better Than Older Drug in Treating Child and Adolescent Schizophrenia

Press Release

Two newer atypical antipsychotic medications were no more effective than an older conventional antipsychotic in treating child and adolescent schizophrenia and may lead to more metabolic side effects, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

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New NIMH Strategic Plan Accelerates Mental Health Research

Science Update

Building on the recent rapid advances in understanding the science of brain and behavior, the new National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) strategic plan is designed to maintain momentum in research and transform the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders.

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Personality Disorders Prevalent, Under-Treated, in South Africa

Science Update

Almost seven percent of South African people age 20 or older have a personality disorder, an umbrella term for several personality types characterized by chronic social dysfunction, a large study funded by NIMH and others reveals.

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NIMH Funds Nine Innovative Projects to Pursue Major Challenges

Science Update

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has awarded nine exceptionally innovative research projects that hold promise for broad and deep impact on medical science.

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Gene Associated with Social Behavior in Animals Has Similar Effects in Human Males

Science Update

A gene variant related to the hormone vasopressin appears to be associated with how human males bond with their partners or wives, according to an NIMH-funded study.

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NIH Funds Nine Centers to Speed Application of Powerful New Research Approach

Press Release

The funding of a network of nine centers across the country that will use high tech screening methods to identify small molecules for use as probes to investigate the diverse functions of cells was announced today by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Family-Focused Therapy Effective in Treating Depressive Episodes of Bipolar Youth

Science Update

Adolescents with bipolar disorder who received a nine-month course of family-focused therapy (FFT) recovered more quickly from depressive episodes and stayed free of depression for longer periods than a control group, according to an NIMH-funded study published September 2008 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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Serotonin Neurons Critical for Mouse Postpartum Maternal Behavior, Pup Survival

Science Update

Mood disorders, including postpartum depression, have long been treated with antidepressants that enhance the mood-regulating brain chemical messenger serotonin.

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New Research to Refine Approaches in Psychotherapy

Science Update

Psychotherapy is a crucial part of treatment for many mental disorders, but it can be difficult to identify the right approach for an individual.

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Childhood Bedwetting Occurred Twice as Often in Adults with Schizophrenia

Science Update

Childhood bedwetting occurred twice as often in adults with schizophrenia than in their unaffected brothers and sisters, according to a new study from researchers at NIMH.

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Antipsychotic Does Not Harm—and May Improve—Cognitive Skills in Children with Autism

Science Update

The atypical antipsychotic medication risperidone (Risperdal) does not negatively affect cognitive skills of children with autism, and may lead to improvements, according to an NIMH-funded study published recently in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.

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Largest Study of Its Kind Implicates Gene Abnormalities in Bipolar Disorder

Press Release

The largest genetic analysis of its kind to date for bipolar disorder has implicated machinery involved in the balance of sodium and calcium in brain cells.

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A Night’s Sleep Gives Emotional Memories Their Staying Power

Science Update

For the first time, researchers have found that following a nights sleep, emotional components of scenes are remembered at the expense of neutral components.

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Borderline Personality Disorder: Brain Differences Related to Disruptions in Cooperation in Relationships

Science Update

Different patterns of brain activity in people with borderline personality disorder were associated with disruptions in the ability to recognize social norms or modify behaviors that likely result in distrust and broken relationships, according to an NIMH-funded study published online in the August 8, 2008 issue of Science.

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Depression Patients’ Brain Circuitry Makes Them Vulnerable to Relapse

Science Update

Using brain imaging, NIMH researchers have produced direct evidence that people prone to depression -- even when theyre feeling well -- have abnormal mood-regulating brain circuitry.

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“Signatures” of Errant Gene Expression in Autism Eyed for Diagnostic Test

Science Update

Researchers have launched an effort to detect profiles of gene expression associated with autism that could some day form the basis of a diagnostic test for the disorder.

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Mechanism for Postpartum Depression Found in Mice

Press Release

Researchers have pinpointed a mechanism in the brains of mice that could explain why some human mothers become depressed following childbirth.

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Increased Burden of Rare Genetic Variations Found in Schizophrenia

Press Release

People with schizophrenia bear an "increased burden" of rare deletions and duplications of genetic material, genome-wide, say researchers supported in part by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Errant Stress/Immune Indicators Detected in Depression-Prone Women’s Sweat

Science Update

An experimental skin patch test detected abnormal levels of markers for immune function and stress in the sweat of women with histories of depression, NIMH researchers say.

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Health Risks Associated with Certain Antipsychotics Warrant Extra Monitoring

Science Update

Some atypical antipsychotics may be more likely than others to cause metabolic and cardiovascular side effects, according to recent analyses using data from the NIMH-funded Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE).

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Age-related Decline of ADHD Symptoms Disrupted by Middle School

Science Update

Although symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) can last into adulthood, typically they decline as a child gets older.

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Newer Antipsychotics No Better Than Older Medications in Reducing Schizophrenia-related Violence

Science Update

Antipsychotic medications can reduce the risk of violence among people with schizophrenia, but the newer atypical antipsychotics are no more effective in doing so than older medications, according to a recent analysis of data from the NIMH-funded Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE).

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Common Mechanisms May Underlie Autism’s Seemingly Diverse Mutations

Press Release

Many of the seemingly disparate mutations recently discovered in autism may share common underlying mechanisms, say researchers supported in part by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Abnormal Surge in Brain Development Occurs in Teens and Young Adults with Schizophrenia

Science Update

Schizophrenia may occur, in part, because brain development goes awry during adolescence and young adulthood, when the brain is eliminating some connections between cells as a normal part of maturation, results of a study suggest. The new report appears online July 8, 2008 in Molecular Psychiatry.

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NIMH Schizophrenia Initiative Featured in Biological Psychiatry

Science Update

An NIMH initiative to fill the gap between advances in basic cognitive neuroscience and practical clinical applications for patients with schizophrenia is the topic of the July 1, 2008 issue of Biological Psychiatry.

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HIV-associated Neurological Disease Prevalent in Asia-Pacific Region

Science Update

A new study finds a significant rate of HIV-related neurological disease among HIV-positive populations living in the Asian-Pacific region.

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Couples-based Intervention May Limit HIV Transmission in African Countries

Science Update

A shift to a couples-based intervention for married and cohabiting couples in urban Zambia and Rwanda could prevent up to 60 percent of new HIV infections that would otherwise occur, according to an NIMH-funded study published June 27, 2008, in The Lancet.

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New Grant Supports Stem Cell-Derived Model of Autism-Related Illness

Science Update

For the first time, researchers are developing a test tube model of Rett syndrome, a debilitating autism-like illness, in neurons derived from human embryonic stem cells.

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Mice Expressing Human Genes Bred to Help Unravel Mental Disorders

Science Update

New mouse strains engineered to express human genes related to mental disorders are being developed under a recently-launched grant program from NIMH’s Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science.

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Antipsychotic Medications May Ease Some Alzheimer’s Symptoms, Not Others

Science Update

Antipsychotic medications may lessen symptoms like hostility and aggression in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but do not appear to lessen other symptoms or improve quality of life, according to a recent analysis of data from the NIMH-funded Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness Alzheimer’s Disease (CATIE-AD) study.

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Potential New Target Found for Developing Medications to Treat Bipolar Disorder

Science Update

Medications that target the protein BAG1, which regulates a process that can trigger symptoms in people who have bipolar disorder, may offer a new way of treating the disease, according to NIMH scientists.

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Anxious Youth Have Disturbed Brain Responses When Looking at Angry Faces

Science Update

When looking at angry faces so quickly that they are hardly aware of seeing them, youth with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have unchecked activity in the brain’s fear center, say NIMH researchers.

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New Grant Aims to Overcome Obesity in People with Serious Mental Illness

Science Update

A new grant funded by NIMH will test the effectiveness of a promising intervention designed to help people with serious mental illness (SMI) who are overweight or obese lose weight and keep it off.

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New NIMH Research to Test Innovative Treatments for Children with ADHD

Science Update

Two new grants funded by NIMH will focus on novel and innovative approaches to treating children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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The Maturing Brain Parallels its Evolution

Science Update

Evolutionarily older areas of the human brain that mature earliest follow a simple, straight-line growth pattern.

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NIMH Funds Research to Find Best Treatments for Children with Autism and ADHD Symptoms

Science Update

A new NIMH-funded study will help guide the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

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Spontaneous Mutations Rife in Non-Familial Schizophrenia

Press Release

People with schizophrenia from families with no history of the illness were found to harbor eight times more spontaneous mutations – most in pathways affecting brain development – than healthy controls, in a study supported in part the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). By contrast, no spontaneous mutations were found in people with schizophrenia who had family histories of the illness.

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Preventive Treatment May Help Head Off Depression Following a Stroke

Science Update

For the first time, researchers show that preventive treatment with an antidepressant medication or talk therapy can significantly reduce the risk or delay the start of depression following an acute stroke, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. These findings differ from past studies attempting to prevent poststroke depression. The study appears in the May 28, 2008, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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HIV-positive Survivors of Sexual Abuse Who Receive Coping Intervention Less Likely to Engage in Unprotected Sex

Science Update

HIV-positive people who have experienced childhood sexual abuse are less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior if they receive a group intervention designed to help them cope with their traumatic history, according to an NIMH-funded study published April 1, 2008, in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

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Medication-only Therapy and Combination Therapy Both Cost Effective for Treating Teens with Depression

Science Update

Treating depressed teenagers with either the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) or a combination of fluoxetine and psychotherapy can be cost effective, according to a recent economic analysis of the NIMH-funded Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS). The study was published online ahead of print April 15, 2008, in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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New Therapies Show Promise for Vascular Depression; Heart, Metabolic, Risks of Some Antipsychotic Medications Flagged

Science Update

WASHINGTON, DC, May 7 — Researchers see new treatments on the horizon for a type of depression related to blood vessels that affects the elderly, and have discovered why some elderly people fail to respond to current medications. In other studies, scientists urge caution regarding use of antipsychotics (usually for schizophrenia or other psychosis) in this and other populations to minimize metabolic, heart, and stroke risks.

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Virtual Reality, Psychotherapy, Show Promise in Treating PTSD Symptoms; Civilian Access to Care Remains a Concern

Science Update

WASHINGTON, DC, May 7 — Early data from an NIMH-sponsored double-blind study of 24 war veterans shows a marked reduction in acoustic startle — the reflex response to sudden loud sounds — in those treated with virtual reality exposure therapy combined with either d-cycloserine, an antibiotic that has been shown to facilitate the extinction of fear memories; pill placebo; or the anti-anxiety medication alprazolam (Xanax).

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Mental Disorders Cost Society Billions in Unearned Income

Press Release

Major mental disorders cost the nation at least $193 billion annually in lost earnings alone, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The study was published online ahead of print May 7, 2008, in the American Journal of Psychiatry

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Imaging Identifies Brain Regions and Chemicals Underlying Mood Disorders; May Lead to Better Treatments

Science Update

WASHINGTON, DC, May 6 — Recently developed imaging techniques allow the mapping of the brain circuits and chemical systems believed responsible for a range of mood abnormalities including depression and bipolar disorder, and hold promise for improved treatments, scientists say.

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Clues to Role of Brain Development as Risk for Mental Disorders May Also Lead to Better Treatments

Science Update

WASHINGTON, DC, May 6 — Increasing evidence points to links between the timing and growth rates of specific brain areas in the young brain and the likelihood of developing a wide range of mental disorders later in life, say researchers convened by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a part of the National Institutes of Health. Included among these mental disorders are autism, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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Studies Identify Subtle Genetic Changes’ Risk for Mental Disorders; May Lead to Targets for New, Better, Therapies

Science Update

WASHINGTON, DC, May 5 — Epigenetics — the examination of how environmental factors like diet, stress, and post-natal maternal behavior can change gene function without altering DNA sequence — plays a major role in depression and in the actions of antidepressant medications. New studies in the field are revealing new molecular targets for better therapies for depression, scientists say.

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Study launched to test possible preventive treatment for schizophrenia in high risk youth

Science Update

NIMH has recently awarded a grant to study whether an intensive computerized training program can help prevent those at high risk of developing schizophrenia from having a first psychotic episode and improve adaptive functioning. The program is based on principles of brain development and resilience and an understanding of the processes that go awry in schizophrenia.

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Medication-Enhanced Learning in Therapy Hailed as “Paradigm Shift” for Anxiety

Science Update

A medication that enhances learning, taken just before an exposure therapy session, may aid cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for anxiety disorders, say NIMH-funded researchers, who adapted the technique from studies in rats.

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Human Brain Appears “Hard-Wired” for Hierarchy

Press Release

Human imaging studies have for the first time identified brain circuitry associated with social status, according to researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) of the National Institutes of Health. They found that different brain areas are activated when a person moves up or down in a pecking order – or simply views perceived social superiors or inferiors. Circuitry activated by important events responded to a potential change in hierarchical status as much as it did to winning money.

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Mark Your Calendars, NIMH Science Track at APA Annual Meeting, May 3-8, 2008

Science Update

What: National Institute of Mental Health science track symposia, lectures, press conferences at the American Psychiatric Association 161st Annual Meeting.

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Journal Highlights Effectiveness of Research Based Psychotherapies for Youth

Science Update

Reviews of the current research on psychosocial and behavioral therapies, or psychotherapies, for children and adolescents found a number of well established and probably efficacious treatments for many mental disorders. For example, six were probably efficacious for anxiety disorders, and two were well established for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to scientists funded by NIMH and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, divisions of the National Institutes of Health.

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Maintenance Treatment Crucial for Teens’ Recovery from Depression

Science Update

Long-term maintenance treatment is likely to sustain improvement and prevent recurrence among adolescents with major depression, according to an NIMH-funded study published in the April 2008 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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OCD Risk Higher When Several Variations in Gene Occur Together

Science Update

Several variations within the same gene act together to raise the risk of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), new NIMH research suggests. The gene produces a protein that helps make the brain chemical serotonin available to brain cells.

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New Research to Help People with Mental Disorders Quit Smoking

Science Update

A new grant funded by NIMH will develop an intervention designed to help people with serious mental illness (SMI) quit smoking. The addiction is very common among people with SMI, and contributes significantly to deteriorating health and higher costs for care. But it is difficult to treat among people with SMI because they require a tailored approach that is incorporated into their existing mental health treatment.

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Paying More for Prescriptions May Limit Seniors’ Access to Antidepressants

Science Update

New cost-sharing policies may prevent some older adults diagnosed with depression from filling new antidepressant prescriptions, according to an analysis published in the April 2008 issue of Psychiatric Services.

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Newly Awarded Autism Centers of Excellence to Further Autism Research

Press Release

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced on April 1, 2008, the latest recipients of the Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) program.

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Rates of Rare Mutations Soar Three to Four Times Higher in Schizophrenia

Press Release

People with schizophrenia have high rates of rare genetic deletions and duplications that likely disrupt the developing brain, according to studies funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

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Autism Gene Scans Converge on Two Suspect Sites, Two Types of Genetic Risk

Science Update

Four teams of scientists, using resources supported in part by NIMH, have pinpointed two different sites in the genome, each conferring a different type of genetic risk for autism. At one site, risk genes appear to be inherited. At the other, risk stems from spontaneous mutations, not seen in the genetics of the parents. In both examples, evidence suggests the suspect genes are critical for development of brain circuits impaired in autism.

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Past Child Abuse Plus Variations in Gene Result in Potent PTSD Risk for Adults

Science Update

A traumatic event is much more likely to result in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults who experienced trauma in childhood – but certain gene variations raise the risk considerably if the childhood trauma involved physical or sexual abuse, scientists have found. The research was conducted with funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, and others.

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State Survey Finds FDA “Black Box” Warning Correlates with Curtailed Antidepressant Prescriptions

Science Update

After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a “black box” warning on antidepressant medications, Nebraskan doctors began prescribing fewer antidepressant medications to children and teens and referring more patients to specialists, according to a state survey. The study, which involved NIMH-funded researchers, was published in the February 2008 issue of the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.

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One Gene Overrides Another to Prevent Brain Changes that Foster Depression

Science Update

For what appears to be the first time in humans, scientists have detected an interaction between genes that may help prevent brain changes that increase vulnerability to depression.

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Bipolar Youths’ Misreading of Faces May be Risk Marker for Illness

Science Update

Youngsters with pediatric bipolar disorder and healthy peers who have first-degree relatives with bipolar disorder share the same difficulty labeling facial emotions, NIMH researchers have discovered. Reporting in the February 2008 online edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry, the scientists suggest that the facial emotion recognition impairment might be part of an inherited predisposition to the illness.

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Group Therapy Program Offers Meaningful Gains for People with Borderline Personality Disorder

Science Update

A 20-week group therapy program focusing on cognitive behavioral and skills training, when used in conjunction with usual care, helped reduce symptoms of borderline personality disorder and improve overall functioning, reported NIMH-funded researchers.

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Teens with Treatment-resistant Depression More Likely to Get Better with Switch to Combination Therapy

Press Release

Teens with difficult-to-treat depression who do not respond to a first antidepressant medication are more likely to get well if they switch to another antidepressant medication and add psychotherapy rather than just switching to another antidepressant, according to a large, multi-site trial funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The results of the Treatment of SSRI-resistant Depression in Adolescents (TORDIA) trial were published February 27, 2008, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

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Co-occurring Anxiety Complicates Treatment Response for Those with Major Depression

Science Update

People with major depression accompanied by high levels of anxiety are significantly less likely to benefit from antidepressant medication than those without anxiety, according to a study based on data from the NIMH-funded Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) study. The study was published online ahead of print in January 2008, in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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Primary Care Doctors May Overlook Elderly Patients’ Mental Health

Science Update

Doctors spend little time discussing mental health issues with their older patients and rarely refer them to a mental health specialist even if they show symptoms of severe depression, according to an NIMH-funded study published December 2007 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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Genetic Tags Reveal Secrets of Memories’ Staying Power in Mice

Press Release

A better understanding of how memory works is emerging from a newfound ability to link a learning experience in a mouse to consequent changes in the inner workings of its neurons. Researchers, supported in part by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), have developed a way to pinpoint the specific cellular components that sustain a specific memory in genetically-engineered mice.

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Genetic Variation May Influence Response to Depression Treatment

Science Update

Variations in a gene known as TREK1 may explain some forms of treatment-resistant major depression, according to a new study analyzing genetic data from the NIMH-funded Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) trial. The study was published online February 20, 2008, in Neuropsychopharmacology.

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Cold, Unfeeling Traits Linked to Distinctive Brain Patterns in Kids with Severe Conduct Problems

Science Update

The callous, unemotional characteristics of some children and adolescents who bully or steal or have other severely disruptive behavior problems may have partial roots in a brain area called the amygdala.

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Scans Reveal Faulty Brain Wiring Caused by Missing Genes

Science Update

An NIMH study using an emerging imaging technology has discovered faulty wiring in the brains of people with Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects some aspects of thinking.

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Team Care for Depressed Older Adults Cuts Overall Medical Costs

Science Update

A team approach to depression treatment for older adults, already shown to be effective, is also less expensive than usual care, according to an NIMH-funded study published February 2008 in the American Journal of Managed Care.

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Tomorrow’s Antidepressants: Skip the Serotonin Boost?

Science Update

New research adds to evidence of potentially better molecular targets in the brain to treat depression and other mental disorders, according to NIMH-funded scientists.

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Gene Variants Protect Against Adult Depression Triggered by Childhood Stress

Press Release

Certain variations in a gene that helps regulate response to stress tend to protect adults who were abused in childhood from developing depression, according to new research funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. Adults who had been abused but didn’t have the variations in the gene had twice the symptoms of moderate to severe depression, compared to those with the protective variations.

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Mental Disorders Persist Among Hurricane Katrina Survivors

Science Update

More residents affected by Hurricane Katrina are enduring mental disorders than was initially determined a few months after the storm, according to a study published online January 8, 2008, in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. The trend runs counter to the typical pattern of recovery after a natural disaster, in which the prevalence of mental disorders among the survivors gradually decreases and fades out after about two years.

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Faster-Acting Medications for Bipolar Disorder’s Manic Phase May Be Feasible

Science Update

Scientists may be able to develop faster-acting medications for the manic phase of bipolar disorder, new research shows.

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Research-based Principles May Help Improve Mental Health Recovery Following Mass Trauma

Science Update

Experts on trauma-related research and medical practices from around the world recently identified five principles to guide mental health care efforts immediately or shortly after a mass trauma, such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack. In a related commentary, NIMH scientist Farris Tuma, Sc.D., MHS, discusses how these principles may help determine effective mental health care for large numbers of people following an emergency, and how best to deliver it. The article and commentary were published in the Winter 2007 issue of Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes.

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Autism Risk Higher in People with Gene Variant

Press Release

Scientists have found a variation in a gene that may raise the risk of developing autism, especially when the variant is inherited from mothers rather than fathers. The research was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health.

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Mood Disorders Predict Later Substance Abuse Problems

Science Update

People with manic symptoms and bipolar disorder type II are at significant risk of later developing an alcohol abuse or dependence problem, a long-term study conducted in Switzerland confirms. The study was published in the January 2008 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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Scientists Can Predict Psychotic Illness in up to 80 Percent of High-Risk Youth

Press Release

Youth who are going to develop psychosis can be identified before their illness becomes full-blown 35 percent of the time if they meet widely accepted criteria for risk, but that figure rises to 65 to 80 percent if they have certain combinations of risk factors, the largest study of its kind has shown. Knowing what these combinations are can help scientists predict who is likely to develop the illnesses within two to three years with the same accuracy that other kinds of risk factors can predict major medical diseases, such as diabetes.

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Real-World Outcomes in Schizophrenia Are Focus of Two New NIMH Grants

Science Update

Two new NIMH grants are aimed at determining the most accurate methods of measuring how well community-dwelling people with schizophrenia are faring. Results of the project are meant to provide scientists who conduct future research on the effectiveness of treatments with tools that will reflect the truest possible picture of daily-life outcomes.

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Foreign Nativity May Not Always Protect Against Mental Disorders in the US

Science Update

Though all Latino immigrants tend to display better overall mental health compared to their US-born counterparts, a recent study by NIMH-funded researchers has found that the protective benefits of foreign nativity vary widely across subgroups of this population. Factors such as neighborhood stability, perceived discrimination, and the strength of family bonds all combine to influence the prevalence of mental disorders across distinctive Latino ethnic groups. The finding reflects varying immigration and acculturation processes experienced by Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans and other Latino groups. Results of the study were published in the July 2007 issue of Social Science and Medicine.

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Ethnicity Predicts How Gene Variations Affect Response to Schizophrenia Medications

Science Update

Different variations in the same gene influence how well different ethnic groups, and people within the same ethnic group, respond to various antipsychotic medications, report NIMH-funded researchers. If confirmed, their findings could one day help clinicians predict which medication is most likely to help a patient, based on his or her genetic makeup.

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