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Science News from 2009

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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National Survey Tracks Rates of Common Mental Disorders Among American Youth

Press Release

girl looking out window - thumbnail

Only about half of American children and teenagers who have certain mental disorders receive professional services, according to a nationally representative survey funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The survey also provides a comprehensive look at the prevalence of common mental disorders.

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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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Substance Use Associated with Low Response to Depression Treatment Among Teens

Science Update

teen boy asleep with book

Depressed teens who report low levels of impairment related to drug or alcohol use tended to respond better to depression treatment than depressed teens with higher levels substance-related impairment, according to an analysis of data from the NIMH-funded Treatment of SSRI-Resistant Depression in Adolescents (TORDIA) study. However, it is unclear whether less substance-related impairment allowed for better response to depression treatment, or if better treatment response led to less substance-related impairment. The study was published in the December 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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Major Databases Link Up to Advance Autism Research

Press Release

Scientist looking at brain images with fMRI data

Researchers studying autism spectrum disorders (ASD) will soon have access to a vast range of data and research tools through the NIH National Database for Autism Research (NDAR).

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Autism Intervention for Toddlers Improves Developmental Outcomes

Science Update

Adult swinging child, playing outside

Children with autism who receive a high intensity developmental behavioral intervention starting by age 18–30 months show major improvements in IQ, language, adaptive behavior, and severity of their diagnosis, according to an NIMH-funded study.

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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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Symptoms in Mice Lacking a Single Receptor Type Mimic the Development of Schizophrenia

Science Update

black mouse

Deleting one type of neurotransmitter receptor in a specific population of brain cells can induce schizophrenia-like behavior in mice, but only when the receptor is deleted early in development, according to a study by NIMH intramural scientists. The work provides strong support for previous observations implicating these receptors in psychosis; further, the mice provide a model of how psychotic symptoms can arise from a disruption in neuronal development, consistent with observations of how schizophrenia emerges in humans.

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One Subtype of HIV Increases Risk of HIV-associated Dementia

Science Update

HIV infected T cells - thumbnail

In a study of HIV-related cognitive impairment in Uganda, people with HIV subtype D were more likely than those with the other subtypes to have HIV-associated dementia (HAD), according to NIMH-funded researchers. This study, published in the September 1, 2009, issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, is the first to show that HIV subtype may affect a person’s risk for developing HAD.

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Parent Training Complements Medication for Treating Behavioral Problems in Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Press Release

mother and son hugging

Treatment that includes medication plus a structured training program for parents reduces serious behavioral problems in children with autism and related conditions, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The study, which was part of the NIMH Research Units on Pediatric Psychopharmacology (RUPP) Autism Network, was published in the December 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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Long-term Depression Treatment Leads to Sustained Recovery for Most Teens

Science Update

man and teen talking

Long-term treatment of adolescents with major depression is associated with continuous and persistent improvement of depression symptoms in most cases, according to the most recent analysis of follow-up data from the NIMH-funded Treatment of Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS). The report, along with a commentary compiling the take-home messages of the study, was published in the October 2009 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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NIH Encourages Depressed Moms to Seek Treatment for Themselves

Science Update

woman holding child while sitting on a chair

Numerous studies have suggested that depression runs in families. Children of depressed parents are 2–3 times as likely to develop depression as compared to children who do not have a family history of the disorder. Other studies have shown that remission of depression in mothers is associated with improvements in psychiatric symptoms in their children. Despite all signs encouraging mothers to prioritize their own mental health, many suffer from untreated depression while managing treatment for their children’s emotional or behavioral problems.

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Recovery Act Grant Aims to Teach Kids with Autism How to Better Express Themselves

Science Update

woman and boy with laptop

Most children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) seem to have trouble engaging in everyday social interactions. They may seem to have no reaction to other people or may respond atypically when others show anger or affection. Their own facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language may not match what they are saying, making it difficult for others to respond appropriately. Such barriers to communication can isolate children with ASD from their peers.

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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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NIH Awards More than 50 Grants to Boost Search for Causes, Improve Treatments for Autism

Press Release

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded more than 50 autism research grants, totaling more than $65 million, which will be supported with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) funds. These grants are the result of the largest funding opportunity for research on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to date, announced in March 2009.

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Kids’ Brain Development Charted as They Grow Up

Science Update

Infant and family with MRI scanner

A landmark, multisite NIH-funded neuroimaging study of brain development in healthy, normally-developing children has posted its third release of data. This is the first release from the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study to include data from very young children – birth to 4 years old – and snapshots of brain chemistry at key developmental milestones. The data is accessible to qualified researchers via the NIH Pediatric MRI Data Repository website.

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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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Significant Weight Gain, Metabolic Changes Associated with Antipsychotic Use in Children

Science Update

medication

Many children and adolescents who receive antipsychotic medications gain a significant amount of weight and experience metabolic changes, according to NIMH-funded research published October 28, 2009, in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Telephone-based Depression Treatment Program Effective While Cost Efficient

Science Update

telephone

Patients who receive structured, telephone-based support to manage their depression gain significant benefits with only moderate increases in health care costs compared to those who receive usual care, according to an NIMH-funded analysis published in the October 2009 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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History of Childhood Maltreatment Linked to Higher Rates of Unemployment, Poverty

Science Update

boy's face

The long-term impacts of childhood maltreatment include higher rates of unemployment, poverty, and use of social services in adulthood, according to a new study by David Zielinski, Ph.D., of the NIMH Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications. The related losses in productivity and tax revenues, increased spending on social services, and potential transmission of abusive behaviors from one generation to the next, suggest major costs to society as well. The results were published online ahead of print on October 8, 2009, in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect.

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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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PTSD Treatment Efforts for Returning War Veterans to be Evaluated

Science Update

man and woman in individual therapy

Joan Cook, Ph.D., of Yale University and colleagues have been awarded funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to evaluate the implementation of two evidence-based psychotherapies for treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans. The grant addresses the NIH Challenge Grant topic “Strategies to Support Uptake of Interventions within Clinical Community and Settings.”

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New Approach to Reducing Suicide Attempts Among Depressed Teens

Science Update

young man looking out window

A novel treatment approach that includes medication plus a newly developed type of psychotherapy that targets suicidal thinking and behavior shows promise in treating depressed adolescents who had recently attempted suicide, according to a treatment development and pilot study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The study, described in three articles, was published in the October 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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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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First Direct Evidence: Instability is the Normal State of the Brain’s Cortex

Science Update

Neuronal avalanches in monkey cortex

Even when we’re not doing much of anything, our brain’s cortex, or outer mantle, is bustling with activity. In fact, scientists for the first time have detected “avalanches” of cortex activity in awake monkeys at rest.

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Schizophrenia Linked to Over-expression of Gene in Fetal Brain

Science Update

Gene over-expressed in fetal brain

A gene called DISC1, (for “disrupted in schizophrenia”) has been a leading contender among possible genetic causes since it was implicated in schizophrenia in a large Scottish clan two decades ago. The DISC1 gene codes for a protein important for brain development, as well as for mood and memory – functions that are disturbed in schizophrenia. However, until now there have been few clues as to how DISC1 might increase risk for the chronic mental disorder.

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Focusing Efforts on Early-Stage HIV Interventions May Help Prevent Spread of Disease

Science Update

Two men talking at a table

Screening and early intervention with people in the earliest stages of HIV infection may reduce the spread of the disease, according to NIMH-funded researchers. A series of five papers from a small, multisite study were published online ahead of print in June 2009 in the journal AIDS and Behavior.

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Web-based Programs Encourage Safer Sex Behaviors among Men at Risk for HIV/AIDS

Science Update

Computer

A single-session, online, multimedia intervention effectively reduced risky sexual behaviors among young men who have sex with men, a group at high risk for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Such low-cost programs may help reverse the steady rise in HIV diagnoses among this population.

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Economic Analysis Estimates Cost of Providing Comprehensive Mental Health Care Following Disasters

Science Update

adult hugging child in lake

Making evidence-based mental health services accessible to everyone in a disaster-stricken area would have substantial public health benefits, according to a statistical model developed by NIMH-funded researchers.

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Combination Treatment for Psychotic Depression Holds Promise

Science Update

A combination of an atypical antipsychotic medication and an antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) may be more effective in treating psychotic depression than an atypical antipsychotic alone, according to results from an NIMH-funded clinical study.

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Youth with Autism Coming of Age: New NIMH Study Will Focus on Transitions in Service Use and Coverage

Science Update

young man looking out window

The transition from teen to young adult involves many highly anticipated rites of passage. However, for youths with developmental disorders, coming of age may signal the sudden end of coverage for education and training programs, health insurance, and youth-oriented services.

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Major NIMH Research Project to Test Approaches to Altering the Course of Schizophrenia

Press Release

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is launching a large-scale research project to explore whether using early and aggressive treatment, individually targeted and integrating a variety of different therapeutic approaches, will reduce the symptoms and prevent the gradual deterioration of functioning that is characteristic of chronic schizophrenia.

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Evidence-Based Prevention is Goal of Largest Ever Study of Suicide in the Military

Press Release

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has announced that an interdisciplinary team of four research institutions will carry out the largest study of suicide and mental health among military personnel ever undertaken, with $50 million in funding from the U.S. Army. Study investigators aim to move quickly to identify risk and protective factors for suicide among soldiers and provide a science base for effective and practical interventions to reduce suicide rates and address associated mental health problems.

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NIH Launches the Human Connectome Project to Unravel the Brain’s Connections

Press Release

The National Institutes of Health Blueprint for Neuroscience Research is launching a $30 million project that will use cutting-edge brain imaging technologies to map the circuitry of the healthy adult human brain. By systematically collecting brain imaging data from hundreds of subjects, the Human Connectome Project (HCP) will yield insight into how brain connections underlie brain function, and will open up new lines of inquiry for human neuroscience.

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Brain Emotion Circuit Sparks as Teen Girls Size Up Peers

Press Release

Hypothalamus, a node of the emotion circuit

What is going on in teenagers’ brains as their drive for peer approval begins to eclipse their family affiliations? Brain scans of teens sizing each other up reveal an emotion circuit activating more in girls as they grow older, but not in boys. The study by Daniel Pine, M.D., of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of National Institutes of Health, and colleagues, shows how emotion circuitry diverges in the male and female brain during a developmental stage in which girls are at increased risk for developing mood and anxiety disorders.

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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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Brief, Clinic-Based, Peer-led Intervention Helps Reduce Subsequent STDs in African American Men

Science Update

two young men sitting on bleachers talking

A brief, one-time intervention delivered by a trained peer health advisor was an effective and low-cost method for reducing new infections among young, heterosexual, African American men diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD), according to an NIMH-funded study. Such programs may help reduce STD-related health disparities, which currently affect a disproportionate number of African American men in the United States. The study was published in the April 2009 supplemental issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

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Much Touted “Depression Risk Gene” May Not Add to Risk After All

Press Release

computer generated image of DNA

Stressful life events are strongly associated with a person’s risk for major depression, but a certain gene variation long thought to increase risk in conjunction with stressful life events actually may have no effect, according to researchers funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study, published in the June 17, 2009, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, challenges a widely accepted approach to studying risk factors for depression.

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Questions Raised About Stimulants and Sudden Death

Science Update

A study examining stimulant use among children and adolescents found an association between stimulants and sudden unexplained death in youth with no evidence of pre-existing heart disease. The finding draws attention to the potential risks of stimulant medication, according to the study’s authors; an accompanying editorial notes that the rarity of sudden unexplained death and the lack of long-term data on the effectiveness of these medications for reducing other health risks make a full benefit/risk assessment difficult.

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Re-shaping Negative Thoughts Shields At-Risk Teens from Depression

Science Update

teen boy with his head down

At-risk teens exposed to a program that teaches them to counteract their unrealistic and overly negative thoughts experienced significantly less depression than their peers who received usual care, NIMH-funded researchers have found. However, the cognitive behavioral prevention program failed to similarly help adolescents prone to the mood disorder if their parents were currently depressed.

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New NIMH Video Describes Depression, Importance of Treatment

Science Update

man and woman holding hands

A new 4-minute video from the National Institute of Mental Health provides an overview for the general public on the symptoms, impact, and treatment of depression. The video is available for viewing by individuals or can be used by community groups or in health care offices to inform viewers about depression and its consequences, and the critical importance of seeking treatment.

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Citalopram No Better Than Placebo Treatment for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Press Release

boy playing with a puzzle

Citalopram, a medication commonly prescribed to children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), was no more effective than a placebo at reducing repetitive behaviors, according to researchers funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and other NIH institutes. The study was published in the June 2009 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

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Searching for Risk Factors of Suicidal Events During Antidepressant Treatment

Science Update

A new set of analyses of the NIMH-funded Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS) were conducted to better understand what may predict the development of suicidal events during treatment. The analyses, which were published in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, showed that youths with suicidal thoughts and more severe depression prior to treatment were at higher risk for suicidal events while undergoing treatment.

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HIV Prevention Program Gets a Boost From NIMH Recovery Act Funds

Press Release

Developing interventions to reduce the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among heterosexual men, couples and ethnically diverse populations continues to be complex and challenging. To help address this issue, NIMH awarded a two-year grant to David Pérez-Jiménez, Ph.D., at the University of Puerto Rico, to support the adaptation and assessment of an HIV and other sexually transmitted infection intervention designed for young, heterosexual Latino couples. This grant will use funds allocated to NIMH through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to promote economic recovery and spur advances in science and health.

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Recovery Funds Will Support Evaluation of Suicide Prevention Training

Press Release

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to provide grant support for the completion of a project under way to evaluate the effectiveness of a new training program for telephone crisis counselors at suicide hotline centers.

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Thinning Tissue in Right Half of Brain Signals Increased Risk of Inherited Depression

Science Update

MRI brain map of tissue thickness

In cases of familial depression, changes in tissue thickness in key brain structures in the right half of the brain may increase a person’s risk for developing depression, according to NIMH-funded researchers. Similar changes in the left half of the brain were linked to the severity of a person’s existing depression or anxiety symptoms. Based on their findings, the researchers proposed a possible mechanism for how these brain changes affect depression risk in the April 14, 2009, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Flow of Potassium Into Cells Implicated in Schizophrenia

Press Release

MRI of brain highlighting differential brain activity

A study on schizophrenia has implicated machinery that maintains the flow of potassium in cells and revealed a potential molecular target for new treatments. Expression of a previously unknown form of a key such potassium channel was found to be 2.5 fold higher than normal in the brain memory hub of people with the chronic mental illness and linked to a hotspot of genetic variation.

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ADHD Medication Treatment Associated with Higher Academic Performance in Elementary School

Science Update

Doctor with young boy

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who take medication to treat the condition tend to do better in math and reading compared to their peers who also have ADHD but do not take medication, according to data from a national survey. The NIMH-funded study was published in the May 2009 issue of Pediatrics.

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Use of Antipsychotics in Alzheimer’s Patients May Lead to Detrimental Metabolic Changes

Science Update

Woman looking out a window (photograph).

Atypical antipsychotic medications are associated with weight gain and other metabolic changes among patients with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent analysis of data from the NIMH-funded Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness—Alzheimer’s Disease (CATIE-AD) study. The study was published online ahead of print April 15, 2009, in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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Black Teens, Especially Girls, at High Risk for Suicide Attempts

Science Update

Black American teens, especially females, may be at high risk for attempting suicide even if they have never been diagnosed with a mental disorder, according to researchers funded in part by NIMH. Their findings, based on responses from adolescent participants in the National Survey of American Life (NSAL), provide the first national estimates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (ideation) and suicide attempts in 13- to 17-year-old black youth in the United States. The study was published in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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Child Abuse Survivors Have Higher Risk for STDs in Adulthood Than Non-abused Adults

Science Update

A history of child abuse or neglect can increase the risk for STDs in adulthood, according to a study partly funded by NIMH. The researchers reported their findings in the April 2009 supplemental issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

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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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Autism Skews Developing Brain with Synchronous Motion and Sound

Press Release

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) tend to stare at people’s mouths rather than their eyes. Now, an NIH-funded study in 2-year-olds with the social deficit disorder suggests why they might find mouths so attractive: lip-syncing — the exact match of lip motion and speech sound.

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Childhood Maltreatment Undermines Physical Health in Adulthood

Science Update

It’s well known that early life experiences can affect a child’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development. A recent study funded by NIMH takes this link one step further showing that negative childhood experiences, such as abuse or neglect, can affect a person’s physical health as well. Published in the February 24, 2009, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study suggests a history of child abuse or neglect can lower a person’s overall immunity and ability to manage stress, and that this effect may be long-lasting.

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Short-term Intensive Treatment Not Likely to Improve Long-term Outcomes for Children with ADHD

Science Update

Short-term Intensive Treatment Not Likely to Improve Long-term Outcomes for Children with ADHD

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Rising to the Challenge: NIH Will Use $60 Million in Recovery Act Funds to Support Strategic Autism Research

Press Release

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will commit roughly $60 million from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to support autism research and meet objectives set forth earlier this year by a federal advisory committee. The Request for Applications is the largest funding opportunity for research on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to date and combined with other ARRA initiatives represents a surge in NIH’s commitment to finding the causes and treatments for autism.

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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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Youths Exposed to HIV Before Birth Have Higher Chance of Developing Psychiatric Disorders

Science Update

Youths who were exposed to HIV before birth, especially those who were born HIV positive, have a high chance of developing psychiatric disorders, according to an NIMH-funded study published online ahead of print February 27, 2009, in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

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Premature Birth Risk Higher for Pregnant Women Taking SSRIs or Suffering from Untreated Depression

Science Update

Untreated major depression, as well as the use of antidepressant medications, may increase the risk for premature (preterm) birth, but the risk of other problems in fetuses such as breathing, gastrointestinal, or motor problems, may not be increased, according to a study of pregnant women published online ahead of print March 15, 2009, in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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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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Brain Awareness Week Teaches Kids How Their Brains Work

Press Release

The 10th annual Brain Awareness Week (BAW), a science and health education fair held in various locations across the United States, teaches fifth through eighth grade students about the brain. In Washington, D.C., it will take place March 16-20, 2009, at the National Museum of Health and Medicine at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Several institutes from the National Institutes of Health will provide interactive exhibits and lectures focusing on brain health and neuroscience on March 18th and 19th.

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Brain Scanning Gives Clues to How Genes Shape Behavior, Disease Risk

Science Update

In an experiment in which people viewed changing images of slot machines, inherited differences in brain chemistry predicted the magnitude of responses in the brain to the prospect and receipt of reward.

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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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Suicidal Thinking May Be Predicted Among Certain Teens with Depression

Science Update

Certain circumstances may predict suicidal thinking or behavior among teens with treatment-resistant major depression who are undergoing second-step treatment, according to an analysis of data from an NIMH-funded study. The study was published online ahead of print February 17, 2009, in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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Health Care Costs Much Higher for Older Adults with Depression Plus Other Medical Conditions

Science Update

Medicare participants who have diabetes or congestive heart failure as well as depression have significantly higher health care costs than their counterparts who do not have co-existing depression, according to a recent NIMH-funded analysis published online ahead of print January 16, 2009, in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

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Possible HIV Prevention Therapy Shows Promise, But At a Significant Cost

Science Update

A therapy that shows promise in preventing HIV infection could significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection among high-risk groups, but the cost may be substantial unless drug costs can be reduced, according to a study published online ahead of print February 4, 2009, in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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Getting Closer to Personalized Treatment for Teens with Treatment-resistant Depression

Science Update

Some teens with treatment-resistant depression are more likely than others to get well during a second treatment attempt of combination therapy, but various factors can hamper their recovery, according to an NIMH-funded study published online ahead of print February 4, 2009, in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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Research Shows How Chronic Stress May be Linked to Physical and Mental Ailments

Science Update

While scientists have long known that the levels of certain hormones rise in response to chronic stress, an NIMH study is the first to describe a potential fundamental mechanism for this process.

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Adolescents with Depression Not Harmed in Studies Using Placebo

Science Update

Teens with depression who initially are randomly assigned to placebo treatment (inactive pill) during a trial are no more likely to experience harm or have a diminished response to subsequent active treatments than teens who are initially randomized to active treatment, according to an analysis of data from the NIMH-funded Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS).

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Impaired Brain Activity Underlies Impulsive Behaviors in Women with Bulimia

Science Update

Women with bulimia nervosa (BN), when compared with healthy women, showed different patterns of brain activity while doing a task that required self-regulation. This abnormality may underlie binge eating and other impulsive behaviors that occur with the eating disorder, according to an article published in the January 2009 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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