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Science News from 2014

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Schizophrenia’s Genetic “Skyline” Rising

Press Release

Schizophrenia genetics Manhattan plots, 2011, 2014

The largest genomic dragnet of any psychiatric disorder to date has unmasked 108 chromosomal sites harboring inherited variations in the genetic code linked to schizophrenia, 83 of which had not been previously reported.

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Common Gene Variants Account for Most Genetic Risk for Autism

Press Release

Buxbaum Autism Architecture Chart

Most of the genetic risk for autism comes from versions of genes that are common in the population rather than from rare variants or spontaneous glitches.

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Statement Regarding Malaysia Airlines Flight

Science Update

National Institute of Mental Health

Statement Regarding Malaysia Airlines Flight

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How Might New Neurons Buffer Against Stress?

Science Update

new neurons born in adult dentate gyrus

Over the past decade or so, evidence has emerged suggesting that the birth of new neurons in the adult brain’s memory hub, or hippocampus, may play a key role the action of antidepressants, resilience to stress, the benefits of exercise and enriched environments, and preventing memory loss. But understanding how it might work has remained elusive. NIMH researchers in NIH’s new Porter Neuroscience Research Center are following up leads.

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Shining a Light on Memory

Press Release

Malinow Engineering Memory Rat

Using a flash of light, scientists have inactivated and then reactivated a memory in genetically engineered rats. The findings – the first cause-and-effect evidence that strengthened connections between neurons are the stuff of memory – add to mounting evidence that the brain represents a memory by forming assemblies of neurons with strengthened connections.

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For Schizophrenia, Newer Injectables Not Necessarily Better

Science Update

concerned female woman patient giving info to doctor

Treatment adherence is a problem among people with schizophrenia, who may not take medications because they don’t perceive its need or benefit, don’t like the side effects, or forget. To combat this issue, long-acting injectable medications are administered every 2-4 weeks. But are the new forms of these drugs better than the old ones?

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Genes Impact Suspect Cortex Areas More as Youth Mature

Science Update

Cortex heritability and variability

Later evolving and maturing brain areas, which also are those most implicated in mental illness, showed gradually increasing heritability, peaking by late adolescence – the age-of-onset for most mental disorders. New findings hold promise for understanding how age plays an important role in gene-environment interactions that underlie the disorders.

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NIMH Director Honored by BBRF

Science Update

NIMH Director Thomas Insel, M.D.

NIMH Director Honored by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

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Channel Makeover Bioengineered to Switch Off Neurons

Press Release

excitatory cellular channel

Scientists have bioengineered an enhancement to a cutting edge technology that provides instant control over brain circuit activity with a flash of light. The research adds the same level of control over switching neurons off that, until now, had been limited to switching them on. What had been working through a weak pump now works through a highly responsive channel -- like going from a squirt to a gushing hose.

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NIMH’s Dr. Robert Heinssen Receives Special Presidential Commendation from APA

Science Update

NIMH’s Dr. Robert Heinssen Receives Special Presidential Commendation from APA

NIMH’s Dr. Robert Heinssen Receives Special Presidential Commendation from APA

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Jump-starting Natural Resilience Reverses Stress Susceptibility

Press Release

Antidepressant effects

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors to out-of-balance neuronal electrical activity and made mice resilient by reversing it.

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Learn About the Adolescent Brain with Expert Dr. Jay Giedd on May 8!

Science Update

NIMH scientist Jay Giedd, M.D.

NIMH expert Dr. Jay Giedd will discuss the developing adolescent brain at a community event on May 8. The event will be video archived.

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The 22nd NIMH Conference on Mental Health Services Research

Science Update

22nd NIMH Conference on Mental Health Services Research

The 22nd National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Conference on Mental Health Services Research (MHSR): Research in Pursuit of a Learning Mental Health Care System, will be convened on April 23–25, 2014, at the Natcher Conference Center on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Campus, Bethesda, MD.

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NIH-funded Brain Atlas Offers Clues to Psychiatric Disorders

Press Release

BrainSpan Atlas of the Developing Human Brain

A brain blueprint maps where genes are tuned on and off during mid-pregnancy—when most brain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia occur.

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Most Individuals Receive Health Services a Year Before Suicide Death

Science Update

female doctor taking notes

Undetected suicide risk is a critical issue in primary care. According to a NIMH-funded study published in the February 2014 issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine, 83 percent of individuals received health care services in the year prior to suicide death and half did not have a mental health diagnosis.

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Disorganized Cortical Patches Suggest Prenatal Origin of Autism

Press Release

Disorganized cortical patch

The architecture of the autistic brain is speckled with patches of abnormal neurons, according to research partially funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 27, 2014.

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NIMH Scientists Help Students Learn About the Brain at NMHM

Science Update

Middle schoolers’ field day with the brain

NIMH scientists presented hands-on demonstrations of neural electrical activity at the National Museum of Health and Medicine Brain Awareness Week program, March 12, 2014.

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Brain Region Singled Out for Social Memory, Possible Therapeutic Target for Select Brain Disorders

Science Update

highlighted CA2 region of hippocampus in mouse brain

The hippocampus houses learning and memory—specifically the storage of knowledge of who, what, where, and when. Using a special transgenic mouse, researchers have now pinpointed a hippocampal region called CA2 that is important for social memory, the ability of animal to recognize another of the same species. Understanding this region could be useful in understanding and treating disorders characterized by altered social behaviors such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism.

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Girls Thrive Emotionally, Boys Falter After Move to Better Neighborhood

Science Update

Ronald Kessler, Ph.D., of Harvard University

Girls in public housing benefited emotionally from a move to a better neighborhood while boys fared worse than if they’d stayed in the poor neighborhood. Rates of depression and conduct disorder markedly increased in boys and decreased in girls. Boys also experienced significantly increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complicating housing policy decision-making.

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Announcing New U.S. Disability Statistics on the NIMH Website

Science Update

disability statistics chart

NIMH announces updated World Health Organization estimates of the burden of disease in the United States.

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Students Unlock the Mysteries of the Brain with NIH Scientists

Press Release

student enjoy activities at Brain Awareness Week 2014

As part of Brain Awareness Week 2014, scientists from seven NIH institutes will sponsor hands-on activities—aimed at helping students learn about the brain—at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, MD

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Suicide in the Military: Army-NIH Funded Study Points to Risk and Protective Factors

Press Release

Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers (Army STARRS)

Although the suicide attempt and death rates in the U.S. Army have been historically below the civilian rate, these rates began climbing in the early 2000s, and by 2008, exceeded those of civilians. A joint study between the Army and NIMH, called Army STARRS, recently released findings that shed light on the problem.

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9 Eating Disorders Myths Busted

Science Update

eating disorders myth busters

Nine eating disorders myths busted

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Healthy People 2020 Webinar

Science Update

map Healthy People 2020 Webinar

Healthy People 2020 Webinar: Substance Use and Mental Disorders: Early Detection, Prevention, and Treatment

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NICHD/NIMH Podcast on Youth Violence

Science Update

boy playing videogame Youth Violence Podcast

NIMH/NICHD experts explain what sparks and halts youth violence.

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Join the 2014 Drug Facts Chat Day

Science Update

Drug Facts Chat Day 2014

Join the 2014 Drug Facts Chat Day

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