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Archive | Science News from 2007

Family-Centered Intervention Effectively Reduces Risky Behavior Among Hispanic Youth

Science UpdateDecember 20, 2007 Family-centered Intervention Effectively Reduces Risky Behavior Among Hispanic YouthA family-centered program that improves parent-child dynamics and family functioning is more effective at discouraging Hispanic youth from engaging in risky behavior than programs that target specific behaviors, according to a study published in the December 2007 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Study Aims to Develop First Medications for Fragile-X Syndrome, Leading Inherited Cause of Mental Retardation

A new NIMH grant is enabling scientists to begin testing safety and effectiveness of potential medications for fragile-X syndrome, the most common inherited form of mental retardation. No effective medications are available for the disorder.

Hurricane Katrina Survivors Lack Access to Mental Health Services

The majority of Hurricane Katrina survivors who developed mental disorders after the disaster are not receiving the mental health services they need, and many who were receiving mental health care prior to the hurricane were not able to continue with treatment, according to an NIMH-funded study published online ahead of print December 17, 2007, in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Behavioral Therapy Effectively Treats Children with Social Phobia

A behavioral therapy designed to treat children diagnosed with social phobia helped them overcome more of their symptoms than the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac).

Schizophrenia-Related Gene Linked to Imbalance in Dopamine Pathways

Forms of a gene known to increase risk for schizophrenia may create an imbalance in brain pathways for dopamine, suggests a recent study by NIMH scientists.

IQ Boost From Breast Milk Linked to Gene-Environment Interaction

A new study shows that the intellectual boost associated with breast milk is only attained if a child has inherited one of two versions of a specific gene.

Behavioral Program May Stabilize Stress Hormone Patterns in Foster Children

An intervention designed to enhance family interaction and improve foster parenting skills may benefit young foster children who had experienced extreme neglect or maltreatment in early life.

Depression Linked to Bone-Thinning in Premenopausal Women

Premenopausal women with even mild depression have less bone mass than do their nondepressed peers, a study funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), shows.

Depression’s Flip Side Shares its Circuitry

Humans tend to be overly optimistic about the future, sometimes underestimating risks and making unrealistic plans, notes NIMH grantee Elizabeth Phelps, Ph.D., New York University.

Brain Matures a Few Years Late in ADHD, But Follows Normal Pattern

In youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the brain matures in a normal pattern but is delayed three years in some regions, on average, compared to youth without the disorder.

Researchers Suggest Updating Criteria for HIV-associated Neurocognitive Disorders

After 10 years since the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), the criteria for classifying HIV-related neurocognitive disorders may need to be revised and updated, according to a working group designated by NIMH and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study the issue. The study was published October 30, 2007, in the journal Neurology.

Preschoolers with Three or More Coexisting Disorders Show No Response to ADHD Medication Treatment

Preschoolers who are diagnosed with ADHD are not likely to respond to treatment with the stimulant methylphenidate, regardless of dosage, if they also have three or more coexisting disorders, according to a recent analysis of data from the Preschoolers with ADHD Treatment Study (PATS).

Memory-sustaining Enzyme May Help Treat PTSD, Cognitive Decline

Chemically blocking an enzyme in a specific area in the brain’s cortex, or outer mantle, erased a long-term memory of an aversive event that rats had learned, a study funded in part by NIMH has found.

Internet-based PTSD Therapy May Help Overcome Barriers to Care

NIMH-funded researchers recently completed a pilot study showing that an Internet-based, self-managed cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, with effects that last after treatment has ended.

NIH Funds New Program to Investigate Causes and Treatment of Autism

The National Institutes of Health will intensify its efforts to find the causes of autism and identify new treatments for the disorder, through a new research program.

Behavioral Intervention Normalizes Stress-related Hormone in High-Risk Kids

A family-based behavioral intervention that helps prevent social and behavior problems in high-risk preschoolers also may help normalize their cortisol levels when they anticipate stressful situations, results of a new NIMH study suggest.

National Survey Tracks Prevalence of Personality Disorders in U.S. Population

NIMH-funded researchers recently reported that roughly nine percent of ? U.S. adults have a personality disorder as defined by the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,

Stress: Brain Yields Clues About Why Some Succumb While Others Prevail

Results of a new study may one day help scientists learn how to enhance a naturally occurring mechanism in the brain that promotes resilience to psychological stress.

How Schizophrenia Develops: Major Clues Discovered

Schizophrenia may occur, in part, because of a problem in an intermittent on/off switch for a gene involved in making a key chemical messenger in the brain, scientists have found in a study of human brain tissue.

New Social Neuroscience Grants to Help Unravel Autism, Anxiety Disorders

How genes and the environment shape the brain circuitry underlying social behavior is among the questions being addressed by three newly NIMH-funded studies.

Bipolar Disorder Phenome Database May Aid Search for Related Genes

Early findings from the recently launched Bipolar Disorder Phenome Database were published in the August 2007 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Depressed Adolescents Respond Best to Combination Treatment

A combination of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication appears to be the most effective treatment for adolescents with major depressive disorder—more than medication alone or psychotherapy alone, according to results from a major clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Mental Disorders Account for Large Percentage of Adult Role Disability

An NIMH-funded study finds that more than half of U.S. adults have a mental or physical condition that prevents them from working or conducting their usual duties (e.g., role disability) for several days each year, and a large portion of those days can be attributed to mental disorders.

Scientists May Have Found Long-Pursued Binding Site for Antidepressants

NIMH-funded scientists have a major new clue as to where the long-pursued binding site for commonly used antidepressants – potentially the site that triggers the medications’ effects – may be on brain cells.

Genes Linked to Suicidal Thinking During Antidepressant Treatment

Specific variations in two genes are linked to suicidal thinking that sometimes occurs in people taking the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants, according to a large study led by scientists at the National Institutes of Healths (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Workplace Depression Screening, Outreach and Enhanced Treatment Improves Productivity, Lowers Employer Costs

Enhanced and systematic efforts to identify and treat depression in the workplace significantly improves employee health and productivity, likely leading to lower costs overall for the employer, according to a study published September 26, 2007, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Newly Funded Center Dedicated to Mental Health Research for Asian Americans

Science UpdateSeptember 19, 2007 Newly Funded Center Dedicated to Mental Health Research for Asian AmericansA new, five-year, NIMH-funded project will establish a national center to study mental health issues affecting Asian Americans.

Drops in SSRI prescription rates may coincide with increases in youth suicides

A 2004 spike in suicide rates may have coincided with a drop in antidepressant prescriptions for youth, following warnings from U.S and European regulatory agencies that the medications might trigger suicidal thoughts.

New Collaboration Evaluates Effectiveness of Mental Illness Educational Project

Two new grants funded by NIMH will examine the effectiveness of educational materials designed to teach young people about mental illnesses and reduce the stigma associated with them.

Family Involvement and Focused Intervention May be Key to Helping Teens with Bulimia

Family-based treatment for adolescent bulimia nervosa (FBT-BN) is more effective than an individual-based therapy called supportive psychotherapy (SPT) in helping teens overcome bulimia according to an NIMH-funded study.

Manic Phase of Bipolar Disorder Benefits from Breast Cancer Medication

The medication tamoxifen, best known as a treatment for breast cancer, dramatically reduces symptoms of the manic phase of bipolar disorder more quickly than many standard medications for the mental illness, a new study shows.

NIMH Funds Additional New Research on Autism

NIMH is funding several new grants that will further our understanding of autism spectrum disorder, which is marked by a pervasive impairment in communicating, expressing emotion, and relating to others socially.

Global Survey Reveals Significant Gap in Meeting World’s Mental Health Care Needs

Mental disorders rank among the top ten illnesses causing disability—more than 37 percent worldwide—with depression being the leading cause of disability among people ages 15 and older, according to the Global Burden of Disease and Risk Factors published in 2006.

New Research to Help Youth with Mental Disorders Transition to Adulthood

As young people with mental health disorders transition from adolescence to adulthood, they frequently face new and difficult challenges such as the loss of state-issued benefits like Medicaid and foster care, or loss of family-based insurance coverage.

Rates of Bipolar Diagnosis in Youth Rapidly Climbing, Treatment Patterns Similar to Adults

The number of visits to a doctors office that resulted in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents has increased by 40 times over the last decade, reported researchers funded in part by the NIH.

Studies Refine Understanding of Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

Two new studies provide additional details on best practices for treating people with bipolar disorder, a sometimes debilitating illness marked by severe mood swings between depression and mania.

Suspect Schizophrenia Genes Act Together to Thwart Working Memory

Two gene variants implicated in schizophrenia interact to degrade the brains ability to process information, NIMH researchers have discovered.

Bipolar Youth Show Distinct Pattern of Brain Development

The first picturess of the brain changing before-and-after the onset of pediatric bipolar disorder reveal a distinct pattern of development, when compared to that seen in healthy youth or in childhood onset schizophrenia.

Gene Triggers Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-Like Syndrome in Mice

Using genetic engineering, researchers have created an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) - like set of behaviors in mice and reversed them with antidepressants and genetic targeting of a key brain circuit. The study, by National Institutes of Health (NIH) -funded researchers, suggests new strategies for treating the disorder.

Unpleasant Words Trigger Strong Startle Response in People with Borderline Personality Disorder

Adults with borderline personality disorder (BPD) showed excessive emotional reactions when looking at words with unpleasant meanings compared to healthy people during an emotionally stimulating task, according to NIMH-funded researchers

Behavioral Interventions Effective for Preschoolers with ADHD

Two types of early interventions designed to reduce symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in preschoolers may be effective alternatives or additions to medication treatment, according to a recent NIMH-funded study.

New Studies Search for Clues to Mental Illness in Gatekeepers of Gene Expression

What goes awry in the brain to cause mental illness may ultimately be traced to glitches in genes - but not necessarily the parts of genes commonly suspected.

Half of Children With Autism May be Diagnosable Soon After Their First Birthday

About half of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can be diagnosed soon after their first birthday; others with the disorder may appear to develop normally until that age and then falter or regress during their second year, NIMH-funded researchers have discovered.

Parents’ Diagnoses Help to Distinguish Childhood Bipolar Disorder from Severe Mood Dysregulation

The parents of children who have bipolar disorder are more likely to have bipolar disorder themselves than the parents of children who have severe mood dysregulation (SMD).

Gene Predicts Better Outcome as Cortex Normalizes in Teens with ADHD

Brain areas that control attention were thinnest in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who carried a particular version of a gene in a study by the National Institutes of Healths (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

New Technique Pinpoints Crossroads of Depression in Rat Brain

NIMH-funded scientists have developed a new high-speed technique for imaging brain activity and used it to pinpoint a circuit signal in rats that may be at the crossroads of depression — a possible “final common pathway” where different causes of, and treatments for, the disorder appear to converge.

Success or Failure of Antidepressant Citalopram Predicted by Gene Variation

A variation in a gene called GRIK4 appears to make people with depression more likely to respond to the medication citalopram (Celexa) than are people without the variation, a study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health, has found.

Faster-Acting Antidepressants Closer to Becoming a Reality

A new study has revealed more about how the medication ketamine, when used experimentally for depression, relieves symptoms of the disorder in hours instead of the weeks or months it takes for current antidepressants to work.

Improvement Following ADHD Treatment Sustained in Most Children

Most children treated in a variety of ways for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) showed sustained improvement after three years in a major follow-up study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

New Research to Study Program that Improves Police Interactions with Mentally Ill

A new grant funded by NIMH will examine the effectiveness and utility of a program designed to improve police interactions with people who have mental disorders

New Insights on how Mental Health is Influenced by Culture and Immigration Status

A special issue of Research in Human Development, published in June 2007, examines current trends in prevalence and risk factors for mental disorders across the lifespan in diverse U.S. minority populations

Violence in Schizophrenia Patients More Likely Among Those with Childhood Conduct Problems

Some people with schizophrenia who become violent may do so for reasons unrelated to their current illness, according to a new study analyzing data from the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials for Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE).

Study Offers Glimpse of Molecules That Keep Memories Alive

Working memory is a kind of temporary-storage system in the brain. Unlike long-term memory, it stores disposable information we must keep in mind only transiently, for tasks at hand. But how?

New Study Will Examine Effects of Excluding Anti-anxiety Medications in Medicare Part D Coverage

A new research grant funded by NIMH will examine the costs and benefits of excluding a commonly prescribed class of anti-anxiety medications—benzodiazepines—from coverage in the new Medicare Part D program. Medicare Part D, the prescription drug coverage plan for people insured by Medicare, went into effect in January 2006.

Male Veterans Have Double the Suicide Rate of Civilians

Male veterans in the general U.S. population are twice as likely as their civilian peers to die by suicide, a large study shows

Gene Variants Linked to Suicidal Thoughts in Some Men Starting Antidepressant Treatment

Some men who experience suicidal thoughts and behaviors after they first start taking antidepressant medications may be genetically predisposed to do so, according to the latest results from the NIMH-funded Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) study

NIMH Funds Research for Early Intervention in Childhood Bipolar Disorder

NIMH recently approved funding to test the effectiveness of an early intervention in children at high risk for developing bipolar disorder.

Antipsychotic Medications for Schizophrenia on Equal Footing in Improving Patients’ Thinking Skills

Patients with schizophrenia taking antipsychotic medications experience a small improvement in thinking and reasoning skills (neurocognition), but no one medication appears to be better than the others in improving these skills during the first two crucial months of treatment, according to the latest results from the NIMH-funded Clinical Antipsychotic Trials for Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE).

Genetic Roots of Bipolar Disorder Revealed by First Genome-Wide Study of Illness

The likelihood of developing bipolar disorder depends in part on the combined, small effects of variations in many different genes in the brain, none of which is powerful enough to cause the disease by itself, a new study shows.

Bipolar Spectrum Disorder May Be Underrecognized and Improperly Treated

A new study supports earlier estimates of the prevalence of bipolar disorder in the U.S. population, and suggests the illness may be more accurately characterized as a spectrum disorder.

Cell Networking Keeps Brain’s Master Clock Ticking

Each day, a master clock in the brain synchronizes the timing of lesser clocks in cells throughout the body to the rising and setting of the sun, regulating such daily rhythms as sleep, body temperature, eating, and activity. Scientists funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health have now discovered that the secret to this master clock’s robust time-keeping ability lies in the unique way its cells work together.

In Second Try to Treat Depression, Cognitive Therapy Generally As Effective As Medication

Switching to or adding cognitive therapy (CT) after a first unsuccessful attempt at treating depression with an antidepressant medication is generally as effective as switching to or adding another medication, but remission may take longer to achieve

Cortex Area Thinner in Youth with Alzheimer’s-Related Gene

A part of the brain first affected by Alzheimer’s disease is thinner in youth with a risk gene for the disorder, a brain imaging study by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has found.

Benefits of Antidepressants May Outweigh Risks for Kids

The benefits of antidepressant medications likely outweigh their risks to children and adolescents with major depression and anxiety disorders, according to a new comprehensive review of pediatric trials conducted between 1988 and 2006. The study, partially funded by NIMH, was published in the April 18, 2007, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Scientists Switch Neurons On and Off Using Light

Researchers have invented a genetically-engineered way to turn the electrical impulses of brain cells on and off with pulses of blue and yellow light — in synch with the split-second pace of real time neuronal activity.

Gene Knockout Unleashes Manic Mouse

Mice engineered to lack a specific gene showed behaviors similar to human mania in a study funded in part by NIMH; they were hyperactive, slept less, appeared less depressed and anxious, and craved sugar, cocaine and pleasure stimulation.

Intensive Psychotherapy More Effective Than Brief Therapy for Treating Bipolar Depression

Patients taking medications to treat bipolar disorder are more likely to get well faster and stay well if they receive intensive psychotherapy, according to results from the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD), funded by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Study Sheds Light on Medication Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder

For depressed people with bipolar disorder who are taking a mood stabilizer, adding an antidepressant medication is no more effective than a placebo (sugar pill), according to results published online on March 28, 2007 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Adolescent Brains Show Lower Activity in Areas That Control Risky Choices

A new NIMH study could help explain why adolescents are so prone to make risky choices. When contemplating risky decisions, they show less activity in regions of the brain that regulate processes involved in decision-making, compared with adults.

Tiny, Spontaneous Gene Mutations May Boost Autism Risk

Tiny gene mutations, each individually rare, pose more risk for autism than had been previously thought, suggests a study funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health, a component of the National Institutes of Health.

Depression Risk Higher in Girls with Low Birth Weight

Girls’ risk for developing depression after puberty increased significantly if they had low birth weight, in a study funded in part by NIMH. Yet low birth weight didn’t appear to be just one more risk factor for depression. Rather, it seemed to increase the risk effects of other adversities.

HIV Treatment May Help Reduce Severity of Mental Impairment in Children with HIV Infection

During the first few years of life, children born with HIV infection are most susceptible to central nervous system (CNS) disease, and can develop impaired cognitive, language, motor and behavioral functioning. However, NIH-funded researchers have found that among children with HIV infection, treatment with a protease inhibitor (PI)- based highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) helped protect against cognitive and motor difficulties compared to a control group of age-matched children who were born to HIV-infected mothers but who did not contract the virus themselves (e.g., HIV-exposed).

Global Use of ADHD Medications Rises Dramatically

Global use of medications that treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) nearly tripled from 1993 to 2003, and spending on the drugs rose nine-fold, according to a study co-funded by NIMH and published in the March/April 2007 issue of Health Affairs.

African Americans, Black Caribbeans, and Whites Differ in Depression Risk, Treatment

Although black Americans are less likely than whites to have a major depressive disorder (MDD), when they do, it tends to be more chronic and severe.

Virtual-Reality Video Game Helps Link Depression to Specific Brain Area

Scientists are using a virtual-reality, three-dimensional video game that challenges spatial memory as a new tool for assessing the link between depression and the hippocampus, the brain’s memory hub.

New Details in Schizophrenia Treatment Trial Emerge

Two new studies from the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials for Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) provide more insights into comparing treatment options, and to what extent antipsychotic medications help people with schizophrenia learn social, interpersonal and community living skills.

Weight Gain From Antipsychotics Traced to Appetite-Regulating Enzyme, Receptor

A likely mechanism by which antipsychotic medications trigger weight gain — with its attendant risks of heart disease, diabetes and treatment non-adherence — has been unraveled in mice by NIMH-funded scientists.

Largest-ever Search for Autism Genes Reveals New Clues

The largest search for autism genes to date, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has implicated components of the brain’s glutamate chemical messenger system and a previously overlooked site on chromosome 11.

Study Tracks Prevalence of Eating Disorders

Results from a large-scale national survey suggest that binge-eating disorder is more prevalent than both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Common Gene Version Optimizes Thinking — but With a Possible Downside

Most people inherit a version of a gene that optimizes their brain’s thinking circuitry, yet also appears to increase risk for schizophrenia, a severe mental illness marked by impaired thinking, scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have discovered.

Half of Adults With Anxiety Disorders Had Psychiatric Diagnoses in Youth

About half of adults with an anxiety disorder had symptoms of some type of psychiatric illness by age 15, a NIMH-funded study shows.

Autism Research Efforts Highlighted in Biological Psychiatry Special Issue

The February 15, 2007 special issue of Biological Psychiatry is dedicated to recent advances in autism research, including many studies funded by the Institute.

Brain’s Reward Circuit Activity Ebbs and Flows with a Woman’s Hormonal Cycle

Fluctuations in sex hormone levels during women’s menstrual cycles affect the responsiveness of their brains’ reward circuitry, an imaging study at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has revealed.

Extreme Irritability: Is It Childhood Bipolar Disorder?

Results of a new study may help improve the diagnosis and treatment of two debilitating childhood mental disorders — pediatric bipolar disorder (BD) and a syndrome called severe mood dysregulation (SMD).

Clues to Making and Breaking Memories Included in List of Year’s Top Science

NIMH-funded researchers were cited in Science Magazine’s December 2006 “Breakthrough of the Year” special issue.

New Tests May Help Researchers Detect Genetic Basis For Autism

Researchers have developed a set of behavioral tests in mice that mimic the core features of autism and may prove useful in detecting a genetic basis for the deficits in social interactions and rigid thinking seen in the disorder.

Gene Variant Linked to Schizophrenia

A gene implicated in schizophrenia in adults has now also been linked to schizophrenia in children for the first time, strengthening evidence that the gene plays a role in the disease.

U.S.-born Children of Immigrants May Have Higher Risk for Mental Disorders Than Parents

In the first studies to examine the effects of immigration and years of residence on the mental health of Caribbean Black, Latino, and Asian populations in the United States, NIMH-funded researchers found that immigrants in general appear to have lower rates of mental disorders than their U.S.-born counterparts.

Different Families, Different Characteristics — Different Kinds of Bipolar Disorder?

People with bipolar disorder (BPD) tend to share similarities in certain characteristics with other members of their families, NIMH-funded researchers have shown.

History of Childhood Abuse or Neglect Increases Risk of Major Depression

People who were abused or neglected as children have increased risk of major depression, which often begins in childhood and has lingering effects as they mature, according to a study funded by NIMH.