Posts Tagged ‘depression’

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David Foster Wallace on Planet Trillaphon

March 20, 2013

“I’ve been on antidepressants for, what, about a year now, and I suppose I feel as if I’m pretty qualified to tell what they’re like. They’re fine, really, but they’re fine in the same way that, say, living on another planet that was warm and comfortable and had food and fresh water would be fine: it would be fine, but it wouldn’t be good old Earth, obviously. I haven’t been on Earth now for almost a year, because I wasn’t doing very well on Earth. I’ve been doing somewhat better here where I am now, on the planet Trillaphon, which I suppose is good news for everyone involved.”

The repetitions and played-up quaintness here give the sense of a consciousness that has been lulled into congeniality. But as the story unfolds, and the imprecisions come into focus, the narrator comes to see that depression is not “just sort of really intense sadness, like what you feel when your very good dog dies, or when Bambi’s mother gets killed in Bambi”. Rather, it’s a kind of auto-immune deficiency of the self:

“All this business about people committing suicide when they’re ‘severely depressed;’ we say, ‘Holy cow, we must do something to stop them from killing themselves!’ That’s wrong. Because all these people have, you see, by this time already killed themselves, where it really counts. By the time these people swallow entire medicine cabinets or take naps in the garage or whatever, they’ve already been killing themselves for ever so long. When they ‘commit suicide,’ they’re just being orderly.”

Excerpt from a text by Thomas Meaney at TSL. Continue THERE

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Rat Robot Makes Live Rats Depressed

February 15, 2013

Lab rats have a new companion, but it’s not friendly. Researchers at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, have developed a robotic rat called WR-3 whose job is to induce stress and depression in lab animals, creating models of psychological conditions on which new drugs can be tested.

Animal are used throughout medicine as models to test treatments for human conditions, including mental disorders like depression. Rats and mice get their sense of smell severed to induce something like depression, or are forced to swim for long periods, for instance. Other methods rely on genetic modification and environmental stress, but none is entirely satisfactory in recreating a human-like version of depression for treatment. Hiroyuki Ishii and his team aim to do better with WR-3.

The researchers tested WR-3’s ability to depress two groups of 12 rats, measured by the somewhat crude assumption that a depressed rat moves around less. Rats in group A were constantly harassed by their robot counterpart, while the other rats were attacked intermittently and automatically by WR-3, whenever they moved. Ishii’s team found that the deepest depression was triggered by intermittent attacks on a mature rat that had been constantly harassed in its youth.

The team say they plan to test their new model of depression against more conventional systems, like forced swimming.

Text and Image via Gizmodo

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Under a cloud: Depression is of common occurrence among graduate students and postdocs

October 15, 2012

Lauren was always a top student, but the pressures of her first year studying for a PhD in atmospheric chemistry at a UK university sent her spiraling into depression. At best, she couldn’t focus on academic tasks, feeling as if her brain was “scrambled”; at worst, she couldn’t get out of bed.

She developed a crippling fear of presenting her research. “Doing a PhD is such a personal thing, one that you’ve invested so much time in, that any criticism can feel like a direct reflection of yourself,” says Lauren.

But she did something that many postgraduates do not: she got help. With counseling and medication, Lauren — a pseudonym that she uses on a blog detailing her experience (see go.nature.com/4ta9fo) — is entering the final year of her PhD. Hers is one of more than 50 stories highlighted on the website Students Against Depression, funded by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust in Thatcham, UK. “The website aims to raise awareness that depression isn’t a personal failing or weakness; it’s a serious condition that requires treatment,” says psychologist Denise Meyer, the website’s project manager.

Text and Image via Nature. Continue article written by Virginia Gewin HERE

Also: The Ones We’ve Lost: The Student Loan Debt Suicides

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‘Myopic Misery’: The Financial Cost of Sadness

May 11, 2012

Nobody likes to feel bad. Sadness saps our energy and motivation. Melancholy wrecks our health and invites disease. Misery leaves us—well, miserable. Yet many experts believe that these negative emotions have an upside, that they clarify our thinking and foster more deliberate and careful decision making. Some even say that sadness is a reality check on unwarranted optimism and self-regard.

That’s the so-called “sadder but wiser” theory. But is it true? Isn’t it equally as plausible that sadness and melancholy sabotage some kinds of thinking, and lead to questionable choices and judgments? A team of psychological scientists—Jennifer Lerner of Harvard and Ye Li and Elke Weber of Columbia—call this the “myopic misery” theory. Since sadness arises from a sense of loss, they reason, isn’t it possible that it triggers an unconscious need to replace what’s been lost, and that this need leads in turn to a sense of urgency and impatience—and thus to rushed decisions? They decided to pit the two competing theories against each other in the laboratory.

Excerpt of an article written by Wray Herbert at APS. Continue HERE

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Is Depression an Adaptation?

February 9, 2012

Many functions have been suggested for low mood or depression, including communicating a need for help, signaling yielding in a hierarchy conflict, fostering disengagement from commitments to unreachable goals, and regulating patterns of investment.
A more comprehensive evolutionary explanation may emerge from attempts to identify how the characteristics of low mood increase an organism’s ability to cope with the adaptive challenges characteristic of unpropitious situations in which effort to pursue a major goal will likely result in danger, loss, bodily damage, or wasted effort. In such situations, pessimism and lack of motivation may give a fitness advantage by inhibiting certain actions, especially futile or dangerous challenges to
dominant figures, actions in the absence of a crucial resource or a viable plan, efforts that would damage the body, and actions that would disrupt a currently unsatisfactory major life enterprise when it might recover or the alternative is likely to be even worse. These hypotheses are consistent with considerable evidence and suggest specific tests.
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2000;57:14-20

DOWNLOAD PDF by Randolph M. Nesse, MD

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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation becoming more popular for treating Depression

February 7, 2012

A new magnetic therapy that treats major depression recently received a major boost when the government announced Medicare will cover the procedure in Illinois.

The treatment, called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), sends short pulses of magnetic fields to the brain. TMS “is rapidly gaining momentum” said Dr. Murali Rao of Loyola University Medical Center, one of the first Chicago-area centers to offer TMS. There now are nearly 300 such centers in the United States.

At Loyola, about two-thirds of Rao’s TMS patients so far report that their depression has significantly lessened or gone away completely.

Before receiving TMS, Nan Miller had failed nine antidepressants and suffered increasingly severe cycles of depression over seven years. There were times when she couldn’t get out of bed or eat. “I just wanted to die,” she said. She had even tried electroconvulsive therapy (formerly known as electroshock) but did not want to consider that option anymore.

Miller said that a few weeks after beginning TMS treatments, she was eating lunch when she suddenly realized depression did not consume her anymore. “I could almost hear the chains breaking, the darkness lifting and the heaviness dissolving,” she said. “I feel about 10 years younger and 20 shades lighter.”

The Food and Drug Administration approved TMS in 2009 for patients who have major depression and have failed at least one antidepressant. The FDA has approved one TMS system, NeuroStar®, made by Neuronetics.

The patient reclines in a comfortable padded chair. A magnetic coil, placed next to the left side of the head, sends short pulses of magnetic fields to the surface of the brain. This produces currents that stimulate brain cells. The currents, in turn, affect mood-regulatory circuits deeper in the brain. The resulting changes in the brain appear to be beneficial to patients who suffer depression.

Each treatment lasts 35 to 40 minutes. Patients typically undergo three treatments per week for four to six weeks.

The treatments do not require anesthesia or sedation. Afterward, a patient can immediately resume normal activities, including driving. Studies have found that patients do not experience memory loss or seizures. Side effects include mild headache or tingling in the scalp, which can be treated with Tylenol.

Together, psychotherapy and antidepressants successfully treat only about one-third of patients who suffer major depression. TMS is a noninvasive treatment option now available for the other two-thirds of patients, who experience only partial relief from depression or no relief at all, Rao said.

Provided by Loyola University Health System. Via Medical Xpress

Previousy: Now Morality can be modified in the lab by disrupting a specific area of the brain with magnetic pulses.

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Cloning scientists create human brain cells

January 30, 2012

Scientists in Edinburgh who pioneered cloning have made a technological breakthrough that could pave the way for better medical treatment of mental illnesses and nerve diseases.

Scientist Ian Wilmut with Dolly, the worlds first cloned sheep, at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh in 2001. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

The news that Edinburgh scientists had created the world’s first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, at the university’s Roslin Institute made headlines around the world 16 years ago. Her birth raised hopes of the creation of a new generation of medicines – with a host of these breakthroughs occurring at laboratories in the university over the following decade.

And now one of the most spectacular has taken place at Edinburgh’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine, where scientists have continued to develop the technology used to make Dolly. In a series of remarkable experiments, they have created brain tissue from patients suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar depression and other mental illnesses.

The work offers spectacular rewards for doctors. From a scrap of skin taken from a patient, they can make neurones genetically identical to those in that person’s brain. These brain cells, grown in the laboratory, can then be studied to reveal the neurological secrets of their condition.

“A patient’s neurones can tell us a great deal about the psychological conditions that affect them, but you cannot stick a needle in someone’s brain and take out its cells,” said Professor Charles french-Constant, the centre’s director.

Written by Robin McKie, The Observer. Continue HERE