Are You Good At Recall?

Did I See What I Think I Saw?

ScienceDaily (Jan. 28, 2009) — Eyewitness testimony is a crucial part of many criminal trials even though research increasingly suggests that it may not be as accurate as we (and many lawyers) would like it to be. For example, if you witness a man in a blue sweater stealing something, then overhear people talking about a gray shirt, how likely are you to remember the real color of the thief’s sweater?

 Studies have shown that when people are told false information about an event, they become less likely to remember what actually happened – it is easy to mix up the real facts with fake ones. However, there is evidence that when people are forced to recall what they witnessed (shortly after the event), they are more likely to remember details of what really happened.

Psychologists Jason Chan of Iowa State University, Ayanna Thomas from Tufts University and John Bulevich from Rhode Island College wanted to see how providing false information following a recall test would affect volunteers’ memories of an event that they witnessed. A group of volunteers watched the first episode of “24” and then either took an immediate recall test about the show or played a game. Next, all of the subjects were told false information about the episode they had seen and then took a final memory test about the show.

The results, reported in the January issue of Psychological Science, were surprising. The researchers found that the volunteers who took the test immediately after watching the show were almost twice as likely to recall false information compared to the volunteers who played the game following the episode.

The results of a follow-up experiment suggest that the first recall test may have improved subjects’ ability to learn the false information – that is, the first test enhanced learning of new and erroneous information. These findings show that recently recalled information is prone to distortion. The authors conclude that “this study shows that even psychologists may have underestimated the malleability of eyewitness testimony.”

Anxiety & Depression & Fertility Treatment

Fertility Treatment: Anxiety And Depression Do Not Affect Pregnancy And Treatment Cancellation Rates

ScienceDaily (Jan. 28, 2009) — Anxiety and depression before and during fertility treatment does not affect the likelihood of a woman becoming pregnant or of her cancelling her treatment, according to a new study.

Dr Bea Lintsen, a physician at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre (The Netherlands), and her colleagues used questionnaires to assess the levels of psychological distress in 783 women at two points before and during fertility treatment.

Results from the 421 women who completed both questionnaires showed that levels of depression or anxiety either before or during fertility treatment had no influence over cancellation rates and did not predict pregnancy rates either.

Until now, studies of the links between anxiety and depression and the success of fertility treatment have been inconclusive. Dr Lintsen believes hers is the largest prospective study yet to look at the influence of distress on the outcome of a first IVF or ICSI treatment, and that the findings are reliable.

However, she and her colleagues say the associations between psychological factors and pregnancy rates after IVF are complex and require further research into mediating factors such as lifestyle and sexual behaviour.

Adapted from materials provided by Oxford University Press, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Ease Depressive Symptoms Related To Menopause


ScienceDaily (Jan. 28, 2009)Omega-3 fatty acids ease psychological distress and depressive symptoms often suffered by menopausal and perimenopausal women, according to researchers at Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine.

Their study, published in the February issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, presents the first evidence that omega-3 supplements are effective for treating common menopause-related mental health problems.

Dr. Michel Lucas and colleagues recruited 120 women age 40 to 55 and divided them into two groups. Women in the first group took three gel capsules containing a total of one gram of EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid of marine origin, every day for eight weeks. Those in the second group followed the same protocol, but took gel capsules containing sunflower oil without EPA.

Test results before and after the eight-week period indicate that omega-3s significantly improved the condition of women suffering symptoms of psychological distress and mild depression. “The differences we observed between the two groups are noteworthy,” commented Dr Lucas, “especially considering that omega-3s have very few side effects and are beneficial to cardiovascular health.” However, no positive effect was observed among a small group of women with more severe depressive symptoms.

Women with hot flashes also noted that their condition improved after consuming omega-3s. At baseline, the number of daily hot flashes was 2.8 and dropped by an average of 1.6 in the group taking omega-3s and by 0.5 in the control group. The change that can be attributed to the use of omega-3s, i.e. a decrease of 1.1 hot flashes per day, is equivalent to results obtained with hormone therapy and antidepressants. Details of these results were published in the November 20, 2008 online edition of the journal Menopause.

Many women suffer from depressive symptoms during menopause and perimenopause. Some take antidepressants for relief even though their effectiveness is controversial. Mistrust of hormone therapy and antidepressants leads certain women to turn to alternative methods whose effectiveness has not yet been scientifically demonstrated. This study by Université Laval researchers corrects this situation with regard to marine-sourced omega-3s.

Medications and the Elderly

Common Medication Associated With Cognitive Decline In Elderly

ScienceDaily (Jan. 28, 2009) — A study published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggested that the use of certain medications in elderly populations may be associated with cognitive decline. The study examined the effects of exposure to anticholinergic medications, a type of drug used to treat a variety of disorders that include respiratory and gastrointestinal problems, on over 500 relatively healthy men aged 65 years or older with high blood pressure.

Older people often take several drugs to treat multiple health conditions. As some of these drugs also have properties that affect neurotransmitters in the brain that are important to overall brain function, the researchers examined the total effects of all medications taken by the patients, both prescription and over-the-counter, that were believed to affect the function of a particular neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.

The findings show that chronic use of medications with anticholinergic properties may have detrimental effects on memory and the ability to perform daily living tasks, such as shopping and managing finances. Participants showed deficits in both memory and daily function when they took these medications over the course of a year. The degree of memory difficulty and impairment in daily living tasks also increased proportionally to the total amount of drug exposure, based on a rating scale the authors developed to assess anticholinergicity of the drugs.

According to study co-author Dr. Ling Han of the Yale University Department of Internal Medicine, elderly patients may be more vulnerable to these types of medications due to neurological and pharmacokinetical changes related to aging.

“This study extends our previous findings on acute cognitive impairment following recent anticholinergic exposure in older medical inpatients,” says Han. “Prescribing for older adults who take multiple prescription and over-the-counter medications requires careful attention to minimize the risk of potential harms of the drugs while maximizing their health benefits.”

Adapted from materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell.

Tanning no cure for seasonal depression

By Anne Harding

 NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Jan. 22, 2009 – People who suffer from winter depression known as “seasonal affective disorder” or SAD — or the less severe but more common “winter blues” — shouldn’t seek relief in a tanning bed or booth, a leading expert on light therapy warns.

 SAD is often treated with daily sessions of exposure to bright light. While some isolated reports have linked tanning to improvements in mood, Dr. Michael Terman told Reuters Health, the fact is that real light therapy works through the eyes, not the skin, and uses a completely different type of light.

 Even if artificial tanning did turn out to improve mood, the increased risk of skin cancer would far outweigh its benefits, added Terman, who is the director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.

 According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, the newest sunlamps produce up to as a dozen times as much ultraviolet light as real sunshine, while tanning bed users are at greater risk of developing skin cancers. UV light can also harm the eyes, Terman noted, and studies have shown the goggles people use in tanning beds and booths can allow significant amounts of the damaging rays to reach the eyes.

 Some people become clinically depressed in the fall and winter months, while many more — an estimated one-quarter of people living in the middle and northern latitudes of the US — will see a drop in mood as the days get shorter. We rely on bright morning light to reset our biological clocks every day, and when work and school obligations force us to wake up well before sunrise, our biological clocks start running out of sync with our external environment. “That is a formula for depression,” Terman explained.

 So light therapy is believed to work by resetting our biological clocks with a properly timed dose of artificial sunshine. It’s effective both for SAD and for less severe seasonal mood problems. However, ultraviolet light that tanning beds and booths use to brown the skin is not part of the prescription.

 Neither is light on the blue end of the spectrum, Terman added. Some companies have latched on to studies suggesting extra benefits to blue light by making blue-light-only light boxes, despite the lack of any evidence for their clinical benefit. In fact, he noted, this type of light is so harsh that it’s difficult for people to look at.

 The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate light boxes, so there’s no guarantee that devices on the market will help, he said, and some evidence that they could be harmful, for example by failing to adequately filter out ultraviolet radiation.

 Effective light boxes use soft white lights tending toward the red end of the spectrum, and should emit 10,000 lux of illumination to be optimally effective, according to Terman. Light boxes should also have a filter or diffuser to protect the eyes and skin from ultraviolet light, he added. Staring at a naked bulb can harm the eyes, and won’t be effective, because light actually exerts its beneficial effects at the periphery of our vision.

 Terman supervises a non-profit Web site, the Center for Environmental Therapeutics (, that offers information on how to choose a light box, as well as a self-test that lets people figure out if they might need to see a doctor for seasonal mood problems. “There’s a tendency to want to self-treat with light therapy,” Terman said. “Self-treatment with light therapy is clearly contraindicated for anyone with major depression. There are too many ways you can do it wrong, and you’ll be even worse for it.”

Migraines and mood disorders may be connected


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Jan. 21, 2008 – Research suggests that people who suffer from migraine headaches are at increased risk of also suffering from mood and anxiety disorders.

“An expanding body of literature has shown that migraine headaches are associated with higher rates of mental disorders,” Dr. Jitender Sareen, of the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada, and colleagues point out in a published report. However, previous studies have been subject to a number of limitations.

To better clarify this relationship, Sareen and colleagues analyzed data from the German Health Survey conducted between 1997 and 1999. Migraines were diagnosed by a doctor and trained interviewers evaluated participants for mental disorders.

Among 7,124 adults, 11.7 percent reported a history of migraine headache. According to the team, there was a significant association between having migraine headaches in the past 12 months and suffering from various mood and anxiety disorders.

“Although the cross-sectional nature of this study cannot determine causality, there are several possible explanations of the relationship between migraine and mental disorders,” Sareen’s team notes.

It may be that a common environmental or genetic factor influences both migraines and mood/anxiety disorders, they suggest. A causal relationship may also exist between mental disorders and migraines, they add, noting that this study and others found that anxiety often precedes migraine, which often precedes depression.

SOURCE: General Hospital Psychiatry, January/February 2009.

Lexapro may ease anxiety in older adults: study

By Julie Steenhuysen

 CHICAGO (Reuters) – Jan 20, 2008 – The popular antidepressant Lexapro showed promise at easing anxiety symptoms in older adults, but the effect was “modest” and would need to be studied further, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

 They said antidepressants like Lexapro, made by Forest Laboratories Inc and known generically as escitalopram, may be useful as a new treatment option for older adults with generalized anxiety disorder, a disabling condition that can also cause muscle tension, insomnia and fatigue.

 “We found improvements not only in anxiety and level of worry but also in functioning,” Dr. Eric Lenze of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, whose study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said in a statement.

 He said many people who took the drug were better able to carry out their daily activities. But for most people, he said, the drug alone is likely not enough.

 “Overall the benefits were fairly modest,” Lenze said in a telephone interview. “It will help some people a lot. Most people will probably need some sort of combination treatment.”

 Lenze’s team did uncover an unexpected benefit: the drug helped people get their blood pressure under control.

 “That suggests there can be some long-term health benefits in treating anxiety in this older age group,” Lenze said.

 While the study looked only at Lexapro, Lenze thinks the benefits would extend to all antidepressants in the class, which are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs.

 Older patients with anxiety typically get no treatment or are given sedatives such as Valium or Xanax. And while these drugs can relieve anxiety, they can also impair thinking ability and can even lead to falls.

 In the study, Lenze and colleagues evaluated 177 people aged 60 or older with generalized anxiety disorder who got either Lexapro or a dummy pill for 12 weeks.

 They found 69 percent of patients got better, compared with 51 percent of those whose symptoms improved simply by taking a placebo. Those who took the drug showed greater improvement in both anxiety symptoms and in social functioning.

 In a more conservative analysis that included people who had dropped out of the study, the drug showed no benefit over the placebo arm. Side effects in the drug arm included fatigue, insomnia and urinary symptoms.

 Lenze is now studying the long-term effects of treatment and is also studying the drug in combination with a goal-oriented type of talk therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy.

 Forest, which faces the loss of patent protection for Lexapro in 2012, supplied drugs for the study. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

 (Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Maggie Fox, Richard Chang)

Mental Health Care and Foster Children


How Mental Health Care Affects Outcomes For Foster Children

ScienceDaily (Jan. 15, 2009) — Of the approximately half-million children and adolescents in foster care in the U.S., experts estimate that 42 to 60 percent of them have emotional and behavioral problems. Despite the prevalence of mental health problems among foster children, little is known about how pre-existing mental health conditions affect their outcomes in foster care.

A new study co-written by Jung Min Park and Joseph P. Ryan, professors in the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois, followed 5,978 children in foster care in Illinois for several years to determine whether these children’s placement and permanency outcomes were affected by their histories of intensive mental health treatment. The statewide sample included all children and adolescents 3-18 years of age who entered foster care for the first time between 1997 and 2001. They were observed through June 2005.

Based upon child welfare and Medicaid records, the study targeted children who received inpatient psychiatric care, because it was an easily identifiable marker of serious emotional and behavioral problems, and it represented especially high levels of mental health care needs. Five percent (296) of the children had at least one episode of inpatient mental health care prior to being placed in foster care.

“According to my previous study, children who received inpatient psychiatric care ended up in foster care within two years of their first inpatient episode,” Park said.

“Children who receive inpatient psychiatric care have a substantially greater risk for parent-child separation. Our current study shows that when those children enter the child-welfare system, they are more likely to suffer poor outcomes and be left behind in the system.”

The study indicated that children with inpatient psychiatric episodes were at greater risk for frequent placement disruptions and were less likely to reunite with their families of origin or be adopted.

About half of the sample experienced more than three placement changes during their first spell in foster care. Inpatient mental health episodes among white children increased the likelihood of placement instability for them by 75 percent, while such episodes decreased the likelihood of permanence by 24 percent among African-American children.

The study also suggested that there was limited access to and underutilization of mental health services among African-American children.

“Children with a history of inpatient mental health treatment, especially when placed in foster care, benefit from continued follow-up and referrals to community mental health agencies to reduce placement disruptions and facilitate timely permanence,” Park said.

Foster-care placements come at considerable cost to taxpayers: Placement in therapeutic foster care can cost $30,000 or more annually, and placement in residential psychiatric care considerably more.

“Early identification of service needs and related interventions for children and youth with intensive mental health needs can be cost-efficient by helping them achieve placement stability and permanence,” Park said.

During the observation period, about 70 percent of the children in the study achieved permanence by returning to their families or through adoption or guardianship.

The study appears in the Jan. 2009 issue of the journal Research on Social Work Practice.

Adapted from materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Newer Antipsychotics Pose Cardiac Risk

Patients advised to avoid the drugs in some cases

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) — A new study warns that the second generation of antipsychotic drugs, used to treat conditions ranging from schizophrenia to anxiety, put patients at higher risk of sudden death due to cardiac arrest.

The odds of a heart problem are low, and specialists said that the drugs are appropriate for certain patients. Still, doctors, families and patients should be cautious, said study lead author Wayne Ray, director of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s Division of Pharmacoepidemiology.

“If they’re being used for schizophrenia, consider a cardiology evaluation. If you’re considering using them for bipolar disorder, think about using another alternative drug first,” Ray said.

And patients should rarely, if ever, take the drugs to treat other conditions, he said.

At issue are newer antipsychotic drugs — clozapine (Clozaril), quetiapine (Seroquel), olanzapine (Zyprexa) and risperidone (Risperdal).

Federal health officials have approved the use of the drugs to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Ray said.

Doctors also prescribe them for so-called “off-label” uses to treat conditions such as anxiety, attention deficit disorder in children and dementia in the elderly.

“For schizophrenics, they work pretty well. They’re pretty much the only alternative,” Ray said. But other drugs offer alternatives for bipolar patients, he said.

For the new study, published in the Jan. 15 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Ray and his colleagues expanded on earlier research that suggested the newer drugs disrupt the heart’s rhythm. The researchers examined the medical records of 44,218 patients who used the older antipsychotic drugs and 46,089 patients who used the newer ones. All the patients lived in Tennessee and were recipients of Medicaid, the government-sponsored insurance program that serves low-income people.

The researchers also looked at the records of 186,600 people who didn’t use antipsychotic drugs.

They found that users of the newer drugs were 2.26 times more likely to suffer from sudden cardiac death than those not on the medications. Those who used the older drugs were 1.99 times more likely to die versus those not taking the medications.

Patients who took the highest doses were at the highest risk. Overall, the patients had a three-in-1,000 risk of sudden cardiac death a year, Ray said.

The numbers may seem low, but they’re significant, Ray said. “If I were talking to a friend or family member, I’d advise them to avoid [the drugs] if possible.”

The drugs appear to cause problems by disrupting potassium in the heart, causing its electrical rhythm to fail, Ray said.

Dr. Sebastian Schneeweiss, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, co-wrote an accompanying commentary in the journal. He said that, considering the risk and lack of evidence that the drugs are useful beyond limited cases, doctors should “sharply” reduce their use to treat conditions other than acute psychosis and schizophrenia.

No Link With Asthma Med and Suicide

FDA says Singulair data do not suggest suicide link

By Ransdell Pierson

 NEW YORK (Reuters) – Jan. 13, 2008 – U.S. regulators on Tuesday said their review of clinical trials does not suggest Merck & Co’s Singulair asthma drug or similar medicines cause suicide or suicidal thought, although the data were inadequate to draw a firm conclusion.

 However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it was continuing to review the data to determine if the class of drugs cause other psychiatric problems, including mood and behavioral changes. The agency noted it may take months to conclude that analysis and report its findings.

 “If the FDA safety review leads to a stern warning about behavioral changes in the Singulair label, this could frighten users of the drug or their parents and give Merck’s competitors ammunition to attack the brand,” Sanford Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson said in a research note.

 The FDA last March said it would conduct a 9-month review of safety data that raised concerns that Singulair (montelukast) might be linked to suicidal thought, suicide and behavioral and mood side effects.

 The agency also studied trials involving two other medicines that work by blocking inflammation-causing proteins called leukotrienes, AstraZeneca Pls’s Accolate (zafirlukast) and Zyflo (zileuton) sold by Cornerstone Therapeutics Inc.

 “Although these data do not suggest that montelukast, zafirlukast or zileuton are associated with suicide or suicidal behavior, these clinical trials were not designed specifically to examine neuropsychiatric events,” the FDA said. “As a result, some events may not have been reported.”

Concerns about a possible suicidal link have arrested sales growth of Singulair, Merck’s biggest product with annual sales of almost $4.5 billion.

 Singulair’s package insert label was changed in late 2007 to include a warning about such a possible association, based on reports of a few suicides among patients that have taken the medicine during its years on the market, Merck said.

“At the time we did not believe, and we still don’t think a link has been established” between Singulair and the suicides, Scott Korn, a senior safety surveillance executive for Merck, said on Tuesday after the FDA issued its partial findings.

 The FDA said it had reviewed results of 41 placebo-controlled trials involving Singulair conducted among patients 6 years of age and older.

 “One adult patient out of 9929 patients treated with (Singulair) had suicidal ideation and there were no completed suicides,” the agency said. It said no patients taking placebos in the Singulair trials had suicidal thoughts or committed suicide.

 No patients taking Accolate in 45 trials had suicidal thoughts or completed suicide, while one patient taking a placebo in the trials tried suicide and another had suicidal thoughts, the FDA said.

 No patients in 11 Zyflo trials, either those taking the drug or a placebo, had suicidal thoughts or completed suicide, the FDA said.

 (Additional reporting by Lisa Richwine in Washington; Editing by Bernard Orr)

Vitamin D Is The ‘It’ Nutrient Of The Moment

ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2009) — Vitamin D is quickly becoming the “it” nutrient with health benefits for diseases, including cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease and now diabetes.

A recent review article published by researchers from Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing concluded that adequate intake of vitamin D may prevent or delay the onset of diabetes and reduce complications for those who have already been diagnosed. These findings appeared in the latest issue of Diabetes Educator.

“Vitamin D has widespread benefits for our health and certain chronic diseases in particular,” said Sue Penckofer, Ph.D., R.N., study co-author and professor, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. “This article further substantiates the role of this nutrient in the prevention and management of glucose intolerance and diabetes.”

Many of the 23 million Americans with diabetes have low vitamin D levels. Evidence suggests that vitamin D plays an integral role in insulin sensitivity and secretion. Vitamin D deficiency results in part from poor nutrition, which is one of the most challenging issues for people with diabetes. Another culprit is reduced exposure to sunlight, which is common during cold weather months when days are shorter and more time is spent indoors.

One study examined for this review article evaluated 3,000 people with type 1 diabetes and found a decreased risk in disease for people who took vitamin D supplements. Observational studies of people with type 2 diabetes also revealed that supplementation may be important in the prevention of this disease.

“Management of vitamin D deficiency may be a simple and cost-effective method to improve blood sugar control and prevent the serious complications associated with diabetes,” said Joanne Kouba, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N., study co-author and clinical assistant professor of dietetics, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing.

Diet alone may not be sufficient to manage vitamin D levels. A combination of adequate dietary intake of vitamin D, exposure to sunlight, and treatment with vitamin D2 or D3 supplements can decrease the risk of diabetes and related health concerns. The preferred range in the body is 30 – 60 ng/mL of 25(OH) vitamin D.

“People at risk for diabetes should be screened for low vitamin D levels,” said Mary Ann Emanuele, M.D., F.A.C.P., study co-author and professor of medicine, division of endocrinology and metabolism, Loyola University Health System. “This will allow health care professionals to identify a nutrient deficiency early on and intervene to improve the long term health of these individuals.”

Adapted from materials provided by Loyola University Health System, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Saliva Test For Autism

Toward a long-sought saliva test for Autism

ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2009) — Researchers in Italy are reporting discovery of abnormal proteins in the saliva of autism patients that could eventually provide a clue for the molecular basis of this severe developmental disorder and could be used as a biomarker for a subgroup of patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Autism involves social withdrawal, impaired emotional responses and communication skills, and other symptoms. With no laboratory test available, scientists are searching for biomarkers such as abnormal proteins that appear in the body fluids of individuals with autism that may provide a way to accurately diagnose autism and track its response to potential treatments.

Massimo Castagnola, Irene Messana, Maria Giulia Torrioli and Fiorella Gurrieri, compared proteins in the saliva of 27 children with ASD to those in a control group without ASD. They discovered that at least one of four proteins in 19 children in the ASD group had significantly lower levels of phosphorylation. That key body process activates proteins so that they can work normally.

The results suggest that these abnormal proteins might be the clue for anomalies in the phosphorylation of proteins involved in development of central nervous system in early infancy that are involved in ASD.

Protein That Protects Against Alzheimer’s?

ScienceDaily (Jan. 10, 2009) — Research on the mechanisms involved in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, to name a few, has taken a step forward thanks to the work of biological sciences Ph.D. student Sonia Do Carmo, supervised by Professor Éric Rassart of the Université du Québec à Montreal (UQAM) Biological Sciences Department, in collaboration with researchers at the Armand-Frappier Institute and the University of Valladolid in Spain.

Do Carmo and her collaborators have successfully demonstrated the protective and reparative role of apolipoprotein D, or ApoD, in neurodegenerative diseases. Their discovery suggests interesting avenues for preventing and slowing the progression of this type of illness.

These studies were inspired by work done ten years ago by Professor Rassart’s team, who then discovered increased levels of ApoD in the brains of people with several types of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s. The team hypothesized that this protein might play a protective and restorative role but were unable to demonstrate this at the time.

The experiments

To establish the protective and reparative role of ApoD, the researchers used two types of genetically modified mice: one type with increased levels of ApoD in the brain and a second type with no ApoD. The mice were then exposed to neurodegenerative agents. A group of the modified mice and a control group (unmodified) were exposed to paraquat, a widely used herbicide that has been shown to increase the risk of Parkinson’s.

Then the same type of experiment was performed by injecting two groups with a virus that causes encephalitis. In both cases, the mice modified for increased levels of ApoD had the best outcomes, with a better ability to combat the diseases and a higher survival rate than the unmodified mice. The knockout mice with no ApoD displayed the poorest outcomes. These experiments serve to illustrate the protective and reparative role of this protein.

When can we expect medication?

A number of steps remain before this research can translate into effective drugs against neurodegenerative conditions. The original investigator, Professor Éric Rassart, explains, “You cannot simply inject ApoD, as it has to enter the brain in order for it to be active. We have successfully demonstrated the role of ApoD, but now we need to understand the action of this protein. Only then will we be able to think about creating a drug to prevent these types of diseases and to slow their progression. All the same, this discovery by Sonia Do Carmo and her collaborators is a significant breakthrough, as we know very little about the mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases.”

My 2 Cents:  So many articles on Alzheimer’s are appearing every day, and believe me, I can use all of this information.  A family member is in the mid stages of Alzheimer’s, and each time we visit she seems to go down hill even more.  She is in hospital awaiting a space in a seniors home; I’m all green to this, but there is so much of the affairs to take care of.  But she’s worth it and it’s so sad the way this disease eats at a person.  One day you are in your own home, and then you are placed in another home with people you don’t even know.  Not fair.

Metabolic Syndrome A Risk For Veterans With PTSD

ScienceDaily (Jan. 9, 2009) — Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to have metabolic syndrome than veterans without PTSD, according to a study led by Pia Heppner, Ph.D., psychologist with the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs of San Diego, VA Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health (CESAMH). 

Metabolic syndrome is composed of a cluster of clinical signs including obesity, high blood pressure and insulin resistance and is also associated with cardiovascular disease.

The researchers studied a group of male and female veterans presenting for screening and treatment within the PTSD programs at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The sample was primarily male (92%) and Caucasian (76%), with an average age of 52 years. A majority of the sample had served in the U.S. Army (71%), and close to 70 % were Vietnam-era veterans. Clinical data indicate that over half (55%) of these veterans had moderate to severe levels of PTSD and 64% met criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD). About 40% of the veterans met criteria for metabolic syndrome.

Controlling for other factors such as age, gender, depression and substance abuse, the researchers found that those with a higher severity of PTSD were more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome. Additionally, the rate of metabolic syndrome was higher among those with PTSD (34%) than in those with MDD (29%). For those with both PTSD and MDD, 46% met criteria for metabolic syndrome.

“Our research indicates that stress and post-stress responses are related to long-term health outcomes,” said Heppner. Studies show that veterans, prisoners of war and individuals exposed to severe trauma have higher rates of disease and increased use of health care, she continued. “Our findings suggest that metabolic syndrome provides a useful framework for assessing and describing the physical burden of PTSD and can be used prospectively to evaluate health risk that may be associated with combat exposure and PTSD.”

Any traumatic event or series of events can cause PTSD and nearly 7.7 million Americans suffer from PTSD in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. A neuropsychiatric illness that was first formally diagnosed in soldiers and war veterans, it is now recognized to afflict many civilians as well. PTSD is caused by horrific, life-threatening and traumatic experiences that can occur during combat deployments. Symptoms include re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and nightmares, avoidance of reminders of the trauma, excessive anxiety and trouble concentrating. Many people with PTSD also develop depression and substance abuse problems. Recent data from Afghanistan and Iraq suggest that more than one in ten military personnel involved in these conflicts develop PTSD.

The authors suggest that future research is needed to evaluate the specific mechanisms in which physiological responses to stress can increase long-term health risk.

Adapted from materials provided by University of California – San Diego, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Antipsychotics for Alzheimer’s up death risk: study

LONDON (Reuters) – Jan. 08, 2008Antipsychotic drugs prescribed to treat aggression in older Alzheimer’s patients appear to significantly raise their risk of dying prematurely, British researchers said Friday.

The results from the first long-term study on the effect of the medicines on people with Alzheimer’s highlights the need to seek less harmful treatments for many of these patients, Clive Ballard of King’s College London and colleagues said.

During their three-year study, men and women given a placebo were 42 percent less likely to die than people who remained on their antipsychotic medication, the study published in the journal Lancet Neurology found.

“Our data add further serious safety concerns about the long-term use of antipsychotics in this population, and clinicians should certainly try to replace antipsychotics with safer management approaches,” the researchers wrote.

Alzheimer’s is an incurable brain disease that worsens over time and is the most common form of dementia, affecting 26 million people globally, according to the Alzheimer’s association.

Antipsychotic drugs have increasingly been used to treat the personality changes and aggression often associated with the disease, but the new findings suggest for many they may not be worth the risk.

“Our opinion is that there is still an important but limited place for atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of severe (symptoms), particularly aggression,” the researchers wrote.

“However, the accumulating safety concerns … emphasize the urgent need to end unnecessary and prolonged prescribing.”

In the study carried out between 2001 and 2004, 128 patients aged from 67 to 100 years were assigned to continue their antipyschotic treatment for 12 months or switched to a placebo.

The drugs included the generic treatments thioridazine, chlorpromazine, haloperidol, trifluorperazine and Johnson & Johnson’s Risperdal, or risperidone.

No one at Johnson & Johnson was immediately available for comment.

After one year, slightly more people in the antipsychotic group had died but after 36 months, survival in the placebo group was 59 percent compared to 30 percent among the people on the drugs.

Other researchers noted that, because antipyschotic drugs are also linked to higher risk of stroke and a decline in brain function, the latest findings underscore the need to find other ways to help such patients.

“This work highlights the pressing need to develop and evaluate alternative pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments for behavioral symptoms in dementia,” Richard Perry, a neurologist at Imperial College Healthcare in London, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by John Stonestreet and Sharon Lindores)

Older Women Who Are More Physically Fit Have Better Cognitive Function

ScienceDaily (Jan. 8, 2009) — New research by Marc Poulin, Paquafit-seniorshD, DPhil, finds that being physically fit helps the brain function at the top of its game. An Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Senior Scholar, Poulin finds that physical activity benefits blood flow in the brain, and, as a result, cognitive abilities.

“Being sedentary is now considered a risk factor for stroke and dementia,” says Poulin, a scientist in the Faculties of Medicine and Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. “This study proves for the first time that people who are fit have better blood flow to their brain. Our findings also show that better blood flow translates into improved cognition.”

The study compares two groups of women whose average age was 65 years old. From a random sample of 42 women living in Calgary, the study observed women who took part in regular aerobic activity, and another group of women who were inactive. Poulin’s team recorded and measured the women’s cardiovascular health, resting brain blood flow and the reserve capacity of blood vessels in the brain, as well as cognitive functions. The team included scientists, doctors and graduate students, with MSc student Allison Brown taking a lead role.

The scientists found that compared to the inactive group, the active group had lower (10 per cent) resting and exercising arterial blood pressure, higher (5 per cent) vascular responses in the brain during submaximal exercise and when the levels of carbon dioxide in the blood were elevated, and higher (10 per cent) cognitive function scores.

One study participant, Calgarian Merceda Schmidt, 91 years old, walks about six kilometres per week to her volunteer schoolteaching and piano playing commitments. “It’s just in my nature – the batteries I got when I was born. My legs want to go,” says Schmidt. “I have to admit, I was nervous before the bike test. I could’ve done better if my shoe hadn’t fallen off.”

“The take home message from our research is that basic fitness – something as simple as getting out for a walk every day – is critical to staying mentally sharp and remaining healthy as we age,” says Poulin, a member of the Department of Physiology & Biophysics, and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

Adapted from materials provided by University of Calgary.

Preventing Teenage Depression


Recognizing Children’s Successes In All Areas May Prevent Teenage Depression

ScienceDaily (Jan. 8, 2009) — Students’ successes in the first grade can affect more than their future report cards. In a new study, University of Missouri researchers found links among students’ weak academic performance in the first grade, self-perceptions in the sixth grade, and depression symptoms in the seventh grade.

“We found that students in the first grade who struggled academically with core subjects, including reading and math, later displayed negative self-perceptions and symptoms of depression in sixth and seventh grade, respectively,” said Keith Herman, associate professor of education, school and counseling psychology in the MU College of Education. “Often, children with poor academic skills believe they have less influence on important outcomes in their life. Poor academic skills can influence how children view themselves as students and as social beings.”


 In the study, MU researchers examined the behaviors of 474 boys and girls in the first grade and re-examined the students when they entered middle school. Herman found that students who struggled academically with core subjects, such as reading and math, in the first grade later showed risk factors for negative self-beliefs and depressive symptoms as they entered sixth and seventh grade. Herman suggests that because differences in children’s learning will continue to exist even if all students are given effective instruction and support, parents and teachers should acknowledge student’s skills in other areas.  

“One of the main ways children can get others to like them in school is by being good students. Children with poor academic skills may believe that they have one less method for influencing important social outcomes, which could lead to negative consequences later in life. Children’s individual differences will always exist in basic academic skills, so it is necessary to explore and emphasize other assets in students, especially those with lower academic skill relative to their peers,” Herman said. “Along with reading and math, teachers and parents should honor skills in other areas, such as interpersonal skills, non-core academic areas, athletics and music.”

The researchers also found the effect of academic proficiency on self-perceptions was significantly stronger for girls. Girls who did not advance academically believed that they had less control of important outcomes, a risk factor for symptoms of depression.
Adapted from materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia.







Eating Disorders & Male Athletes

Eating disorders may be rising among male athletes


By Anne Harding

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Jan. 08, 2009 – More and more male athletes are developing unhealthy eating behaviors after seeing the competitive advantage a leaner physique can bring, a sports medicine doctor warns in a new report.

Recent deaths among wrestlers have raised awareness of eating disorders and their potentially deadly consequences among male athletes, but Dr. James L. Glazer told Reuters Health he’s increasingly seeing problematic eating behavior among men engaged in other sports at the recreational level, such as cyclists, triathletes and Nordic skiers.

Eating problems may first arise in a recreational athlete when he loses a few pounds as a result of training, explained Glazer, of the Maine Medical Center in Portland.

“Often he’ll notice that he’s getting faster and that his placement when he competes is getting higher and better,” he added. “That will change what is a good and a healthy dieting pattern into one that becomes a little problematic and dangerous.”

Eventually, Glazer noted, a man may lose so much weight that his performance starts to suffer. Seeing this change for the worse may be enough to convince him to change his habits for the better, he added.

“Many men can turn things around just with a little bit of increased awareness about nutrition and healthy weight,” Glazer said.

However, men with body dysmorphic disorder, who see themselves as overweight even if they are emaciated, may come up with other reasons for their drop in performance, and resist the idea that they have a problem. “Those can be very difficult cases to treat,” Glazer commented.

Anyone with an eating disorder should see a nutritionist and either a psychologist or psychiatrist, he advised. “Sometimes medications are appropriate and helpful and sometimes athletes get into so much trouble with unhealthy eating that they need to be hospitalized, but that’s a real minority.”

Glazer acknowledged that while the current emphasis on fighting obesity and inactivity has been of great benefit to public health, it may also have led many health professionals to overlook the potential for eating disorders in men who are too thin and perhaps even too active.

Also, he added, there is currently no established consensus on when it is safe for a male athlete with a history of disordered eating to return to his sport.

SOURCE: Current Sports Medicine Reports, November/December 2008.

Childhood Trauma And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Risk Biologically Linked

ScienceDaily (Jan. 7, 2009) — Childhood trauma is a potent risk factor for development of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), according to a study by researchers at Emory University School of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Results of the study confirm that childhood trauma, particularly emotional maltreatment and sexual abuse, is associated with a six-fold increased risk for CFS. The risk further increases with the presence of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms.

The study also found that low levels of cortisol, a hallmark biological feature of CFS, are associated with childhood trauma. Cortisol is frequently referred to as the “stress hormone” and is important to regulate the body’s response to stress. A lack of cortisol’s effects may cause altered or prolonged stress responses.

“The study indicates that low cortisol levels may actually reflect a marker for the risk of developing CFS rather than being a sign of the syndrome itself,” said Christine M. Heim, PhD, lead author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine.

The population-based study analyzed data from 113 people with CFS, and a control group of 124 people without CFS, drawn from a sample of almost 20,000 Georgians. The results confirm earlier findings from a 2006 study conducted in Wichita, Kan.

Study participants completed a self-reported questionnaire on five different types of childhood trauma including emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and emotional and physical neglect. Researchers also collected saliva samples from participants to record levels of cortisol over one hour after awakening, typically an individual’s highest cortisol levels for the day.

“When looking at CFS cases with and without histories of childhood trauma, only those with childhood trauma had the classic low cortisol levels often seen in CFS cases,” explains Heim.

“It is important to emphasize that not all patients with CFS have been through childhood trauma,” she says. “CFS may be part of a spectrum of disorders associated with childhood adversity, which includes depression and anxiety disorders.”

Certain experiences children have while the brain is developing and vulnerable can make a difference in the way the body reacts to stress later in life, and may have long-term health consequences.

“Trauma that occurs at different times in childhood may be linked to different long term changes. It’s an area in which more work is needed,” says Heim.

This study was supported by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Adapted from materials provided by Emory University.

‘Aint Depression the Pits

Well, it’s been 4 ½ months that I’ve been off work on disability for depression, and I’m deemed healthy enough now to return.  I’m lucky, I have a psychiatrist who worked with me on the decision of when to return, asking me if I wanted to in mid February or early March.  I went with February because frankly I’m broke; what with the forms the insurance company requests from the doctor @75.00 each.  I’ve spent over $200.00 alone on forms!  Although I am thankful that my company has short-term disability, you only receive a percentage of your wage.

My dilemma now is:  I have lost so much of my self-confidence.  I had been doing so well at my job, bonuses every month, and then early 2008 everything collapsed and found myself regularly at the bottom of my department’s production standings.  The depression crept gradually and I didn’t recognize it at first.   Perhaps I didn’t want to acknowledge that this was happening to me once again.  I have been living the good life of wellness for a few years now, cruising along, believing depression was a thing of the past. I just didn’t want depression to revisit.

I hated that session with my psychiatrist when he confirmed the dreaded depression was back in my life once more and put me on a antidepressant.  To make a long story short, the antidepressants didn’t do their job; work was suffering, I was suffering and becoming worse and had no alternative but to apply for disability.  It was either getting fired for screwing up while on probation or go the disability route.

But the antidepressants did do their job this time and I’m thankful for that.

I’m returning on a gradual basis starting February 16.  I’m trying to believe in myself and not think negative, but depression hits with such intensity and robs you of self-worth and self-confidence.  I hope I can pull it off.




Depression & Poverty


Depression may underlie “transmission” of poverty

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Jan. 07, 2008 – Children from poor families are more likely than their peers to be depressed as teenagers, with effects that can ultimately make it harder to climb out from poverty, a new study suggests.

 The study, which followed nearly 500 Iowa families for a decade, found that children in poorer families were at greater risk of depression symptoms by adolescence. These teenagers, in turn, were more likely to “grow up” faster — including having sex, leaving home or getting married at an earlier-than-average age.

 This cycle, the study found, eventually put kids at risk of substantial obstacles in young adulthood, such as low education levels, unemployment and a lack of stable relationships in their lives.

 “The main finding shows the continuity of family adversity over generations — from family-of-origin to a young adult’s family,” lead researcher K.A.S. Wickrama, a professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University in Ames, said in a written statement.

 “In other words,” he said, “it’s the transmission of poverty.”

 The findings, which appear in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, suggest that early-life stress and depression symptoms feed each other, ultimately making the transition to adulthood a tough one, according to Wickrama’s team.

 Children from poor families, the researchers say, are particularly vulnerable to becoming “trapped in the self-perpetuating cycle of adverse life circumstances and poor health.”

 “These findings emphasize the need for federal, state, and local level policies and programs designed to reduce childhood adversity,” Wickrama and his colleagues write.

 Such policies, according to Wickrama, should focus on boosting at-risk children’s “resiliency” — by investing in education, for example, or in programs aimed at improving kids’ psychological well-being.

 “The policies and intervention programs need to focus on early intervention,” Wickrama said. “That is the real lesson, because early levels of depression have a persistent influence. So you need to intervene early in childhood and adolescence — not when they become young adults.”

 SOURCE: Journal of Health and Social Behavior, December 2008.

Why Smokers Struggle To Quit, New Findings


ScienceDaily (Jan. 5, 2009) — Just seeing someone smoke can trigger smokers to abandon their nascent efforts to kick the habit, according to new research conducted at Duke University Medical Center.

Brain scans taken during normal smoking activity and 24 hours after quitting show there is a marked increase in a particular kind of brain activity when quitters see photographs of people smoking.

The study, which appears online in Psychopharmacology, sheds important light on why it’s so hard for people to quit smoking, and why they relapse so quickly, explains Joseph McClernon, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center.

“Only five percent of unaided quit attempts result in successful abstinence,” says McClernon. “Most smokers who try to quit return to smoking again. We are trying to understand how that process works in the brain, and this research brings us one step closer.”

The Duke researchers used a brain-imaging tool called functional MRI to visualize changes in brain activity that occurs when smokers quit. The smokers were scanned once before quitting and again 24 hours after they quit. Each time they were scanned while being shown photographs of people smoking.

“Quitting smoking dramatically increased brain activity in response to seeing the smoking cues,” says McClernon, “which seems to indicate that quitting smoking is actually sensitizing the brain to these smoking cues.”

Even more surprising, he adds, is the area of the brain that was activated by the cues. “We saw activation in the dorsal striatum, an area involved in learning habits or things we do by rote, like riding a bike or brushing our teeth. Our research shows us that when smokers encounter these cues after quitting, it activates the area of the brain responsible for automatic responses. That means quitting smoking may not be a matter of conscious control. So, if we’re really going to help people quit, this emphasizes the need to do more than tell people to resist temptation. We also have to help them break that habitual response.”

New treatment options at Duke are aiming to do just that. One area of research is focusing on the use of a nicotine patch prior to quitting smoking.

In previously published research, Jed Rose, Director of the Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research and co-author of this paper as well, showed that wearing the patch and smoking a cigarette with no nicotine proved successful at breaking the learned behavior. “The smoking behavior is not reinforced because the act of smoking is not leading them to get the nicotine,” Rose said. “Doing this before people actually quit helps them break the habit so they start smoking less. We’re seeing people quit longer this way.”

Adapted from materials provided by Duke University Medical Center, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

My 2 Cents:  I found this article interesting, however, it really doesn’t surprise me that some people who see others who smoke would lead them to smoke if they were trying to quit.  There lies the struggle.  Almost the same as dieting.  You are eating a salad in a restaurant and the guy across from you is eating a huge piece of cake.  You weren’t going to order anything after the meal but then think twice about a piece of cake or pie.  The diet struggle.

Adult-onset Diabetes & Mental Functioning

Adult-onset Diabetes Slows Mental Functioning In Several Ways, With Deficits Appearing Early


ScienceDaily (Jan. 6, 2009) — Adults with diabetes experience a slowdown in several types of mental processing, which appears early in the disease and persists into old age, according to new research. Given the sharp rise in new cases of diabetes, this finding means that more adults may soon be living with mild but lasting deficits in their thought processes.

A full analysis appears in the January issue of Neuropsychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

Researchers at Canada’s University of Alberta analyzed a cross-section of adults with and without adult-onset Type 2 diabetes, all followed in the Victoria Longitudinal Study. At three-year intervals, this study tracks three independent samples of initially healthy older adults to assess biomedical, health, cognitive and neurocognitive aspects of aging. The Neuropsychology study involved 41 adults with diabetes and 424 adults in good health, between ages 53 and 90.

The research confirmed previous reports that diabetes impairs cognition and added two important findings. First, it teased out the specific domains hurt by diabetes. Second, it revealed that the performance gap was not worse in the older group. Thus, the reductions in executive function and processing speed seem to begin earlier in the disease.

Healthy adults performed significantly better than adults with diabetes on two of the five domains tested: executive functioning, with significant differences across four different tests, and speed, with significant differences or trends across five different tests. There were no significant differences on tests of episodic and semantic memory, verbal fluency, reaction time and perceptual speed.

When researchers divided participants into young-old and old-old, with age 70 as the cutoff, they found the same pattern of cognitive differences between young-old and old-old in the diabetes and control groups. Thus, the researchers concluded, the diabetes-linked cognitive deficits appear early and remain stable.

“Speed and executive functioning are thought to be among the major components of cognitive health,” says co-author Roger Dixon, PhD. With Type 2 diabetes a growing concern among adults of all ages, but especially those above age 30, Dixon says that public health programs could check the cognitive status of people with more advanced or severe cases; ensure that diet and medications are effectively employed in all early diagnosed cases; and enact possible cognitive monitoring or training programs for people with diabetes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new cases of diabetes nearly doubled in the past decade, with nearly one new case for every 100 adults between the years 2005 and 2007.

The normal age-related slowing of thought processes could be exacerbated by diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, says Dixon. But, he continues, “There could be some ways to compensate for these declines, at least early and with proper management.” The level of impairment detected, he adds, should not make it hard for people to manage their condition.

Diabetes is a known risk factor for late-life neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Although the deficits detected in the current sample were not clinically significant, they appear (according to subsequent research by the authors) to foreshadow additional deficits. Only further study would reveal whether it’s possible to “connect the dots” between mild early deficits in speed and executive function, and later signs of a progressive cognitive impairment.

Adapted from materials provided by American Psychological Association, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Scientists Make Strides Toward Defining Genetic Signature Of Alzheimer’s Disease

ScienceDaily (Jan. 5, 2009) — Scientists have new information about the complex genetic signature associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of cognitive decline and dementia in the elderly. The research, published by Cell Press in the January issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, uses a powerful, high-resolution analysis to look for genes associated with this devastating neurodegenerative disorder.

Previous research linked late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form, with the apolipoprotein E gene. However, the genetics of the disease are complex and are not well understood. “Though apolipoprotein E has been universally confirmed as a risk gene for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, the gene is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause AD and as much as 50% of the genetic risk effect remains unexplained,” says senior study author Dr. Margaret A. Pericak-Vance from the Miami Institute for Human Genomics at the University of Miami in Florida.

To gain further insight into the genetics of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Pericak-Vance and colleagues completed a sophisticated and comprehensive genetic analysis of 492 late-onset Alzheimer’s disease patients and 498 control individuals. The analysis was powerful enough to detect single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are significantly more prevalent in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease than they are in controls. A SNP is a variation of a single nucleotide of DNA.

The researchers confirmed the known apolipoprotein E association and identified a new association with a SNP on chromosome 12q13. The SNP is close to the gene for the vitamin D receptor, which has previously been linked with memory performance. “There is no known connection between this SNP and the vitamin D receptor, but the region between the two is largely uncharacterized, and it is possible that our SNP is in a region that may play some sort of regulatory role,” offers Dr. Jonathan Haines, co-director of the project at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Human Genetics Research.

The team also identified four other regions of interest and validated several candidate genes that exhibited a promising genome-wide association with Alzheimer’s disease. “Detailed functional examination of these signals and genes may lead to a better understanding of the complex pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease,” concludes Dr. Pericak-Vance.

Adapted from materials provided by Cell Press, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Societal, Economic Burden Of Insomnia Is High

ScienceDaily (Jan. 4, 2009) — A new study indicates that the indirect costs of untreated insomnia are significantly greater than the direct costs associated with its treatment. The study estimates that the total annual cost of insomnia in the province of Quebec is 6.5 billion Canadian dollars, representing about one percent of the province’s $228.5 billion in gross domestic product for 2002.

Annual indirect costs of insomnia related to lost hours of productivity are estimated to be $5 billion, representing the largest proportion (76 percent) of all insomnia costs. The annual estimate of insomnia-related lost productivity is 27.6 days per year for individuals with insomnia syndrome, and 6.2 days per year for people with insomnia symptoms. The second-highest cost of insomnia is attributed to job absenteeism, with $970.6 million – 14.7 percent of the total economic burden of insomnia – estimated to be lost annually due to insomnia-related absences. Individuals with insomnia syndrome are absent from work an estimated 4.36 days per year because of insomnia.

Lead author of the study, Meagan Daley, PhD, professor of psychology and business, in Quebec City, Canada stated that costs associated with the use of alcohol as a sleep aid exceed those associated with consultations and the use of medications and over-the-counter products.

The total estimated annual cost of alcohol used for promoting sleep is $339.8 million, which is the highest direct cost, representing 60 percent of all direct costs and five percent of all insomnia-related costs. The annual cost of insomnia-related consultations with a health-care professional is estimated to be $85.3 million (32.6 percent of all direct costs and 2.9 percent of overall costs), and an estimated $16.5 million is spent annually on prescription medications for insomnia (only 2.8 percent of direct costs and less than one percent of overall costs). According to the authors the centralization of the health-care system in Quebec keeps salaries and capital costs relatively low, and most medications prescribed for sleep in Canada are inexpensive generic drugs.

Daley said, “This study demonstrated that it is not the costs associated with seeking out treatment (for insomnia), such as consulting health-care professionals or purchasing medications or over-the-counter products that constitute anywhere near the largest proportion of expenditures. Rather, indirect costs constitute the greatest proportion of all insomnia costs, with about ¾ of overall costs being due to lost work productivity.”

This study was a part of a larger epidemiological study documenting the natural history of insomnia. A total of 948 randomly selected adults were chosen from the province of Quebec, Canada, to participate. The mean age of participants was 43.7 years. Sixty percent of participants were female. Volunteers completed questionnaires on sleep, health, use of health-care services and products, accidents, work absences and reduced productivity in the previous three months. Data were also obtained from the government-administered health-insurance board in Quebec regarding consultations and hospitalizations.

Participants were categorized using a standard algorithm as having insomnia syndrome or insomnia symptoms, or as being good sleepers. Of the 948 participants, 493 (51.7 percent) were classified as good sleepers, 308 (32.3 percent) as having insomnia symptoms, and 147 (15.4 percent) as having insomnia syndrome.

Good sleepers were satisfied with their sleep, did not report insomnia symptoms and did not use sleep-promoting medications. Individuals with insomnia symptoms presented symptoms of initial, maintenance or late insomnia three or more times per week, without fulfilling all criteria of an insomnia syndrome; they could be satisfied with their sleep, report no distress or daytime consequences, or have insomnia symptoms that were present for less than one month. Participants with insomnia syndrome met all diagnostic criteria for insomnia; they expressed dissatisfaction with sleep and presented symptoms of initial, maintenance or late insomnia three nights per week for a minimum duration of one month.

Results estimate that the annual per-person insomnia related costs are $5,010 for those with insomnia syndrome ($293 in direct costs and $4,717 in indirect costs); $1,431 for those with insomnia symptoms ($160 in direct costs and $1,271 in indirect costs); and $422 for good sleepers ($45 in direct costs and $376 in indirect costs).

The authors conclude that an increased awareness of the availability and effectiveness of insomnia treatments, both on the part of the public as well as health-care providers, could lead to significant reductions in the overall cost of insomnia to society.

Adapted from materials provided by American Academy of Sleep Medicine, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

My 2 Cents:  I am not a great sleeper and I take medication to help me sleep.  This at times doesn’t even help, but I don’t want to increase and be dopey the next day.