The Insanity Virus

Pin It

Schizophrenia has long been blamed on bad genes or even bad parents. Wrong, says a growing group of psychiatrists. The real culprit, they claim, is a virus that lives entwined in every person’s DNA.

teven and David Elmore were born identical twins, but their first days in this world could not have been more different. David came home from the hospital after a week. Steven, born four minutes later, stayed behind in the ICU. For a month he hovered near death in an incubator, wracked with fever from what doctors called a dangerous viral infection. Even after Steven recovered, he lagged behind his twin. He lay awake but rarely cried. When his mother smiled at him, he stared back with blank eyes rather than mirroring her smiles as David did. And for several years after the boys began walking, it was Steven who often lost his balance, falling against tables or smashing his lip.

Those early differences might have faded into distant memory, but they gained new significance in light of the twins’ subsequent lives. By the time Steven entered grade school, it appeared that he had hit his stride. The twins seemed to have equalized into the genetic carbon copies that they were: They wore the same shoulder-length, sandy-blond hair. They were both B+ students. They played basketball with the same friends. Steven Elmore had seemingly overcome his rough start. But then, at the age of 17, he began hearing voices.

The voices called from passing cars as Steven drove to work. They ridiculed his failure to find a girlfriend. Rolling up the car windows and blasting the radio did nothing to silence them. Other voices pursued Steven at home. Three voices called through the windows of his house: two angry men and one woman who begged the men to stop arguing. Another voice thrummed out of the stereo speakers, giving a running commentary on the songs of Steely Dan or Led Zeppelin, which Steven played at night after work. His nerves frayed and he broke down. Within weeks his outbursts landed him in a psychiatric hospital, where doctors determined he had schizophrenia.

The story of Steven and his twin reflects a long-standing mystery in schizophrenia, one of the most common mental diseases on earth, affecting about 1 percent of humanity. For a long time schizophrenia was commonly blamed on cold mothers. More recently it has been attributed to bad genes. Yet many key facts seem to contradict both interpretations.

Schizophrenia is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25, but the person who becomes schizophrenic is sometimes recalled to have been different as a child or a toddler—more forgetful or shy or clumsy. Studies of family videos confirm this. Even more puzzling is the so-called birth-month effect: People born in winter or early spring are more likely than others to become schizophrenic later in life. It is a small increase, just 5 to 8 percent, but it is remarkably consistent, showing up in 250 studies. That same pattern is seen in people with bipolar disorder or multiple sclerosis.

“The birth-month effect is one of the most clearly established facts about schizophrenia,” says Fuller Torrey, director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland. “It’s difficult to explain by genes, and it’s certainly difficult to explain by bad mothers.”

The facts of schizophrenia are so peculiar, in fact, that they have led Torrey and a growing number of other scientists to abandon the traditional explanations of the disease and embrace a startling alternative. Schizophrenia, they say, does not begin as a psychological disease. Schizophrenia begins with an infection……

Reported by Douglas Fox
Discover
http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jun/03-the-insanity-virus

Disclaimer: Neither SARDAA nor SA, assume any legal liability, responsibility nor does inclusion of articles or comments constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed in the blog.

The Metal Marvel That Has Mended Brains for 50 Years

Lithium—a simple metal and the oldest drug in psychiatry—might protect the brain against mental illness, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases. One problem: There’s no profit in it…..

Reported by Paul Raeburn
Discover
http://discovermagazine.com/2010/the-brain-2/27-metal-marvel-mended-brains-50-years-lithium

Disclaimer: Neither SARDAA nor SA, assume any legal liability, responsibility nor does inclusion of articles or comments constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed in the blog.

Studies show adverse side effects in Schizophrenia drugs

The November 2010 issue of Nature reported that several large pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, have chosen to pull out of the psychiatric pharmacology in the treatment of schizophrenia. The reason is obvious, according to Nature author, Abbott: The first generation of schizophrenia drugs (manufactured in the 1950s) and the second generation (manufactured in the 1990s) have not addressed the adverse side effects of antipsychotic drugs on patients…..

Reported by Amy Chaves
Natural News.com
http://www.naturalnews.com/030847_schizophrenia_drugs_side_effects.html

References: Abbott, A. (11 November, 2010). The drug deadlock. Nature, 468, 158-159.

Bagnall, A. M., Jones, L., Ginnelly, L., Lewis, R., Glanville, J., Gibody, S.,…Kleijnen, J. (2003). A systematic review of atypical antipsychotic drugs in schizophenia (Executive Summary). Health Technology Assessment, 7(13). Retrieved from http://www.hta.ac.uk/pdfexecs/summ7…

Dobbs, D. (11 November, 2010). The making of a troubled mind. Nature, 468, 154-156.

Disclaimer: Neither SARDAA nor SA, assume any legal liability, responsibility nor does inclusion of articles or comments constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed in the blog.

Delusions in Schizophrenia Linked to Abnormal Midbrain Activation to Neutral Stimuli

Patients with schizophrenia exhibit impaired activation of the midbrain when shown neutral stimuli during aversive conditioning, according to a small functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study.

The abnormal activation of this region, which is responsible for associative learning, appeared to be linked to the severity of the patients’ delusional symptoms, report the researchers.

“We found that the patients with schizophrenia, and especially the ones who had the most delusional symptoms, showed responses in the parts of the brain that normally tell you what’s important when they shouldn’t have done, such as in a neutral phase. And that was in line with our expectations,” study coauthor Jeremy Hall, PhD, MRCPsych, senior research fellow in psychiatry in the Division of Psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland, told Medscape Medical News.

Reported by Deborah Brauser
Medscape Today
http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/734630
Reference: Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67:1246-1254.

Disclaimer: Neither SARDAA nor SA, assume any legal liability, responsibility nor does inclusion of articles or comments constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed in the blog.

Slipping the ‘Cognitive Straitjacket’ of Psychiatric Diagnosis Psychiatry’s diagnostic bible meets the awkward facts of genetics

It can fairly be said that modern psychiatric diagnosis was “born” in a 1970 paper on schizophrenia.

The authors, Washington University psychiatry professors Eli Robins and Samuel B. Guze, rejected the murky psychoanalytic diagnostic formulations of their time. Instead, they embraced a medical model inspired by the careful 19th-century observational work of Emil Kraepelin, long overlooked during the mid-20th-century dominance of Freudian theory. Mental disorders were now to be seen as distinct categories, much as different bacterial and viral infections produce characteristic diseases that can be seen as distinct “natural kinds.”

Disorders, Robins and Guze argued, should be defined based on phenomenology: clinical descriptions validated by long-term follow-up to demonstrate the stability of the diagnosis over time. With scientific progress, they expected fuller validation of mental disorders to derive from laboratory findings and studies of familial transmission.

This descriptive approach to psychiatric diagnosis — based on lists of symptoms, their timing of onset, and the duration of illness — undergirded the American Psychiatric Association’s widely disseminated and highly influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, first published in 1980. Since then, the original “DSM-III” has yielded two relatively conservative revisions, and right now, the DSM-5 is under construction. Sadly, it is clear that the optimistic predictions of Robins and Guze have not been realized.

Four decades after their seminal paper, there are still no widely validated laboratory tests for any common mental illness. Worse, an enormous number of family and genetic studies have not only failed to validate the major DSM disorders as natural kinds, but instead have suggested that they are more akin to chimaeras. Unfortunately for the multitudes stricken with mental illness, the brain has not given up its secrets easily…….

Reported by Steven E. Hyman
Scientific American
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=dsm-psychiatric-genetics

Disclaimer: Neither SARDAA nor SA, assume any legal liability, responsibility nor does inclusion of articles or comments constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed in the blog.

What’s A Mental Disorder? Even Experts Can’t Agree

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM, updated roughly every 15 years, has detailed descriptions of all the mental disorders officially recognized by psychiatry. It’s used by psychiatrists, insurance companies, drug researchers, the courts and even schools.

But it’s not without controversy: The proposed changes suggested this year have sparked a kind of civil war within psychiatry……

Reported by Alix Spiegel
npr
http://www.npr.org/2010/12/29/132407384/whats-a-mental-disorder-even-experts-cant-agree

Disclaimer: Neither SARDAA nor SA, assume any legal liability, responsibility nor does inclusion of articles or comments constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed in the blog

Excellence in Mental Health Act Introduced in U.S. Senate, Senators Stabenow and Reed Call for Federally Qualified Community Behavioral Health Centers

Washington, DC (December 16, 2010)—Excellence in Mental Health Act in the U.S. Senate today by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI). The Act seeks to increase access to community mental health and substance use treatment services for all Americans and to improve Medicaid reimbursement for these services.

“Every year, more than 5 million Americans are diagnosed with serious mental illnesses. Although we have made great progress in eliminating some of the stigma surrounding mental illness, access to care is still a problem for too many of these patients. My legislation will increase access to critical behavioral health services by making key investments in our nation’s mental health centers,” said Senator Stabenow, in explaining why she and Senator Reed have sponsored the Excellence in Mental Health Act.

Senator Reed, a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said, “This comprehensive approach will improve access to mental health services for those who need them most and can help reduce long-term healthcare costs.”

The Excellence in Mental Health Act requires the federal government to establish criteria for an organization to qualify as a “Community Behavioral Health Center” (CBHC), to be reimbursed at a minimum rate — based on reasonable cost per visit incurred — for services provided to Medicaid patients. The act also calls for grants for capital improvements and health information technology and services provided by CBHCs to be recognized as mandatory in state Medicaid programs. Currently, Medicaid excludes community behavioral health from the minimum reimbursement privileges available to the primary care safety net.

“It’s time to end the discrimination. America must recognize that behavioral health is integral to overall health. We are grateful to Senators Reed and Stabenow for leading the way with the Excellence in Mental Health Act,” said Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council.

Other provisions in the proposed legislation include increased resources for community behavioral health providers to adopt health information technology, make infrastructure improvements, provide telehealth services, and become eligible for discounted medicines.

“Bringing behavioral health on par with the rest of healthcare gives community providers struggling in the face of brutal budget cuts a new lease of life so they can continue to offer quality services to our most vulnerable populations. The Excellence in Mental Health Act is a milestone in public health,” said Charles Ingoglia, vice president for public policy at the National Council.

In June 2010, the Mental Health and Addiction Safety Net Equity Act, HR 5636, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY). That bill also seeks to establish federal status for organizations that offer treatment and supports for millions of poor and vulnerable persons with mental and addiction disorders.

“We encourage mental health advocates nationwide to urge their members of Congress to support the Excellence in Mental Health Act as well as the Mental Health and Addiction Safety Net Equity Act. Both bills are expected to shape the future of community behavioral health in our nation,” said Charles Ingoglia.

Reported by National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare and The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare

Disclaimer: Neither SARDAA nor SA, assume any legal liability, responsibility nor does inclusion of articles or comments constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed in the blog.

In Pursuit of a Mind Map, Slice by Slice

CAMBRIDGE, Mass — Dr. Jeff Lichtman likes his brains sliced thin — very, very thin.

Dr. Lichtman and his team of researchers at Harvard have built some unusual contraptions that carve off slivers of mouse brains as part of a quest to understand how the mind works. Their goal is to run slice after minuscule slice under a powerful electron microscope, develop detailed pictures of the brain’s complex wiring and then stitch the images back together. In short, they want to build a full map of the mind.

The field, at a very nascent stage, is called connectomics, and the neuroscientists pursuing it compare their work to early efforts in genetics. What they are doing, these scientists say, is akin to trying to crack the human genome — only this time around, they want to find how memories, personality traits and skills are stored……

Reported by ASHLEE VANCE
The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/28/science/28brain.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Disclaimer: Neither SARDAA nor SA, assume any legal liability, responsibility nor does inclusion of articles or comments constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed in the blog.

Scans could predict onset of schizophrenia

Brain scans could be used to predict the onset of schizophrenia in young people with a family history of the disease, a new study suggests.

An Edinburgh University study has shown people who later develop schizophrenia suffer from an accelerated brain shrinking before they become unwell.

Schizophrenia is a condition involving delusions and hallucinations.

It is associated with a reduction in brain tissue but the timing of these changes has, until now, been unclear.

Schizophrenia affects one in every 100 people.

The study examined people at high risk of schizophrenia who had two close relatives with the disorder and were between 16 and 25 at the beginning of the research.

This is the first time such changes in the brain size have been found in people at high risk of schizophrenia before they develop any symptoms.

Unlike previous studies, the changes cannot be due to medication as all of the people in the study were un-medicated when they took part.

In healthy people, the brain begins to shrink from early adulthood onwards.

Medical treatment

It is known that accelerated brain shrinkage occurs in people with bipolar disorder, or manic-depression, and schizophrenia, but until now it was not known whether these changes occurred before people became unwell.

Researchers said scans could be used to identify shrinkage of the brain in people at high risk of schizophrenia and may help doctors to diagnose the condition and start treatment at an earlier stage or even before illness first appears.

The study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, shows the loss of brain tissue is concentrated in areas of the brain that control personality, decision making and social behaviour.

Dr. Andrew McIntosh, at Edinburgh University’s division of psychiatry, said: “This study represents the culmination of more than 10 years of work and is a significant step to understanding the origins of schizophrenia years before the onset of disability and medical treatment.”

The team analysed brain scans of 146 people with a family history of schizophrenia but who had not yet experienced any symptoms and compared them with scans of 36 people with no such risk.

The scans were taken every 18 months over a 10 year period.

BBC News
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-12059444

Reference: Longitudinal Volume Reductions in People at High Genetic Risk of Schizophrenia as They Develop Psychosis. McIntosh AM, Owens DC, Moorhead WJ, Whalley HC, Stanfield AC, Hall J, Johnstone EC, Lawrie SM. Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Dec 16. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 21168123 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Disclaimer: Neither SARDAA nor SA, assume any legal liability, responsibility nor does inclusion of articles or comments constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed in the blog.