Arquivo da tag: Saúde mental

‘It’s OK to feel anxious.’ How a professor in China faced coronavirus disruptions and fears (Science)

Robert Neubecker

By Kai Liu – Mar. 17, 2020 , 9:00 AM

In early February, I was working from home when I received a message informing me—and all the other professors at my university in China—that courses would be taught online because of the novel coronavirus. I was already feeling anxious about the mounting epidemic, and my university had locked its doors a few days earlier. Then, when I realized I’d have to teach students online, my anxiety level grew. I didn’t have any experience with online teaching platforms. I was also skeptical about how effective they’d be. “How will I gauge the students’ reactions to my lectures through a computer screen?” I wondered. “Will they learn anything?”

people sitting at a dinner table

I live in Xuzhou, China—roughly 500 kilometers from Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike Wuhan, my city isn’t on lockdown, but residents have been discouraged from going outside and many businesses and institutions are closed. I’ve spent most of the past 2 months at home, along with my wife and daughter, fearful of the future and wondering when life will get back to normal.  

Thankfully, none of my family members, friends, or colleagues have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Working from home is also possible for me because my research doesn’t involve lab work. But the spread of the virus and the rapidly rising death toll have weighed heavily on my mind. I’ve found it difficult to sleep. I’ve also had trouble focusing on work. One day early in the outbreak, I sat down at my computer intending to write a grant proposal. But all I could do was stare at the screen.

Years ago, I’d heard that Taoism philosophies were helpful for finding internal peace. So, I decided to listen to a few recordings. One instructed listeners to “govern [yourself] by doing nothing that goes against nature.” That resonated with me because I realized that I’d been trying to push my anxieties aside and force myself to concentrate on work—an approach that wasn’t working because it didn’t feel natural. From then on, I told myself that it was OK to feel anxious, even if it impeded my work. That helped to lessen my internal struggles.

Over the past 2 months, I’ve also learned how to teach courses online, and I have found unexpected joy in that process—even though I struggled at first. There were multiple online teaching platforms to choose from, and I didn’t know which one was best or how to use it. I opted for a platform that had a large server, thinking that it would cope better with heavy usage. My university provided some helpful guidance, and I also learned through trial and error.

I’ve spent most of the past 2 months at home … wondering when life will get back to normal.

My first lecture was especially difficult because I couldn’t see the students’ faces. I was accustomed to lecturing in front of an audience. Online, I felt like I was speaking at my students but not getting anything in return. I communicated with a few of them afterward to get their feedback and they agreed with me, saying that I needed to find a way to make my lectures more interactive. So, I started to encourage my students to leave questions for me in the platform’s comment section during my lectures.

Almost immediately, my students started peppering me with questions. I was surprised by the level of engagement. In a normal classroom setting, they are afraid to raise their hands; most wait until after the lecture is over to approach me and ask a question. But online, students were more comfortable sharing their questions in front of the entire class. That was a great outcome because if one student has a question, it’s likely that another student has the same question and would benefit from hearing the answer. I’ve also been pleased to see from the homework assignments that they are following my teaching well.

China was the first country to close its universities, but over the past month, universities in Italy, the United States, and elsewhere have made similar moves. I hope that my story can provide inspiration for academics who are fearful of what’s to come. It’s OK to feel anxious. But I’d also recommend staying open to change. You never know what you’ll learn.

Original publication

Why nutritional psychiatry is the future of mental health treatment (The Conversation)

A lack of essential nutrients is known to contribute to the onset of poor mental health in people suffering from anxiety and depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and ADHD. Nutritional psychiatry is a growing discipline that focuses on the use of food and supplements to provide these essential nutrients as part of an integrated or alternative treatment for mental health disorders.

But nutritional approaches for these debilitating conditions are not widely accepted by mainstream medicine. Treatment options tend to be limited to official National Institute for Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines which recommend talking therapies and antidepressants.

Use of antidepressants

Antidepressant use has more than doubled in recent years. In England 64.7m prescriptions were issued for antidepressants in 2016 at a cost of £266.6m. This is an increase of 3.7m on the number of items prescribed in 2015 and more than double than the 31m issued in 2006.

A recent Oxford University study found that antidepressants were more effective in treating depression than placebo. The study was led by Dr Andrea Cipriani who claimed that depression is under treated. Cipriani maintains that antidepressants are effective and a further 1m prescriptions should be issued to people in the UK.

This approach suggests that poor mental health caused by social conditions is viewed as easily treated by simply dispensing drugs. But antidepressants are shunned by people whom they could help because of the social stigma associated with mental ill-health which leads to discrimination and exclusion.

Prescriptions for 64.7m items of antidepressants were dispensed in England in 2016, the highest level recorded by the NHS. Shutterstock

More worrying is the increase in the use of antidepressants by children and young people. In Scotland, 5,572 children under 18 were prescribed antidepressants for anxiety and depression in 2016. This figure has more than doubled since 2009/2010.

But according to British psychopharmacologist Professor David Healy, 29 clinical trials of antidepressant use in young people found no benefits at all. These trials revealed that instead of relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression, antidepressants caused children and young people to feel suicidal.

Healy also challenges their safety and effectiveness in adults. He believes that antidepressants are over-prescribed and that there is little evidence that they are safe for long-term use. Antidepressants are said to create dependency, have unpleasant side effects and cannot be relied upon to always relieve symptoms.

Nutrition and poor mental health

In developed countries such as the UK people eat a greater variety of foodstuffs than ever before – but it doesn’t follow that they are well nourished. In fact, many people do not eat enough nutrients that are essential for good brain health, opting for a diet of heavily processed food containing artificial additives and sugar.

The link between poor mental health and nutritional deficiencies has long been recognised by nutritionists working in the complementary health sector. However, psychiatrists are only now becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of using nutritional approaches to mental health, calling for their peers to support and research this new field of treatment.

It is now known that many mental health conditions are caused by inflammation in the brain which ultimately causes our brain cells to die. This inflammatory response starts in our gut and is associated with a lack of nutrients from our food such as magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, vitamins and minerals that are all essential for the optimum functioning of our bodies.

Recent research has shown that food supplements such as zinc, magnesium, omega 3, and vitamins B and D3 can help improve people’s mood, relieve anxiety and depression and improve the mental capacity of people with Alzheimer’s.

Magnesium is one of most important minerals for optimal health, yet many people are lacking in it. One studyfound that a daily magnesium citrate supplement led to a significant improvement in depression and anxiety, regardless of age, gender or severity of depression. Improvement did not continue when the supplement was stopped.

Omega-3 fatty acids are another nutrient that is critical for the development and function of the central nervous system – and a lack has been associated with low mood, cognitive decline and poor comprehension.

Research has shown that supplements like zinc, magnesium and vitamins B and D can improve the mental capacity of people with Alzheimer’s. Shutterstock

The role of probiotics – the beneficial live bacteria in your digestive system – in improving mental health has also been explored by psychiatrists and nutritionists, who found that taking them daily was associated with a significant reduction in depression and anxiety. Vitamin B complex and zinc are other supplements found to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Hope for the future?

These over-the-counter” supplements are widely available in supermarkets, chemists and online health food stores, although the cost and quality may vary. For people who have not responded to prescription drugs or who cannot tolerate the side effects, nutritional intervention can offer hope for the future.

There is currently much debate over the effectiveness of antidepressants. The use of food supplements offer an alternative approach that has the potential to make a significant difference to the mental health of all age groups.

The emerging scientific evidence suggests that there should be a bigger role for nutritional psychiatry in mental health within conventional health services. If the burden of mental ill health is to be reduced, GPs and psychiatrists need to be aware of the connection between food, inflammation and mental illness.

Medical education has traditionally excluded nutritional knowledge and its association with disease. This has led to a situation where very few doctors in the UK have a proper understanding of the importance of nutrition. Nutritional interventions are thought to have little evidence to support their use to prevent or maintain well-being and so are left to dietitians, rather than doctors, to advise on.

But as the evidence mounts up, it is time for medical education to take nutrition seriously so that GPs and psychiatrists of the future know as much about its role in good health as they do about anatomy and physiology. The state of our mental health could depend on it.

Distúrbios na academia (Pesquisa Fapesp)

Universidades trabalham no desenvolvimento de estratégias de prevenção e atendimento psicológico de alunos de graduação e pós-graduação




O caso de um estudante de doutorado que se suicidou nos laboratórios do Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas da Universidade de São Paulo (ICB-USP), em agosto deste ano, colocou em evidência a discussão sobre as pressões enfrentadas pelos que optam por seguir a carreira acadêmica e os distúrbios psicológicos relacionados à vida na pós-graduação. Esse é um assunto que aos poucos começa a ser mais discutido no Brasil. No entanto, ainda são poucas as universidades brasileiras que investem na criação de centros de atendimento psicológico aos seus estudantes de graduação e pós-graduação.

O problema é mundial. Na Bélgica, um estudo publicado em maio na revista Research Policy verificou que um terço dos 3.659 estudantes de doutorado das universidades da região de Flandres corria o risco de desenvolver algum tipo de doença psiquiátrica.
Em 2014, um estudo da Universidade da Califórnia em Berkeley, nos Estados Unidos, constatou que 785 (31,4%) de 2.500 estudantes de pós-graduação apresentavam sinais de depressão. O estudo fazia parte de um trabalho mais amplo, desenvolvido desde 1994, quando se constatou que 10% dos pós-graduandos e dos pesquisadores em estágio de pós-doutorado da universidade já haviam considerado se suicidar.

No Reino Unido, um estudo publicado em 2001 na Educational Psychology verificou que 53% dos pesquisadores das universidades britânicas sofriam de algum distúrbio mental, enquanto na Austrália a taxa foi considerada até quatro vezes maior no meio acadêmico em comparação com a população de modo geral. Apesar de se basearem em uma amostra relativamente pequena, esses estudos evidenciam uma preocupação que começa a se tornar latente no meio acadêmico no mundo: estudantes de graduação e pós-graduação estão sujeitos a pressões que podem desencadear uma série de transtornos mentais.

Como nos outros países, no Brasil, a quantidade de estudos, dados e iniciativas envolvendo esse assunto ainda é singela. Em São Paulo, a Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp) pretende lançar no início de 2018  o projeto “Bem viver para tod@s”. A iniciativa prevê a realização de palestras e debates com especialistas em saúde mental da própria universidade. “O objetivo é orientar alunos e professores sobre como identificar e lidar com esses problemas”, explica Cleópatra da Silva Planeta, pró-reitora de Extensão Universitária e coordenadora do projeto.

Algumas universidades já contam com serviços de atendimento para seus estudantes. Na Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp), por exemplo, o Serviço de Assistência Psicológica e Psiquiátrica ao Estudante (Sappe), ligado à Pró-reitoria de Graduação, atua há 30 anos dando assistência psicológica e psiquiátrica aos alunos de graduação e pós-graduação. De acordo com a psiquiatra Tânia Vichi Freire de Mello, coordenadora do Sappe, cerca de 40% dos estudantes da universidade que procuram o serviço estão no mestrado ou doutorado. “A maioria relata experimentar insônia, estresse e ansiedade, além de crises de pânico e depressão”, ela conta. “É comum dizerem que tentam contornar esses problemas a partir do consumo de bebidas alcoólicas e drogas psicoativas, como maconha.”Esses problemas costumam ser resultado de uma convergência de fatores, na concepção do psiquiatra Neury José Botega, da Faculdade de Ciências Médicas (FCM) da Unicamp. Segundo ele, a dinâmica da pós-graduação é marcada por prazos apertados, pressão para publicar artigos, carga de trabalho excessiva e cobranças. “Vários estudantes alegam não conseguir dar conta dos prazos ou saber lidar com o nível de exigência dos professores e orientadores”, comenta. São frequentes os casos de crises de estresse, ansiedade, pânico e depressão. “Muitas vezes a continuidade dos estudos fica inviável e o aluno entra em desespero por não conseguir tocar suas atividades.”

Um relatório divulgado em 2011 pela Associação Nacional dos Dirigentes das Instituições Federais de Ensino Superior (Andifes), que mapeou a vida social, econômica e cultural de quase 20 mil estudantes de graduação das universidades federais brasileiras, verificou que 29% deles já haviam procurado atendimento psicológico e 9%, psiquiátrico, o que envolve problemas mais sérios. O estudo também constatou que 11% já haviam tomado ou estavam tomando medicação psiquiátrica.

Um problema bastante comum entre os estudantes de pós-graduação, segundo Tamara Naiz, presidente da Associação Nacional dos Pós-graduandos (ANPG), é a chamada síndrome de burnout, quando o indivíduo atinge um nível grave de exaustão por trabalhar demais sem descansar. Há também a síndrome do impostor, que aflige acadêmicos que não conseguem aceitar os resultados alcançados como mérito próprio. “O desenvolvimento de transtornos na pós-graduação é um reflexo dos problemas da academia, que oferece poucas oportunidades”, ela destaca. “Ao mesmo tempo, as exigências e pressões envolvendo prazos curtos para qualificação e defesa, cobrança excessiva ou injusta por publicações em revistas de alto impacto, contribuem para agravar esse quadro.”

Também a relação com o orientador pode contribuir para o desenvolvimento de distúrbios psicológicos. Vários são os casos registrados pela ANPG de atitudes abusivas ou negligentes relatados por estudantes que sofreram assédio moral durante reuniões ou aulas. Igualmente frequentes são os casos que chegam à ANPG de orientadores omissos diante de questões ligadas à pesquisa de seus orientandos ou aqueles que solicitam aos alunos tarefas não relacionadas às suas pesquisas. Em outros casos, os relatos são de corte de bolsas e reprovação não justificadas ou com justificativas falsas ou não acadêmicas. Também o assédio sexual, em suas diversas formas, e a discriminação de gênero, que ainda persistem no mundo, são apontados como fatores desencadeadores de distúrbios psicológicos na academia, sobretudo entre as mulheres.

O caso da medicina
A grande maioria dos estudos em epidemiologia psiquiátrica envolvendo o ambiente acadêmico brasileiro está relacionada aos alunos de graduação, sobretudo os de medicina. Isso porque o curso costuma ser caracterizado pela pressão contínua por boas notas e extenuante carga horária de aulas e estudo. Além disso, o ambiente entre os próprios estudantes é marcado pela competitividade desde o vestibular, em geral sempre muito concorrido. Um estudo publicado em 2013 na Revista Brasileira de Educação Médica por pesquisadores da Universidade Federal da Paraíba (UFPB), em João Pessoa, envolvendo 384 estudantes de medicina, verificou que 33,6% tinham algum tipo de transtorno mental, como ansiedade, depressão e somatoformes, doenças que persistem apesar de as desordens físicas não explicarem a natureza e extensão dos sintomas nem o sofrimento ou as preocupações do indivíduo.Segundo a médica psiquiatra Laura Helena Andrade, do Instituto de Psiquiatria da Faculdade de Medicina (FM) da USP, a dificuldade na administração do tempo, o contato diário com a morte, o medo de adquirir doenças ou cometer erros e o sentimento de impotência diante de certas enfermidades contribuem para que esses estudantes estejam mais suscetíveis ao desenvolvimento de transtornos mentais. “O aluno da área da saúde precisa ter mais resiliência para poder manter seu desempenho de estudo, pesquisa e atendimento às pessoas enfermas”, ela ressalta. Apenas nos últimos cinco anos, a Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCar) registrou 22 tentativas de suicídio envolvendo alunos de medicina, segundo dados publicados em setembro no jornal O Estado de S. Paulo. Já nas universidades federais de São Paulo (Unifesp) e do ABC (UFABC), cinco estudantes se suicidaram no mesmo período.

Isso tem estimulado algumas universidades brasileiras a investirem na criação de núcleos de prevenção e atendimento psicológico específico para esses estudantes. Na Unicamp, há o Grupo de Apoio aos Estudantes de Graduação em Medicina, Fonoaudiologia e Residentes (Grapeme) da FCM. Já a USP conta desde 1986 com o Grupo de Assistência Psicológica ao Aluno (Grapal), entidade dedicada ao atendimento dos alunos dos cursos de fisioterapia, fonoaudiologia, medicina e terapia ocupacional, além dos residentes da FM-USP. Desde agosto a Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG) tem dois núcleos de atendimento psicológico aos estudantes de graduação e pós-graduação.

Paralelamente, essas instituições estão trabalhando para capacitar professores para que possam se antecipar a esses problemas. Segundo Tania Vichi Freire de Mello, do Sappe, é importante que eles fiquem atentos a mudanças súbitas de comportamento de seus alunos ou queda no rendimento acadêmico. A busca por orientação ou tratamento psicológico pode evitar que o estudante abandone o curso. A conclusão é de um levantamento feito em 2016 que analisou o perfil de 1.237 alunos que passaram pelo atendimento do Sappe. No estudo, eles verificaram que a taxa de evasão de curso entre os atendidos pelo serviço era menor quando comparada com aqueles que não recorreram ao serviço.

Para Botega, da FCM-Unicamp, é importante que os professores se mostrem mais abertos para conversar sobre esse assunto com seus alunos, sem desmerecer suas angústias. “Em geral, os professores estão mais preocupados com o desempenho acadêmico de seus estudantes, sem se darem conta de que isso está relacionado à sanidade mental do aluno”, afirma o psiquiatra. “É preciso agir no sentido de acolher esses estudantes, orientá-los e, se for preciso, encaminhá-los aos serviços de atendimento”, destaca Botega.

Universidades não têm diagnóstico da saúde mental de seus alunos de pós (Folha de S.Paulo)


As principais universidades brasileiras não sabem o que se passa com a saúde mental de seus estudantes de pós-graduação.

É o que se depreende das respostas que 19 instituições de ensino superior deram ao questionário enviado pela reportagem sobre o assunto. Foram procuradas as 20 primeiras colocadas do Ranking Universitário Folha (RUF ) além da melhor da região Norte, a UFPA. Juntas, elas abrigam mais de 70% dos alunos de mestrado e doutorado do país. Apenas PUC-Rio e UnB não responderam.


Na última segunda (18), a Folhapublicou reportagem com parte dos quase 300 depoimentos enviados ao jornal por alunos de mestrado e doutorado de todo o Brasil em que eles contam suas agruras e dificuldades durante a pós.

À pergunta “Qual é o diagnóstico da instituição sobre a saúde mental de seus alunos de pós-graduação?”, sete universidades afirmaram que não possuíam um; seis não responderam à questão e seis manifestaram algum tipo de preocupação com o assunto, sem, porém, apresentarem qualquer resposta concreta acerca do tema.

“Ainda não há a percepção, dentro da universidade, de que essas questões são ligadas ao ensino e à vida acadêmica. Em geral, considera-se que é um problema do aluno”, diz Tânia de Mello, coordenadora do Serviço de Assistência Psicológica e Psiquiátrica ao Estudante da Unicamp.

“Como a universidade poderá ter um diagnóstico de algo que ela nem considera um problema?”, questiona.

Para o psicólogo Robson Cruz, professor da PUC-MG e pesquisador da saúde mental de estudantes de pós, outra razão para a falta de atenção das universidades a essa questão é a dificuldade de lidar com ela, já que os problemas variam de acordo com a área.

Nas humanas, por exemplo, a relação com a escrita –como elaboração da tese e artigos– pode ser a parte mais penosa. Já nas áreas experimentais, a maior questão é a carga excessiva de trabalho dentro de um laboratório, explica Cruz.


Todas as instituições procuradas possuem algum tipo de assistência psicológica e psiquiátrica, seja em serviços voltados ao corpo discente ou a toda a comunidade universitária. Nenhuma, porém, possui uma assistência específica para a pós-graduação.

“Existe um certo entendimento de que o pós-graduando, por já ter passado pela graduação e em geral ter bolsa, é alguém que possui autonomia e independência, quase um pesquisador, e que, portanto, não precisaria receber muito apoio. É um engano”, diz Eduardo Benedicto, coordenador do Centro de Orientação Psicológica da USP de Ribeirão Preto.

Na visão de Cruz, diante das especificidades da pós, seria necessário um treinamento especializado de profissionais para lidar com esses estudantes.

Já Tânia de Mello acredita não ser necessária tal especialização. “Claro que ajuda quando você entende esse universo, mas uma boa rede de acolhimento deve conseguir dar conta dessas questões.”

O mais importante, diz, é haver uma boa estrutura de acolhimento no momento de crise. “Teria de ser algo acessível. A continuidade do tratamento pode até ser feita em outro lugar. É como funciona a maior parte dos serviços nos EUA e no Reino Unido”, diz Mello.

Ressaltando que se trata de uma realidade diversa da brasileira, Mello cita como exemplo a Universidade de Berkeley, nos EUA, que disponibiliza uma linha direta para que os estudantes em crise possam ligar, com divisão por língua, origem étnica e orientação sexual. “Não há nada similar por aqui.”


No campo da prevenção e da educação, o quadro parece ainda pior. Nove das 19 universidades ou não possuem ou não informaram a existência de ações nesse sentido. As dez restantes ou promovem iniciativas esporádicas (não vinculados a programas específicos), reduzidas, ou ainda estão implantando ações mais robustas.

Nenhuma, no entanto, implementou medidas que visem preparar o docente para para lidar com seus alunos, sobretudo orientandos, algo considerado fundamental pelos especialistas ouvidos.

“Temos de preparar os orientadores para ter uma visão mais humana da orientação”, afirma Eduardo Benedicto.

Mello lembra que “em geral, o docente não tem subsídios para lidar com a questão, pois não recebe qualquer treinamento das universidades para identificar e ajudar o aluno que enfrenta um transtorno mental.”
Cruz, por sua vez, aponta que o problema é mais embaixo e deveria ser objeto da própria formação dos docentes. “Eles simplesmente não são preparados para serem orientadores. Não há nenhuma ênfase, durante o mestrado e o doutorado, em ensino, didática, relação interpessoal, processo de orientação etc.”

Além de ações voltadas aos docentes, os especialistas sugerem a criação de “espaços de segurança” em que os alunos possam confidenciar suas angústias e fazer denúncias de assédio moral e sexual.

“Seriam espaços onde as pessoas pudessem falar com mais naturalidade sobre o tema e desmistificá-lo, ou seja, deixar claro que esse sofrimento existe, que tem a ver com a pós e que se pode falar disso”, afirma Tânia de Mello.

Universidades que enviaram respostas: Ufscar, UFRJ, UFPA, Univ. Fed. de Santa Maria, UFF, UFMG, UFC, UFBA, UFPR, Univ. Fed. de Viçosa, Unicamp, USP, Unesp, PUC-RS, Unifesp, Uerj, UFPE, UFSC, UFRGS

Orientadores de pós-graduação impõem dificuldades a alunos (Folha de S.Paulo)


Diego Padgurschi – 26.fev.2016/Folhapress


Uma das características mais marcantes da pós-graduação “stricto sensu” –mestrado e doutorado– é aquilo que podemos definir como o mito da forja.

Muitos orientadores (que mandam e desmandam na vida do aluno), pensam que quanto mais dificuldades eles impuserem, mais bem preparados –forjados– sairão os futuros mestres e doutores. E os fracos que fiquem pelo caminho.

Deixar discípulos quebrarem a cara não seria abandono, e sim lição de vida. No fim das contas eles não vão ter de se virar sozinhos?

A verdade é que muitas vezes dedicar um tempinho para os estudantes de pós fica lá no finzinho da lista de obrigações do pesquisador.


Antes ele tem que garantir sua própria biografia, publicando artigos e capítulos de livros, viajar para dar palestras, registrar suas patentes, cuidar de suas empresas…

É nesse contexto que se revela o feudal sistema de poder acadêmico. Não raro o professor delega parte de suas obrigações, como orientações e aulas, para pós-doutorandos, doutorandos e mestrandos.

Não é por acaso nem é tão raro que os elos mais fracos da cadeia acabem rompendo, como mostraram as reportagens sobre saúde mental na pós recentemente veiculadas por esta Folha.

Nesse contexto ainda há outras questões: o país tem de perseguir uma meta numérica na formação de doutores? Que tipo de doutor temos de formar? A que custo e em que prazo? Faz falta um jeito inteligente de lidar com a questão.

Já se foi o tempo em que o papel da pós-graduação era abastecer a academia com pesquisadores e docentes.

Muitos orientadores, por sua vez, se queixam de alunos despreparados, mas não têm como rejeitá-los: sem reposição na base da pirâmide, a produção fica estagnada.

Trocando em miúdos, o orientador ganha o direito de explorar por alguns anos uma força de trabalho barata (ou gratuita) em troca de atestar a formação de um novo mestre ou doutor, por mais que o título seja imerecido. Conscientemente ou não, alguns não veem aí um mau negócio.

E pode ser até mais grave. Em ciências experimentais, às vezes é adotado o “estágio probatório”, período que o futuro pós-graduando se dedica a aprender as técnicas usadas em um laboratório, a se inserir na rotina –sem receber nada por isso. Só depois é que vem a matrícula e, quem sabe, a bolsa. Desacompanhada de vários benefícios trabalhistas, vale notar.

Estudantes de mestrado e doutorado relatam suas dores na pós-graduação (Folha de S.Paulo)


Após a publicação da reportagem ‘Suicídio levanta questões sobre saúde mental na pós’, no final de outubro, a Folha recebeu 272 depoimentos de alunos de pós-graduação de todo o país, dos quais uma parcela está reproduzida abaixo. Eles permitem traçar um retrato das principais agruras e dificuldades enfrentadas por estudantes de mestrado e doutorado no Brasil –e das consequências em sua saúde mental.

Vistos em conjunto, os relatos chamam a atenção, em primeiro lugar, pelo fato de terem sido escritos por estudantes dos mais diversos cursos, instituições e regiões do país.

A maioria dos depoimentos, como seria de esperar, provém de discentes de grandes universidades públicas, como USP, Unicamp, Unesp, e as federais do Rio e de Minas Gerais, que concentram a maior parte dos estudantes de pós-graduação.

Não são poucos, porém, aqueles redigidos por alunos de instituições de menor porte, como a Universidade Estadual do Sudoeste da Bahia e o Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, ou particulares, como a PUC-PR e a Universidade Metodista de SP.

Os relatos vieram ainda das cinco regiões do país e de estudantes de toda a sorte de áreas e carreiras: de letras a matemática, de biologia a engenharia.

Vídeo: dores da pós



Na intersecção da maioria das dificuldades descritas pelos estudantes –pressão exagerada, carga de trabalho frequentemente excessiva, solidão, assédio moral, entre outras– encontra-se a figura do orientador, o professor responsável por ajudá-los a realizar a tese e prepará-los para a pesquisa acadêmica.

Ele não apenas possui um papel central na formação intelectual do estudante como, pela maneira como a pós-graduação é organizada no país, detém poder considerável sobre a sua rotina.

Assim, a maneira como se desenvolve o relacionamento entre mestre e discípulo acaba sendo determinante para o sucesso ou o fracasso deste durante o mestrado ou o doutorado. Não raro, como atestam os relatos, orientadores se mostram despreparados para lidar com os alunos e exercer o papel esperado na formação deles.

Parte desse problema talvez advenha da falta de regras claras acerca do que separa cobranças normais de exigências descabidas.

Diante disso, e dada a importância dessa relação, uma das providências possíveis de serem tomadas por universidades e institutos de pesquisa que abrigam alunos de pós é preparar seus docentes para lidar com os orientandos. Também poderia ser estabelecido alguma espécie de código de conduta que esclarecesse aos orientadores o limite a partir do qual suas atitudes se tornam humilhações, maus-tratos e abusos.


Outro fator que colabora para esse quadro, embora seja costumeiramente negligenciado, é o ambiente estressante onde habitam os professores universitários. Em alguma medida, essa carga acaba se transferindo para os alunos.

Docentes, em seu dia a dia, precisam lidar com prazos apertados, obter financiamentos para seus projetos de pesquisa, dar aulas, orientar alunos, corrigir provas e teses, preparar relatórios para agências de fomento, além de sofrerem pressão para produzir artigos de alto impacto.

Além das pressões e dificuldades próprias da pós-graduação, os estudantes precisam ainda lidar com a estigmatização dos transtornos mentais dentro do ambiente acadêmico, onde ansiedade, depressão e pânico são frequentemente associados à fraqueza, incapacidade e despreparo.
Tal estigmatização -que não difere da maneira como tais enfermidades são vistas na sociedade- debilita ainda mais o aluno que já passa por dificuldades, e pode, ao ser introjetada, desestimulá-lo a buscar a ajuda necessária nos serviços de saúde.

Também nessa linha educativa, ações simples, como campanhas ou grupos de discussão, podem compor uma estratégia no combate ao preconceito que ronda a questão.


Diversos estudantes contam, em seus depoimentos, a situação de precariedade econômica em que vivem devido ao valor das bolsas de estudo pagas pelo governo federal. De fato, R$ 1.500 (para o mestrado) e R$ 2.200 (para o doutorado) –montantes que não são reajustados desde 2013– não constituem valores atrativos nem suficientes para exercer uma função altamente especializada e que, em grande parte dos casos, demanda dedicação exclusiva.

De outro lado, a Capes, ligada ao MEC e maior financiadora do país, paga 90 mil bolsas a mestrandos e doutorandos. Se numa época de grave restrição econômica já é difícil manter esse número estável, é pouco provável que esse valor aumente de maneira significativa.

Nesse cenário surge uma discussão sobre qual seria o modelo de financiamento mais adequado para esse sistema, debate que vem acompanhado da discussão de que tipo de pós-graduação o país deseja ter. É melhor investir em mais bolsas, ainda que pagando somas menores, ou deve-se buscar um valor maior para elas, quiçá competitivo com o que é pago pela iniciativa privada, mas numa quantidade reduzida?

Essas são apenas algumas das questões trazidas à luz pelos depoimentos enviados por pós-graduandos.

Não se deve, por certo, generalizar para todos os alunos de mestrado e doutorado os dramas expostos nesses relatos; tampouco se deve menosprezá-los, como se refletissem apenas situações isoladas ou queixas de alunos problemáticos.

Tais problemas resultam da maneira como o sistema de pós-graduação é organizado no país e, portanto, precisam ser enfrentados por todos os atores que o constituem.

Afinal, o aluno que tem a sua saúde mental afetada, embora seja o mais prejudicado, também gera custos para toda a cadeia: o grupo de pesquisa ao qual pertence, o programa de pós ao qual está vinculado, a universidade em que estuda e a agência de fomento que financia a sua bolsa.


A sensação de ser uma impostora é diária em um meio onde há pressão o tempo todo, de todas as formas possíveis. No mês que antecedeu minha defesa [conclusão do curso], chorei todos os dias. Esquecia de comer, me sentia culpada ao sair com os amigos no fim de semana, pois deveria estar terminando minha dissertação, mesmo que estivesse esgotada.

Além disso, minha orientadora sumia por meses. Faltando algumas semanas, para a defesa, ela viajou para o exterior. Escrevi tudo sozinha, sem direcionamento, até a sua volta, quando precisei virar noites para terminar a tempo.Acordei diversas vezes sem querer acordar. Levantar da cama e encarar o dia era um desafio que eu não conseguia enfrentar sem derramar lágrimas.

Fiz terapia durante quase todo o processo, mas precisei parar no final, pois a minha bolsa terminou; o programa de pós nunca ofereceu auxílio psicológico.

Neurociências, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

O mestrado significou longos meses de tortura e sofrimento. Minha orientadora me tratava com pouco caso, atribuindo o fracasso a mim mesmo quando não tinha a ver comigo.

Ela era sempre impositiva, me mantinha sempre sob sujeição e nunca me deu sequer um elogio; só fui elogiado no dia da defesa. Como morava numa república, longe de casa e não tinha com quem conversar, foram várias as situações que, mesmo sabendo que não cometeria suicídio, pensava “até que não seria má ideia”. Foram os dois anos mais trágicos da minha vida.

Ciências Sociais, Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora

No meu mestrado, tive síndrome do pânico e achei que não ia conseguir terminar.

Com apoio psicológico da universidade consegui concluir, apesar do péssimo relacionamento com minha orientadora, que me cobrava muito e não entendia que estava doente.

Cinco anos depois da defesa a minha tese continua jogada na estante e não consigo sequer olhar para ela. Entrei no doutorado, mas acabei desistindo. Hoje estou bem com essa escolha, pois o meio acadêmico não é para pessoas sensíveis.

Linguística, Unicamp

Nunca consegui terminar o doutorado. Estava prestes a qualificar [exame crucial que precede a defesa da tese] quando o meu orientador simplesmente me agarrou no laboratório.

Denunciei o assédio, mas nunca deu em nada. Eu fui a quinta aluna atacada por ele. Nunca houve punição por parte do programa de pós ou da universidade.

Tive que trocar de orientador, e então, para me atrapalhar, ele me excluiu do sistema antes que eu pudesse concluir a transferência. Tive que recomeçar tudo do zero: disciplinas, projeto, experimentos. Eu não me conformava de ter sido a vítima e também a pessoa que estava sendo punida.

Todo mundo sabia da história, mas ninguém fez nada. Ele andava solto falando que eu era “a menininha não sabia ser cantada sem ficar bravinha”. Tentei por mais um ano, até que perdeu o sentido. Eu não aguentava mais.

Microbiologia, USP

No doutorado, minha pesquisa parecia travada. Nada dava certo, faltava orientação adequada. Eu estava tentando produzir algo muito novo e meu orientador não conseguia ajudar. Tive que desenvolver uma nova metodologia, o que deu muito trabalho.

Gastei quase três anos do meu doutorado nessa etapa, algo que não era para ser nem 25% da minha tese.

Estava, obviamente, muito atrasado. Em vez de receber algum mérito pelo desenvolvimento do método praticamente sem ajuda de colaboradores, fui muito criticado por estar atrasado e acabei sendo reprovado na minha qualificação.

Existe uma segunda chance de se qualificar, mas uma nova reprovação te desliga da pós. Nesse ponto comecei a dar sinais de depressão. Não conseguia dormir porque ficava pensando muito nisso. Passava noites em claro.

Comecei a ter fortes crises de ansiedade. Meu peito doía sem parar, meu coração acelerava loucamente. Fui parar no hospital universitário duas vezes achando que estava tendo um infarto.

Fizeram exames, mas nada foi constatado. O médico perguntou todo o meu histórico. No fim, só restou um diagnóstico: crise de ansiedade. O tratamento parece ser simples: parar de se preocupar. Só parece, porque obviamente não é.

Biologia, USP

Logo que entrei senti que seria mais complicado do que imaginei. Meu orientador não orientava, ele desorientava todos os seus alunos. Para completar, o (des)orientador passou em um concurso em outra universidade e foi embora.

Aí ele me abandonou de vez. Quando vinha ao laboratório, os orientandos que estavam mais próximos de defender ou de qualificar tinham prioridade e nunca sobrava tempo pra me atender. Meus e-mails raramente eram respondidos. Pedi para ter uma co-orientadora e fui informada de que “não havia necessidade”. Entrei no mestrado com 64 quilos, saí com 84. Ganhei 20 quilos em dois anos.

Descontava minha ansiedade, minhas frustrações, minha raiva e minha tristeza na comida. Quando comia, tinha o meu único momento de prazer.

Engenharia Mecânica, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Meu orientador cobrava presença diária nas atividades do laboratório, mas nunca me orientou. Fiz tudo sozinha. Além do professor não orientar, o ambiente era extremamente hostil.

Minha defesa de projeto, no meio do curso, foi traumática. Meus familiares não aguentaram assistir a tanta humilhação. Eu mesma não aguentei e chorei o tempo todo.

Na minha defesa final não foi diferente: humilhação em cima de humilhação. Para não me despedaçar eu foquei no diploma do mestrado que eu estava prestes a receber.

Agronomia, Universidade Federal de Lavras

Tive uma orientadora autoritária, “workaholic”, estressada e que gostava de humilhar seus alunos. Abandonei o projeto, para o qual tinha bolsa de estudos, e fui em busca de um orientador mais justo.

Concluí o mestrado com esse orientador e atualmente faço doutorado. As coisas estão um pouco melhores, mas atualmente sofremos com o corte de verbas. Conheço muitas outros alunos que foram humilhados e passaram por situações difíceis; é algo comum. No fundo, é um ciclo. Os orientadores, quando alunos, passaram pelas mesmas coisas e replicam isso, achando normal.

Tecnologia em Processos Químicos e Bioquímicos, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

Eu deveria seguir uma carga horária de quatro a seis horas diárias, de acordo com o regulamento da bolsa. Mas não há fiscalização e ninguém sabe o que se passa dentro de um laboratório.

Quem manda é o orientador, que não se apossa apenas do seu trabalho, mas também da sua vida pessoal a depender de seu temperamento.
Tem dias que passo 12h na universidade, mais precisamente num laboratório que não deve ter mais que cinco metros quadrados.

E não é porque tenho muito trabalho a fazer, mas por capricho do chefe. Não me permitiram sequer arrumar um emprego à noite para somar a uma ultrapassada bolsa de R$ 1.500.

Quanto ao meu projeto, meu orientador faz questão de me lembrar com esses termos: “Você está fodida”.

Doenças Tropicais, Universidade Federal do Pará

É triste quando o que você ama se volta contra você. Finalizei o mestrado há dois anos e não consigo abrir a minha dissertação.

Minha ex-orientadora se tornou um pesadelo, ainda ando nas ruas conferindo todas as placas dos carros do mesmo modelo que ela tinha.

Ela sempre trabalhou com o esquema de hierarquia, em que ela, que estava no topo, podia fazer tudo, e nós deveríamos aceitar calados.

Com relação à dissertação, lembro que ela me cobrou com três meses de antecedência, e eu perguntava a ela sobre as correções até que um dia ela me disse que a única pessoa que havia olhado a minha dissertação foi a filha dela de dois anos e me mostrou vários desenhos que a criança havia feito.

Zootecnia, Universidade Federal de Viçosa

Ao entrar no mestrado sofri com as cobranças exageradas; fiquei doente, precisei de ajuda de psicólogo e neurologista, tive crises de ansiedade, não conseguia dormir. Pensava em suicídio, sim.

No doutorado tentamos retirar a medicação, pois parecia que havia me adaptando à rotina. Não deu certo. Em um mês, a ansiedade e a insônia tinham voltado.

É como se você tivesse que ser mil e uma utilidades, os orientadores exigem que o pós-graduando realize, além da sua pesquisa, outras demandas do laboratório, dê aulas em seu lugar… a jornada chega a doze horas diárias. Além disso, temos de produzir artigos e escrever inúmeros relatórios para as agências de fomento.

Biologia, Unesp

Dentro do laboratório nem sempre as coisas funcionam bem. Às vezes o experimento dá certo, e mil outras vezes, não. Era duro escutar que talvez eu não tivesse capacidade suficiente para fazer o básico, quando muitas vezes o erro era do acaso…

Sim, as coisas podem dar errado, mas dentro da ciência o erro era sempre meu, e também dos meus colegas, mas nunca dos orientadores.

O aluno de pós não é um trabalhador: não há salário, há bolsa; não há férias; não há função específica; é uma espécie de escravidão.

Que pós-graduando nunca entrou no laboratório às 7h e saiu às 23h? Qual nunca ficou até o dia 24/12 no laboratório? Qual nunca teve que repetir o mesmo experimento 200 vezes só para mostrar ao orientador que a hipótese dele estava errada?

Tudo isso machuca muito. Quantos professores não abrem a boca só para ferir o aluno? Poucos são aqueles que protegem e ensinam.

Fisiologia Humana, USP

O medo e a vergonha de ser rotulado de fraco, de louco, de exagerado são maiores do que a vontade de gritar. Como ser indiferente a jornadas cansativas, professores semideuses, orientadores abusivos?

Nunca me senti tratado como gente enquanto estive na pós, pois colocar família, saúde ou lazer, mesmo que poucas vezes, à frente das atividades acadêmicas é visto como crime. Não foram poucos os amigos que desistiram. Pior ainda, outros permaneceram, vivendo a base de remédio para dar conta.

Eu já acordei assustada depois de sonhar com meu orientador me questionando por estar dormindo. Isso quando eu conseguia dormir. Tive que me encher de ansiolíticos e antidepressivos para dar conta de continuar viva.

No último semestre do mestrado, os remédios perderam o efeito. Eu não dormia, não descansava, não conseguia escrever a dissertação. Com ajuda médica consegui defender. No doutorado tudo piorou, pois a relação com meu orientador foi se desgastando e eu tomei aversão ao trabalho e ao laboratório.

Minha depressão piorou muito e eu desenvolvi síndrome do pânico e fobia social. Cheguei ao fundo do poço e o suicídio passou a ser encarado como uma alternativa na minha vida.

Agronomia, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco

Estou no meu primeiro ano de mestrado e tenho passado por muitas dificuldades. A pós-graduação já me causou muita perturbação, começando pelo ambiente de trabalho, onde as pessoas fazem você se sentir absolutamente um nada.

Além disso, o orientador te pressiona, te desmerece, quer te humilhar, muitas vezes por coisas pequenas.

A pior coisa do mundo é ter de fingir que tudo isso é normal, pois, caso contrário, vou ser tachada de fraca, imatura, burra, aquela que não aguenta. Está sendo a pior coisa do mundo.

Eu gostava muito da ideia de fazer o mestrado, mas depois que entrei eu sinto que foi uma das piores escolhas da minha vida. Já pensei em me matar e sumir. Estou fazendo acompanhamento com psiquiatra e psicólogo.

Na instituição onde estudo, depressão é vista como frescura, ou desculpa do aluno que não quer entregar um trabalho digno.

Entomologia, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia

Enquanto estive no Brasil, sofri com depressão e crises de pânico. Foi só na Suécia, onde fui fazer o período sanduíche do doutorado, que eu me senti pela primeira vez respeitada como pessoa dentro do ambiente acadêmico. Lá, cada aluno tem ao menos uma cadeira e mesa individual.

Aqui, nós sentamos no meio do laboratório junto com as bactérias que cultivamos, ou próximo a reagentes cancerígenos. O salário dos meus colegas na Suécia é similar ao de um emprego regular.

Também há pressão por lá, mas o orientador é responsável para com os alunos. Não se espera que o doutorando desempenhe algo se não forem dados recursos e condições adequadas para isso. Os colegas são cooperativos, não competitivos. Existe um ambiente de ganha-ganha.

Ciência de Alimentos, Unicamp

Estou no meu segundo ano de doutorado e já fiz planos de suicídio mais de uma vez. O meu departamento ameaça quem não produz com cortes de bolsa e devolução das que já recebeu e outras coisas.

As exigências aumentam, mas as condições para cumprir o que eles pedem não melhoram. Minha orientadora (uma santa) sugeriu que eu procurasse um psiquiatra depois de perceber que eu não estava bem. Meus colegas, por estarem disputando materiais comigo, me tratam mal.

As fofocas e bullying são algo assustador, e atingem todos aqueles que mostram fragilidade. Quem fica deprimido, é covarde, alguém que não deveria ter entrado no programa.

As meninas que querem se casar ou ter filhos são ameaçadas de perder a bolsa por “não prestigiarem suas carreiras”.

No mestrado, eu tinha alucinações. Trabalhava de segunda a segunda. Mal dormia e comia. Quase perdi parte do pulmão por um descolamento da pleura num incidente de bicicleta que causei porque queria morrer.

Microbiologia, Universidade Federal do Paraná

Tive um sério problema de melancolia durante o mestrado. Não cheguei a ir a um médico, mas o choro antes de dormir denunciava meu estado.
Cheguei a travar diante da sala de aula, devido à pressão que sentia. Estudávamos de 12 a 14 horas por dia. Resenhávamos 500 páginas por semana.

Os professores riam das nossas caras quando tentávamos apresentar novas ideias e interpretações. A bolsa não pagava nem o aluguel. O terrorismo acadêmico é verdadeiro.

Até agora, escrevendo esse texto, sinto meu sangue ferver de raiva e ódio pelo que me fizeram passar. Ainda bem que fui consciente: posterguei meu sonho de ser acadêmico, mas ganhei minha vida de volta.

Relações Internacionais, PUC-Rio

No mestrado, a frieza no laboratório, a cobrança por resultados que não dependiam de mim, e sim de equipamentos, e as longas horas de trabalho me fizeram desenvolver crises insuportáveis de fibromialgia, perda de apetite a ponto de ficar com o peso corporal incompatível com a saúde e uma tristeza tão profunda que ia chorando no caminho de casa até o laboratório.

Terminei e resolvi mudar de área de pesquisa. Estava contente por iniciar um novo ciclo no doutorado. E não demorou para eu passar pelas mesmas humilhações públicas, pressões e desamparo anteriores, além de ter tido insônia, ansiedade, sensação de impotência

Educação em Ciência e Saúde, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

Fiz mestrado, doutorado e pós-doutorado no mesmo laboratório. O mais comum são estudantes sem perspectivas, desanimados, sem conseguir ver a luz no fim do túnel. Vários amigos e colegas tiveram depressão.

Duas pessoas do meu laboratório tiveram paralisia facial. Uma amiga, também do laboratório, teve um surto psicótico no ano passado. Foi horrível. E nossa chefa nem queria avisar a família, que vive em Recife. Me chamou de alarmista e imatura.

Mesmo após de ter concluído a pós, um certo trauma ficou. Eu ainda não consigo passar um final de semana sem sentir culpa por não estar trabalhando, lendo um artigo, escrevendo um “paper”. É uma loucura que só entende quem passa.

Fisiologia e Biofísica, USP

No meio do doutorado tive problemas com a minha pesquisa, o que levou a uma carga maior de trabalho e a muito estresse. Isso se somou à precariedade financeira, ao medo do futuro e aos questionamentos que sempre aparecem na mente dos pós-graduandos: o que eu estou fazendo? Onde vou chegar fazendo isso?

Comecei a ter crises de refluxo gastroesofágico combinados com crises de pânico.

Não há glamour na pesquisa científica. Ao contrário, ficamos isolados, com pouco contato social e trabalhamos incessantemente em projetos e publicações de artigos, além de vivermos sob prazos apertados. Isso é pouco discutido porque somos vistos como “privilegiados”, que são remunerados para estudar.

Ciências Florestais, Universidade de Brasília

No mestrado, as preocupações com relação a prazos me fizeram entrar em um estado no qual não conseguia fazer mais nada da vida que não fosse estudar. Se saía num sábado para me divertir, me sentia como se estivesse fazendo algo muito errado. Fiz uma viagem num feriado com a família e, nesses poucos dias, a consciência pesada por não estar estudando era tanta que cheguei a ter taquicardia. Já no doutorado, comecei a apresentar um quadro depressivo.

A pós-graduação é um ambiente de muita incerteza e não existe acolhimento para alunos que passam por problemas assim. Cheguei a um ponto no qual não queria mais levantar da cama. Viver doía. Não cheguei a pensar em suicídio especificamente, mas pensava que morrer não seria ruim.

Economia, Universidade Federal Fluminense

Uma relação bastante conturbada resultou na troca de orientador e de projeto. Na prática, fiquei com pouco tempo para desenvolver a pesquisa. Pressão, prazos apertados e vida pessoal e familiar problemáticas me renderam uma depressão.

Eis algumas frases que ouvi durante a doença: “Depressão é frescura”, “Isso é preguiça mesmo”, “mãe de família não deveria cogitar a ideia de pós graduação, nunca irá acompanhar o ritmo”.

Será que a pós é um contrato de escravidão? Não temos direitos, apenas deveres?

Botânica, Instituto de Pesquisas do Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro

Estamos todos doentes? (JC)

JC, 5707, 25 de julho de 2017

Pesquisadora da Unicamp alerta para influência da indústria farmacêutica no crescimento do número de diagnósticos de transtornos mentais

Dados do National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2012) apontam que 46% dos norte-americanos preenchem os critérios de diagnóstico de um transtorno mental. Na Europa essa porcentagem corresponde a 38%. Nos Estados Unidos, o diagnóstico de transtorno bipolar em crianças e adolescentes aumentou 40 vezes, entre 1994 e 2003, e uma entre cinco crianças tem um surto de transtorno mental por ano, de acordo com dados do Centro de Controle de Doenças, daquele país (CDC, 2013).

Há pesquisas que indicam que 10% da população mundial teria algum tipo de transtorno, um número que segundo a médica pediatra, Maria Aparecida Affonso Moysés, da Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp), inviabiliza qualquer esforço de política pública. “Temos que começar a questionar como esses números são construídos. Na verdade, mudanças nos critérios do diagnóstico se tornaram muito frouxos nos últimos anos”, afirmou a médica, em sua conferência na Reunião Anual da SBPC. “É muito difícil qualquer um de nós não se encaixar nos critérios. Os testes que detectam algumas dessas doenças são verdadeiras armadilhas”, alertou.

Ela refutou a ideia de que vivemos uma epidemia de doenças mentais. “O que temos é uma epidemia de diagnósticos de transtornos mentais”, disse. Na primeira vez em que foi publicado pela Associação Americana de Psiquiatria, em 1952, o Manual Diagnóstico e Estatístico de Transtornos Mentais (DSM), tinha 106 categorias de transtornos mentais. Em sua última edição, em 2013, foram listadas 300 categorias. “Alterar as normas para caracterização de um transtorno e criar doenças novas contribuíram para essa epidemia amplamente patrocinada pela indústria farmacêutica”, declarou Moysés. “Antes de vender remédios, o departamento de marketing da indústria de fármacos trabalha para vender doenças”, diz. Déficit de atenção, transtorno de descontrole de humor, transtorno de aprendizagem, depressão, transtorno opositor desafiante, hiperatividade, são algumas dessas doenças fabricadas para vender medicamentos. “Onde está a ciência e ética nesse campo?”, questionou a médica. Segundo ela, esses medicamentos são largamente receitados para crianças e adultos, como se fossem 100% seguros, mas boa parte deles provoca dependência química.

Um exemplo é o metilfenidato, base de uma classe de estimulantes do sistema nervoso central, vendido entre outras, com a marca “Ritalina”. O medicamento age inibindo a receptação de dopamina na sinapse, o que teria como resultado o aumento do nível de concentração. Conforme explicou Moysés, ele é receitado para crianças com Transtorno do Déficit de Atenção com Hiperatividade (TDAH), não pelo seu efeito terapêutico, mas pelas reações adversas. No sistema nervoso central o metilfenidato provoca o efeito “zombie like”, quando a pessoa fica contida em si mesma. “Eu comparo esse fármaco a uma droga da obediência porque o indivíduo perde a capacidade de questionar, de sentir. É um tipo de contenção química. O aumento de concentração, tão propagado, é, na verdade, uma redução do foco da atenção, isto é, a pessoa presta atenção em uma coisa de cada vez”, afirmou. “Não existe uma pílula que nos faça prestar atenção. Para isso, precisamos de bons professores com boas condições de trabalho”.

Na opinião da pesquisadora da Unicamp, vivemos em um projeto de sociedade que estimula e premia comportamentos homogêneos, punindo as singularidades. “Não é à toa que assistimos cortes significativos nos orçamentos da ciência e da educação. Temos que ser iguais porque as diferenças incomodam cada vez mais. Entretanto, neutralizar os sonhadores, os que pensam diferente é um genocídio do futuro”, disse.

O combate ao que a médica chama de patologização da sociedade passa pelos campos da saúde, da educação e por uma revisão das políticas públicas para que elas não sejam submissas ao mercado. Outro setor é o da formação profissional. Nas escolas de medicina, a técnica não pode se sobrepor à ética e ao aspecto humano. Toda avaliação e diagnóstico têm que respeitar saberes, valores, história e a cultura porque “a vida não é mercadoria”, finalizou.

Por Patricia Mariuzzo para o Jornal da Ciência

Psychedelic drug ayahuasca improves hard-to-treat depression (New Scientist)

DAILY NEWS 14 April 2017

Woman drinks mixture containing ayahuasca

From shamanistic ritual to medical treatment? Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images

It tastes foul and makes people vomit. But ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic concoction that has been drunk in South America for centuries in religious rituals, may help people with depression that is resistant to antidepressants.

Tourists are increasingly trying ayahuasca during holidays to countries such as Brazil and Peru, where the psychedelic drug is legal. Now the world’s first randomised clinical trial of ayahuasca for treating depression has found that it can rapidly improve mood.

The trial, which took place in Brazil, involved administering a single dose to 14 people with treatment-resistant depression, while 15 people with the same condition received a placebo drink.

A week later, those given ayahuasca showed dramatic improvements, with their mood shifting from severe to mild on a standard scale of depression. “The main evidence is that the antidepressant effect of ayahuasca is superior to the placebo effect,” says Dráulio de Araújo of the Brain Institute at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Natal, who led the trial.

Bitter brew

Shamans traditionally prepare the bitter, deep-brown brew of ayahuasca using two plants native to South America. The first, Psychotria viridis, is packed with the mind-altering compound dimetheyltryptamine (DMT). The second, the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi), contains substances that stop DMT from being broken down before it crosses the gut and reaches the brain.

To fool placebo recipients into thinking they were getting the real thing, de Araújo and his team concocted an equally foul tasting brown-coloured drink. They also carefully selected participants who had never tried ayahuasca or other psychedelic drugs before.

A day before their dose, the participants filled in standard questionnaires to rate their depression. The next day, they spent 8 hours in a quiet, supervised environment, where they received either the placebo or the potion, which produces hallucinogenic effects for around 4 hours. They then repeated filling in the questionnaires one, two and seven days later.

Both groups reported substantial improvements one and two days after the treatment, with placebo scores often as high as those of people who had taken the drug. In trials of new antidepressant drugs, it is common for as many as 40 per cent of participants to respond positively to placebos, says de Araújo.

But a week into this trial, 64 per cent of people who had taken ayahuasca felt the severity of their depression reduce by 50 per cent or more. This was true for only 27 per cent of those who drank the placebo.

Psychedelic treatments

“The findings suggest a rapid antidepressant benefit for ayahuasca, at least for the short term,” says David Mischoulon of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “But we need studies that follow patients for longer periods to see whether these effects are sustained.”

“There is clearly potential to explore further how this most ancient of plant medicines may have a salutary effect in modern treatment settings, particularly in patients who haven’t responded well to conventional treatments,” says Charles Grob at the University of California, Los Angeles.

If the finding holds up in longer studies, it could provide a valuable new tool for helping people with treatment-resistant depression. An estimated 350 million people worldwide experience depression, and between a third to a half of them don’t improve when given standard antidepressants.

Ayahuasca isn’t the only psychedelic drug being investigated as a potential treatment for depression. Researchers have also seen some benefits with ketamine and psilocybin, extracted from magic mushrooms, although psilocybin is yet to be tested against a placebo.

Journal reference: bioRxiv, DOI: 10.1101/103531

What Did Neanderthals Leave to Modern Humans? Some Surprises (New York Times)

Geneticists tell us that somewhere between 1 and 5 percent of the genome of modern Europeans and Asians consists of DNA inherited from Neanderthals, our prehistoric cousins.

At Vanderbilt University, John Anthony Capra, an evolutionary genomics professor, has been combining high-powered computation and a medical records databank to learn what a Neanderthal heritage — even a fractional one — might mean for people today.

We spoke for two hours when Dr. Capra, 35, recently passed through New York City. An edited and condensed version of the conversation follows.

Q. Let’s begin with an indiscreet question. How did contemporary people come to have Neanderthal DNA on their genomes?

A. We hypothesize that roughly 50,000 years ago, when the ancestors of modern humans migrated out of Africa and into Eurasia, they encountered Neanderthals. Matings must have occurred then. And later.

One reason we deduce this is because the descendants of those who remained in Africa — present day Africans — don’t have Neanderthal DNA.

What does that mean for people who have it? 

At my lab, we’ve been doing genetic testing on the blood samples of 28,000 patients at Vanderbilt and eight other medical centers across the country. Computers help us pinpoint where on the human genome this Neanderthal DNA is, and we run that against information from the patients’ anonymized medical records. We’re looking for associations.

What we’ve been finding is that Neanderthal DNA has a subtle influence on risk for disease. It affects our immune system and how we respond to different immune challenges. It affects our skin. You’re slightly more prone to a condition where you can get scaly lesions after extreme sun exposure. There’s an increased risk for blood clots and tobacco addiction.

To our surprise, it appears that some Neanderthal DNA can increase the risk for depression; however, there are other Neanderthal bits that decrease the risk. Roughly 1 to 2 percent of one’s risk for depression is determined by Neanderthal DNA. It all depends on where on the genome it’s located.

Was there ever an upside to having Neanderthal DNA?

It probably helped our ancestors survive in prehistoric Europe. When humans migrated into Eurasia, they encountered unfamiliar hazards and pathogens. By mating with Neanderthals, they gave their offspring needed defenses and immunities.

That trait for blood clotting helped wounds close up quickly. In the modern world, however, this trait means greater risk for stroke and pregnancy complications. What helped us then doesn’t necessarily now.

Did you say earlier that Neanderthal DNA increases susceptibility to nicotine addiction?

Yes. Neanderthal DNA can mean you’re more likely to get hooked on nicotine, even though there were no tobacco plants in archaic Europe.

We think this might be because there’s a bit of Neanderthal DNA right next to a human gene that’s a neurotransmitter implicated in a generalized risk for addiction. In this case and probably others, we think the Neanderthal bits on the genome may serve as switches that turn human genes on or off.

Aside from the Neanderthals, do we know if our ancestors mated with other hominids?

We think they did. Sometimes when we’re examining genomes, we can see the genetic afterimages of hominids who haven’t even been identified yet.

A few years ago, the Swedish geneticist Svante Paabo received an unusual fossilized bone fragment from Siberia. He extracted the DNA, sequenced it and realized it was neither human nor Neanderthal. What Paabo found was a previously unknown hominid he named Denisovan, after the cave where it had been discovered. It turned out that Denisovan DNA can be found on the genomes of modern Southeast Asians and New Guineans.

Have you long been interested in genetics?

Growing up, I was very interested in history, but I also loved computers. I ended up majoring in computer science at college and going to graduate school in it; however, during my first year in graduate school, I realized I wasn’t very motivated by the problems that computer scientists worked on.

Fortunately, around that time — the early 2000s — it was becoming clear that people with computational skills could have a big impact in biology and genetics. The human genome had just been mapped. What an accomplishment! We now had the code to what makes you, you, and me, me. I wanted to be part of that kind of work.

So I switched over to biology. And it was there that I heard about a new field where you used computation and genetics research to look back in time — evolutionary genomics.

There may be no written records from prehistory, but genomes are a living record. If we can find ways to read them, we can discover things we couldn’t know any other way.

Not long ago, the two top editors of The New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial questioning “data sharing,” a common practice where scientists recycle raw data other researchers have collected for their own studies. They labeled some of the recycling researchers, “data parasites.” How did you feel when you read that?

I was upset. The data sets we used were not originally collected to specifically study Neanderthal DNA in modern humans. Thousands of patients at Vanderbilt consented to have their blood and their medical records deposited in a “biobank” to find genetic diseases.

Three years ago, when I set up my lab at Vanderbilt, I saw the potential of the biobank for studying both genetic diseases and human evolution. I wrote special computer programs so that we could mine existing data for these purposes.

That’s not being a “parasite.” That’s moving knowledge forward. I suspect that most of the patients who contributed their information are pleased to see it used in a wider way.

What has been the response to your Neanderthal research since you published it last year in the journal Science?

Some of it’s very touching. People are interested in learning about where they came from. Some of it is a little silly. “I have a lot of hair on my legs — is that from Neanderthals?”

But I received racist inquiries, too. I got calls from all over the world from people who thought that since Africans didn’t interbreed with Neanderthals, this somehow justified their ideas of white superiority.

It was illogical. Actually, Neanderthal DNA is mostly bad for us — though that didn’t bother them.

As you do your studies, do you ever wonder about what the lives of the Neanderthals were like?

It’s hard not to. Genetics has taught us a tremendous amount about that, and there’s a lot of evidence that they were much more human than apelike.

They’ve gotten a bad rap. We tend to think of them as dumb and brutish. There’s no reason to believe that. Maybe those of us of European heritage should be thinking, “Let’s improve their standing in the popular imagination. They’re our ancestors, too.’”

Estudo mostra que indústria e psiquiatria criaram doenças e remédios que não curam (Carta Campinas)

By Carta Campinas / sexta-feira, 01 jul 2016 10:38 AM

robert whitaker fotografia de videoUma série de reportagens e livros publicados ao longo de 25 anos pelo jornalista Robert Whitaker (foto), especialista em questões de ciência e medicina, abriu uma crise na prática médica da psiquiatria e na solução mágica de curar os transtornos mentais com medicação.

O jornalista, do The Boston Globe, o mesmo jornal das série de reportagens que gerou o filme Spotlight, levantou dados alarmantes sobre a indústria farmacêutica das doenças mentais e sua incapacidade de curar.  “Em 1955, havia 355.000 pessoas em hospitais com um diagnóstico psiquiátrico nos Estados Unidos; em 1987, 1,25 milhão de pessoas no país recebia aposentadoria por invalidez por causa de alguma doença mental; em 2007, eram 4 milhões. No ano passado, 5 milhões.

Para ele, associações médicas e a indústria estão criando pacientes e mercado para seus remédios. “Se olharmos do ponto de vista comercial, o êxito desse setor é extraordinário. Temos pílulas para a felicidade, para a ansiedade, para que seu filho vá melhor na escola. O transtorno por déficit de atenção e hiperatividade é uma fantasia. É algo que não existia antes dos anos noventa”, diz.

Mas essa não é uma crítica simplificada ou econômica, mas bem mais fundamentada durante mais de duas décadas.  “O que estamos fazendo de errado?”, questionam os estudos de Whitaker que também levantou informações de que pacientes de esquizofrenia evoluem melhor em países em que são menos medicados. Outro dado importante foi o estudo da Escola de Medicina de Harvard, que em 1994, mostrou que a evolução de pacientes com esquizofrenia, que foram medicados, pioraram em relação aos anos 70, quando a medicação não era dominante.

A batalha de Whitaker contra os comprimidos como solução tem ganhado apoio. Importantes escolas de medicina o convidam a explicar seus trabalhos e o debate está aberto nos Estados Unidos. “A psiquiatria está entrando em um novo período de crise no país, porque a história que nos contaram desde os anos 80 caiu por terra. A história falsa nos Estados Unidos e em parte do mundo desenvolvido é que a causa da esquizofrenia e da depressão seria biológica. Foi dito que esses distúrbios se deviam a desequilíbrios químicos no cérebro: na esquizofrenia, por excesso de dopamina; na depressão, por falta de serotonina. E nos disseram que havia medicamentos que resolviam o problema, assim como a insulina faz pelos diabéticos”, afirmou em entrevista ao jornal El Pais.

Para ele, os psiquiatras sempre tiveram um complexo de inferioridade. “O restante dos médicos costumava enxergá-los como se não fossem médicos autênticos. Nos anos 70, quando faziam seus diagnósticos baseando-se em ideias freudianas, eram muito criticados. E como poderiam reconstruir sua imagem diante do público? Vestiram suas roupas brancas, o que lhes dava autoridade. E começaram a se chamar a si mesmos de psicofarmacólogos quando passaram a prescrever medicamentos. A imagem deles melhorou. O poder deles aumentou. Nos anos 80, começaram a fazer propaganda desse modelo, e nos noventa, a profissão já não prestava atenção a seus próprios estudos científicos. Eles acreditavam em sua própria propaganda”, relata.

Para Whitaker, houve uma união do útil ao agradável.  Uma história que melhorou a imagem pública da psiquiatria e ajudou a vender medicamentos. No final dos anos oitenta, o comércio desses fármacos movimentava  US$ 800 milhões por ano. Vinte anos mais tarde, já eram US$ 40 bilhões. “Se estudarmos a literatura científica, observamos que já estamos utilizando esses remédios há 50 anos. Em geral, o que eles fazem é aumentar a cronicidade desses transtornos”, afirma de forma categórica.

Essa mensagem, segundo o próprio Whitaker, pode ser perigosa, mas ele não traz conselhos médicos nos estudos (Anatomy of an Epidemic ), não é para casos individuais. “Bom, se a medicação funciona, fantástico. Há pessoas para quem isso funciona. Além disso, o cérebro se adapta aos comprimidos, o que significa que retirá-los pode ter efeitos graves. O que falamos no livro é sobre o resultado de maneira geral. É para que a sociedade se pergunte: nós organizamos o atendimento psiquiátrico em torno de uma história cientificamente correta ou não?”, diz.

Whitaker foi muito criticado, apesar de seu livro contar com muitas evidências e ter recebido prêmios. Mas a obra desafiou os critérios da Associação Norte-Americana de Psiquiatria (APA) e os interesses da indústria farmacêutica. Mas desde 2010 novos estudos confirmaram suas pesquisas. Entre eles, os trabalhos dos psiquiatras Martin Harrow e Lex Wunderink e o fato de a prestigiada revista científica British Journal of Psychiatry já assumir que é preciso repensar o uso de medicamentos. “Os comprimidos podem servir para esconder o mal-estar, para esconder a angústia. Mas não são curativos, não produzem um estado de felicidade”, diz. Veja texto completo. Ou Aqui

Veja vídeo com Robert Whitaker, pena que ainda não está legendado em português.


Gut feeling: Research examines link between stomach bacteria, PTSD (Science Daily)

April 25, 2016
Office of Naval Research
Could bacteria in your gut be used to cure or prevent neurological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or even depression? Two researchers think that’s a strong possibility.

Dr. John Bienenstock (left) and Dr. Paul Forsythe in their lab. The researchers are studying whether bacteria in the gut can be used to cure or prevent neurological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or depression. Credit: Photo courtesy of Dr. John Bienenstock and Dr. Paul Forsythe

Could bacteria in your gut be used to cure or prevent neurological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or even depression? Two researchers sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) think that’s a strong possibility.

Dr. John Bienenstock and Dr. Paul Forsythe–who work in The Brain-Body Institute at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada–are investigating intestinal bacteria and their effect on the human brain and mood.

“This is extremely important work for U.S. warfighters because it suggests that gut microbes play a strong role in the body’s response to stressful situations, as well as in who might be susceptible to conditions like PTSD,” said Dr. Linda Chrisey, a program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department, which sponsors the research.

The trillions of microbes in the intestinal tract, collectively known as the gut microbiome, profoundly impact human biology–digesting food, regulating the immune system and even transmitting signals to the brain that alter mood and behavior. ONR is supporting research that’s anticipated to increase warfighters’ mental and physical resilience in situations involving dietary changes, sleep loss or disrupted circadian rhythms from shifting time zones or living in submarines.

Through research on laboratory mice, Bienenstock and Forsythe have shown that gut bacteria seriously affect mood and demeanor. They also were able to control the moods of anxious mice by feeding them healthy microbes from fecal material collected from calm mice.

Bienenstock and Forsythe used a “social defeat” scenario in which smaller mice were exposed to larger, more aggressive ones for a couple of minutes daily for 10 consecutive days. The smaller mice showed signs of heightened anxiety and stress–nervous shaking, diminished appetite and less social interaction with other mice. The researchers then collected fecal samples from the stressed mice and compared them to those from calm mice.

“What we found was an imbalance in the gut microbiota of the stressed mice,” said Forsythe. “There was less diversity in the types of bacteria present. The gut and bowels are a very complex ecology. The less diversity, the greater disruption to the body.”

Bienenstock and Forsythe then fed the stressed mice the same probiotics (live bacteria) found in the calm mice and examined the new fecal samples. Through magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), a non-invasive analytical technique using powerful MRI technology, they also studied changes in brain chemistry.

“Not only did the behavior of the mice improve dramatically with the probiotic treatment,” said Bienenstock, “but it continued to get better for several weeks afterward. Also, the MRS technology enabled us to see certain chemical biomarkers in the brain when the mice were stressed and when they were taking the probiotics.”

Both researchers said stress biomarkers could potentially indicate if someone is suffering from PTSD or risks developing it, allowing for treatment or prevention with probiotics and antibiotics.

Later this year, Bienenstock and Forsythe will perform experiments involving fecal transplants from calm mice to stressed mice. They also hope to secure funding to conduct clinical trials to administer probiotics to human volunteers and use MRS to monitor brain reactions to different stress levels.

Gut microbiology is part of ONR’s program in warfighter performance. ONR also is looking at the use of synthetic biology to enhance the gut microbiome. Synthetic biology creates or re-engineers microbes or other organisms to perform specific tasks like improving health and physical performance. The field was identified as a top ONR priority because of its potential far-ranging impact on warfighter performance and fleet capabilities.

Journal Reference:

  1. S. Leclercq, P. Forsythe, J. Bienenstock. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Does the Gut Microbiome Hold the Key? The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 2016; 61 (4): 204 DOI: 10.1177/0706743716635535

What a Shaman Sees in A Mental Hospital (Waking Times)

By  August 22, 2014

The Dark Side of Ayahuasca (Men’s Journal)

By   Mar 2013

Every day, hundreds of tourists arrive in Iquitos, Peru, seeking spiritual catharsis or just to trip their heads off. But increasingly often their trip becomes a nightmare, and some of them don’t go home at all.

The dark side of ayahuasca

Credit: Joshua Paul

Kyle Nolan spent the summer of 2011 talking up a documentary called ‘Stepping Into the Fire,’ about the mind-expanding potential of ayahuasca. The film tells the story of a hard-driving derivatives trader and ex-Marine named Roberto Velez, who, in his words, turned his back on the “greed, power, and vice” of Wall Street after taking ayahuasca with a Peruvian shaman. The film is a slick promotion for the hallucinogenic tea that’s widely embraced as a spirit cure, and for the Shimbre Shamanic Center, the ayahuasca lodge Velez built for his guru, a potbellied medicine man called Master Mancoluto. The film’s message is that we Westerners have lost our way and that the ayahuasca brew (which is illegal in the United States because it contains the psychedelic compound DMT) can set us straight.

Last August, 18-year-old Nolan left his California home and boarded a plane to the Amazon for a 10-day, $1,200 stay at Shimbre in Peru’s Amazon basin with Mancoluto – who is pitched in Shimbre’s promotional materials as a man to help ayahuasca recruits “open their minds to deeper realities, develop their intuitive capabilities, and unlock untapped potential.” But when Nolan – who was neither “flaky” nor “unreliable,” says his father, Sean – didn’t show up on his return flight home, his mother, Ingeborg Oswald, and his triplet sister, Marion, went to Peru to find him. Initially, Mancoluto, whose real name is José Pineda Vargas, told them Kyle had packed his bags and walked off without a word. The shaman even joined Oswald on television pleading for help in finding her son, but the police in Peru remained suspicious. Under pressure, Mancoluto admitted that Nolan had died after an ayahuasca session and that his body had been buried at the edge of the property. The official cause of death has not yet been determined.

Pilgrims like Nolan are flocking to the Amazon in search of ayahuasca, either to expand their spiritual horizons or to cure alcoholism, depression, and even cancer, but what many of them find is a nightmare. Still, the airport in Iquitos is buzzing with ayahuasca tourism. Vans from shamanic lodges pick up psychedelic pilgrims from around the world, while taxi drivers peddle access to Indian medicine men. “It reminds me of how they sell cocaine and marijuana in Amsterdam,” one local said. “Here, it’s shamans and ayahuasca.”

Devotees talk about ayahuasca’s cathartic and life-changing power, but there is a dark side to the tourism boom as well. With money rolling in and lodges popping up across Peru’s sprawling Amazon, a new breed of shaman has emerged – and not all of them can be trusted with the powerful drug. Deaths like Nolan’s are uncommon, but reports of molestation, rape, and negligence at the hands of predatory and inept shamans are not. In the past few years alone, a young German woman was allegedly raped and beaten by two men who had administered ayahuasca to her, two French citizens died while staying at ayahuasca lodges, and stories persist about unwanted sexual advances and people losing their marbles after being given overly potent doses. The age of ayahuasca as purely a medicinal, consciousness-raising pursuit seems like a quaint and distant past.A powerful psychedelic, DMT is a natural compound found throughout the plant kingdom and in mammals (including humans). Scientists don’t know why it’s so prevalent in the world, but studies suggest a role in natural dreaming. DMT doesn’t work if swallowed alone, thanks to an enzyme in the gastrointestinal system that breaks it down. In a feat of prehistoric chemistry, Amazonian shamans fixed that by boiling two plants together – the ayahuasca vine and a DMT-containing shrub called chacruna – which shuts down the enzyme and allows the DMT to slip through the gut into the bloodstream.

Ayahuasca almost always induces vomiting before the hallucinogenic odyssey begins. It can be both horrifying and strangely blissful. One devotee described an ayahuasca trip as “psychotherapy on steroids.” But for all the root’s spiritual and therapeutic benefits, the ayahuasca boom is as wild and unmanageable as the jungle itself. One unofficial stat floating around Iquitos says the number of arriving pilgrims has grown fivefold in two years. Roger Rumrrill, a journalist who has written 25 books on the Amazon region, including several on shamanism, told me there’s “a corresponding boom in charlatans – in fake shamans, who are targeting foreigners.”

Few experts blame the concoction itself. Alan Shoemaker, who organizes an annual shamanism conference in Iquitos, says, “Ayahuasca is one of the sacred power plants and is completely nonaddictive, has been used for literally thousands of years for healing and divination purposes . . . and dying from overdose is virtually impossible.”

Still, no one monitors the medicine men, their claims, or their credentials. No one is making sure they screen patients for, say, heart problems, although ayahuasca is known to boost pulse rates and blood pressure. (When French citizen Celine René Margarite Briset died from a heart attack after taking ayahuasca in the Amazonian city of Yurimaguas in 2011, it was reported she had a preexisting heart condition.) And though many prospective ayahuasca-takers – people likely to have been prescribed antidepressants – struggle with addiction and depression, few shamans know or care to ask about antidepressants like Prozac, which can be deadly when mixed with ayahuasca. Reports suggested that a clash of meds killed 39-year-old Frenchman Fabrice Champion, who died a few months after Briset in an Iquitos-based lodge called Espiritu de Anaconda (which had already experienced one death and has since changed its name to Anaconda Cosmica). No one has been charged in either case.

Nor is anyone monitoring the growing number of lodges offering to train foreigners to make and serve the potentially deadly brew. Rumrrill scoffs at the idea. “People study for years to become a shaman,” he said. “You can’t become one in a few weeks….It’s a public health threat.” Disciples of ayahuasca insist that a shaman’s job is to control the movements of evil spirits in and out of the passengers, which in layman’s terms means keeping people from losing their shit. An Argentine tourist at the same lodge where Briset died reportedly stabbed himself in the chest after drinking too much of the tea. I met a passenger whose face was covered in thick scabs I assumed were symptoms of an illness for which he was being treated. It turns out he’d scraped the skin off himself during an understatedly “rough night with the medicine.” Because of ayahuasca’s power to plow through the psyche, many lodges screen patients for bipolar disorders or schizophrenia. But one local tour guide told me about a seeker who failed to disclose that he was schizophrenic. He drank ayahuasca and was later arrested – naked and crazed – in a public plaza. Critics worry that apprentice programs are churning out ayahuasqueros who are incapable of handling such cases.

Common are stories of female tourists who, under ayahuasca’s stupor, have faced sexual predators posing as healers. A nurse from Seattle says she booked a stay at a lodge run by a gringo shaman two hours outside Iquitos. When she slipped into ayahuasca’s trademark “state of hyper-suggestibility,” things got weird. “He placed his hands on my breast and groin and was talking a lot of shit to me,” she recalls. “I couldn’t talk. I was very weak.” She said she couldn’t confront the shaman. During the next session, he became verbally abusive. Fearing he might hurt her, she snuck off to the river, a tributary of the Amazon, late that night and swam away. She was lucky. In 2010, a 23-year-old German woman traveled to a tiny village called Barrio Florida for three nights of ayahuasca ceremonies. She ended up raped and brutally beaten by a “shaman” and his accomplice, who were both arrested. Last November, a Slovakian woman filed charges against a shaman, claiming she’d been raped during a ceremony at a lodge in Peru.

Even more troubling than ayahuasca is toé, a “witchcraft plant” that’s a member of the nightshade family. Also called Brugmansia, or angel’s trumpet, toé is known for its hallucinogenic powers. Skilled shamans use it in tiny amounts, but around Iquitos, people say irresponsible shamans dose foreigners with it to give them the Disneyland light shows they’ve come to expect. But there are downsides, to say the least. “Toé,” warns one reputable Iquitos lodge, “is potentially very dangerous, and excessive use can cause permanent mental impairment. Deaths are not uncommon from miscalculated dosages.” I heard horror stories. One ayahuasca tourist said, “Toé is a heavy, dark plant that’s associated with witchcraft for a reason: You can’t say no. Toé makes you go crazy. Some master shamans use it in small quantities, but it takes years to work with the plants. There’s nothing good to come out of it.”

Another visitor, an engineer from Washington, D.C., blames toé for his recent ayahuasca misadventure. He learned about ayahuasca on the internet and booked a multinight stay at one of the region’s most popular lodges. By the second night, he felt something was amiss. “When the shaman passed me the cup that night, he said, ‘We’re going to put you back together.’ I knew something was wrong. It was unbelievably strong.” The man says it hit him like a wave. “All around me, people started moaning. Then the yells and screaming started. Soon, I realized that medics were coming in and out of the hut, attending to people, trying to calm them down.” He angrily told me he was sure, based on hearing the bad trips of others who’d been given the substance, they had given him toé. “Ayahuasca,” he says, “should come with a warning label.”

Kyle’s father, Sean, suspects toé may have played a part in his son’s death, but he says he’s still raising the money he needs to get a California coroner to release the autopsy report. Mancoluto couldn’t be reached for comment, but his former benefactor, the securities trader Roberto Velez, now regrets his involvement with Mancoluto. “The man was evil and dangerous,” he says, “and the whole world needs to know so that no one ever seeks him again.” Some of Mancoluto’s former patients believe his brews included toé and have taken to the internet, claiming his practices were haphazard. (He allegedly sat in a tower overseeing his patients telepathically as they staggered through the forest.) One blog reports seeing a client “wandering out of the jungle, onto the road, talking to people who weren’t there, waving down cars, smoking imaginary cigarettes, and his eyes actually changed color, all of which indicated a high quantity of Brugmansia in Mancoluto’s brew.”

Shoemaker says that even though the majority of ayahuasca trips are positive and safe, things have gotten out of hand. “Misdosing with toé doesn’t make you a witch,” he says. “It makes you a criminal.” Velez, whose inspirational ayahuasca story was the focus of the film that sparked Kyle Nolan’s interest, is no longer an advocate. “It’s of life-and-death importance,” he warns, “that people don’t get involved with shamans they don’t know. I don’t know if anyone should trust a stranger with their soul.”

See also: Ayahuasca at Home: An American Experience

Related: Bucky McMahon’s goes Down the Monkey Hole on a Ayahuasca Retreat

Read more:

Active ingredient in magic mushrooms reduces anxiety, depression in cancer patients (Science Daily)

Date: December 10, 2015

Source: American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Summary: Psilocybin, found in magic mushrooms, decreased anxiety and depression in patients diagnosed with life-threatening cancer. New research shows that patients who received a psilocybin dose that altered perception and produced mystical-type experiences reported significantly less anxiety and depression compared with patients who received a low dose of the drug. The positive effects lasted 6 months.

A single dose of psilocybin, the major hallucinogenic component in magic mushrooms, induces long-lasting decreases in anxiety and depression in patients diagnosed with life-threatening cancer according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Patients who receive a cancer diagnosis often develop debilitating symptoms of anxiety and depression. Reports from the 1960s and 1970s suggest that hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD may alleviate such symptoms in cancer patients, but the clinical value of hallucinogenic drugs for the treatment of mood disturbances in cancer patients remains unclear. In this new study, Roland Griffiths and colleagues from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine investigated the effects of psilocybin on symptoms of anxiety and depression in individuals diagnosed with life-threatening cancer. Five weeks after receiving a dose of psilocybin sufficiently high to induce changes in perception and mystical-type experiences, patients reported significantly lower levels of anxiety and depression compared with patients that received a low dose of the drug. The positive effects on mood persisted in the patients at 6 month follow-up.

The authors suggest that a single dose of psilocybin may be sufficient to produce enduring decreases in negative mood in patients with a life-threatening cancer.

Small advances: understanding the micro biome (ABC RN)

Tuesday 1 September 2015 4:27PM

Amanda Smith



What is it that makes you, you? While you’re made up of 10 trillion human cells, 100 trillion microbial cells also live on you and in you. This vast array of microscopic bugs may be your defining feature, and scientists around the world are racing to find out more. Amanda Smith reports.


Microbes, it seems, are the next big thing. Around the world, scientists are researching the human microbiome—the genes of our microbes—in the hope of unlocking quite a different way to understand sickness and health.

At the Microbiome Initiative at the University of California, San Diego, Rob Knight runs the American Gut Project, a citizen science initiative where you can get your microbiome sequenced.

Breast milk is meant to present the baby with a manageable dose of everything in the environment. It samples the entire environment—everything the mother eats, breathes, touches.


‘What we can do right now is put you on this microbial map, where we can compare your microbes to the microbes of thousands of other people we’ve already looked at,’ he says. ‘But what we need to do is develop more of a microbial GPS that doesn’t just tell you where you are, but tells you where you want to go and what you need to do, step by step, in order to get there.’

The Australian Centre for Ecogenomics is also setting up a service where you can get your gut microbes analysed. The centre’s director, Phillip Hugenholtz, predicts that in years to come such a process will be a diagnostic procedure when you go to the doctor, much like getting a blood test.

‘I definitely think that’s going to become a standard part of your personalised medicine’, he says. ‘Micro-organisms are sometimes a very good early indicator of things occurring in your body and so it will become something that you’d go and get done maybe once or twice a year to see what’s going on.’

While this level of interest in the microbiome is new, the first person to realise we’re all teeming with micro-organisms was Dutchman Anton Leeuwenhoek, way back in 1676. Leeuwenhoek was interested in making lenses, and constructed himself a microscope.

‘He was looking at the scum from his teeth, and was amazed to see in this scraped-off plaque from inside his own mouth what he called hundreds of different “animalcules swimming a-prettily”,’ says Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at Kings College London.

‘He was the first to describe this, and it took hundreds of years before people actually believed that we were completely full of these microbes and we’d co-evolved with them.’

Microbes have come a long way over the last century. Until recent advances in DNA sequencing, all tummy bugs were considered bad.

‘We used to think that there was no such thing as a good microbe in our guts, that they were all out to do us no good, and we’ve basically spent the last 100 years trying to eliminate them with disinfectants and then the last 50 years with antibiotics,’ says Spector.

This has given rise to the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, which contends that by keeping ourselves too clean, we’re denying ourselves the microbes necessary to keep our immune system balanced, resulting in all sorts of chronic diseases.

‘Over the last half-century, as infectious diseases like polio and measles and hepatitis and so-on have plummeted in their frequency, chronic diseases—everything from obesity to diabetes to inflammatory bowel disease—have been skyrocketing,’ says the Microbiome Initiative’s Rob Knight.

‘So the idea is that potentially without exposure to a diverse range of healthy microbes our immune systems might be going into overdrive and attacking our own cells, or overreacting to harmless things we find in the environment.’

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek


In terms of human DNA, we’re all 99.99 per cent identical. However our microbial profiles can differ enormously. We might share just 10 per cent of our dominant microbial species with others.

According to Knight, some of the differences are explained by method of birth.

‘If you come out the regular way you get coated with microbes as you’re passing through your mother’s birth canal,’ he says.

Babies delivered by Caesarian section, on the other hand, have microbes that are mostly found on adult skin, from being touched by different doctors and nurses.

‘One thing that’s potentially interesting about that is differences between C-section and vaginally delivered babies have been reported: higher rates in C-section babies of asthma, allergies, atopic disease, even obesity. All of those have been linked to the microbiome now.’

Also important to the development of healthy microbiota in babies is breastfeeding, according to Maureen Minchin, the author of Milk Matters.

‘We’ve known for over 100 years that breast milk and formula result in very, very different gut flora in babies, but it’s only very recently that anyone has thought to look and see what breast milk does contain, and at last count there were well over 700 species of bacteria in breast milk,’ she says.

According to Minchin, breastfeeding is the bridge between the womb and the world for babies.

‘Breast milk is meant to present the baby with a manageable dose of everything in the environment. It samples the entire environment—everything the mother eats, breathes, touches. Her microbiome is present in that breast milk and will help create the appropriate microbiome in the baby.’

Minchin is an advocate of the World Health Organisation’s recommendation to breastfeed exclusively to six months and then continue breastfeeding while introducing other foods through the first and second year.

Related: Why the digestive system and its bacteria are a ‘second brain’

So if what babies are fed is important for their microbiome, what about adults? Tim Spector says research into microbes is yielding new information about healthy eating.

‘It’s going to soon revolutionise how we look at food and diet. This is one of the most exciting things in science at the moment, because it’s obviously much easier to change your microbes than it is to change your genes.’

‘Most processed foods only contain about five ingredients, and in a way our epidemic of the last 30 years of obesity and allergy is that our diets have become less and less diverse.’

According to Spector, studies of people with various chronic diseases, obesity and diabetes show a common feature, which is that their gut microbes have a much-reduced diversity compared to healthy people.

He likes to use the analogy of a garden: ‘A neglected garden has very few species, not much fertilised soil, and this allows weeds to take over in great numbers,’ he says.

‘I think this is a nice concept because we’re very good gardeners, humans, and I think we need to start using those principles—fertilising, adding soil, experimenting and avoiding adding nasty toxins to our own bodies as we would our gardens.’

May your gut flora bloom!

Micro biomes of human throat may be linked to schizophrenia (Science Daily)

Studying microbiomes in throat may help identify causes and treatments of brain disorder

August 25, 2015
George Washington University
In the most comprehensive study to date, researchers have identified a potential link between microbes (viruses, bacteria and fungi) in the throat and schizophrenia. This link may offer a way to identify causes and develop treatments of the disease and lead to new diagnostic tests.

In the most comprehensive study to date, researchers at the George Washington University have identified a potential link between microbes (viruses, bacteria and fungi) in the throat and schizophrenia. This link may offer a way to identify causes and develop treatments of the disease and lead to new diagnostic tests.

“The oropharynx of schizophrenics seems to harbor different proportions of oral bacteria than healthy individuals,” said Eduardo Castro-Nallar, a Ph.D. candidate at GW’s Computational Biology Institute (CBI) and lead author of the study. “Specifically, our analyses revealed an association between microbes such as lactic-acid bacteria and schizophrenics.”

Recent studies have shown that microbiomes — the communities of microbes living within our bodies — can affect the immune system and may be connected to mental health. Research linking immune disorders and schizophrenia has also been published, and this study furthers the possibility that shifts in oral communities are associated with schizophrenia.

Mr. Castro-Nallar’s research sought to identify microbes associated with schizophrenia, as well as components that may be associated with or contribute to changes in the immune state of the person. In this study, the group found a significant difference in the microbiomes of healthy and schizophrenic patients.

“Our results suggesting a link between microbiome diversity and schizophrenia require replication and expansion to a broader number of individuals for further validation,” said Keith Crandall, director of the CBI and contributing author of the study. “But the results are quite intriguing and suggest potential applications of biomarkers for diagnosis of schizophrenia and important metabolic pathways associated with the disease.”

The study helps to identify possible contributing factors to schizophrenia. With additional studies, researchers may be able to determine if microbiome changes are a contributing factor to schizophrenia, are a result of schizophrenia or do not have a connection to the disorder.

Journal Reference:

  1. Eduardo Castro-Nallar, Matthew L. Bendall, Marcos Pérez-Losada, Sarven Sabuncyan, Emily G. Severance, Faith B. Dickerson, Jennifer R. Schroeder, Robert H. Yolken, Keith A. Crandall. Composition, taxonomy and functional diversity of the oropharynx microbiome in individuals with schizophrenia and controlsPeer J, August 25th, 2015 [link]

O que não queremos ver nos nossos índios (OESP)

27/4/2015 – 01h02

por Washington Novaes*


Notícia de poucos dias atrás (Diário Digital, 19/4) dá conta de pesquisa (relatada pela revista Science) de um grupo de cientistas que, trabalhando na fronteira Brasil-Venezuela com índios ianomâmis, conclui que eles têm anticorpos resistentes a agentes externos – “um microbioma com o nível mais alto de diversidade bacteriana” jamais registrado em qualquer outro grupo. Por isso mesmo, “seu sistema imunológico apresenta mais microrganismos e de todas as bactérias que o dos demais grupos humanos conhecidos” – como demonstrou o sequenciamento de DNA e de bactérias encontradas na pele, na boca e nos intestinos.

Essas análises foram confirmadas por pesquisas em universidades norte-americanas, que recentemente devolveram aos ianomâmis 2.693 amostras de sangue levadas para os Estados Unidos em 1962 – e que agora foram sepultadas pelos índios em cerimoniais respeitosos. Segundo os pesquisadores, na relação com outros grupos humanos esses índios perdem a diversidade de microrganismos e se tornam vulneráveis a doenças que antes não conheciam.

A memória dá um salto e retorna a 1979, quando o autor destas linhas, então chefe da redação do programa Globo Repórter, da Rede Globo, foi pela primeira vez ao Parque Indígena do Xingu documentar um trabalho que ali vinha sendo feito por uma equipe de médicos da Escola Paulista de Medicina (hoje Universidade Federal de São Paulo), liderada pelo professor Roberto Baruzzi. Os pesquisadores acompanhavam a saúde de cada índio de várias etnias do sul do Xingu, mantinham fichas específicas de todos e as comparavam com a visita anterior. A conclusão era espantosa: não havia ali um só caso de doenças cardiovasculares – exatamente porque, vivendo isolados, os índios não tinham nenhum dos chamados fatores de risco dessas doenças: não fumavam, não bebiam álcool, não tinham vida sedentária nem obesidade, não apresentavam hipertensão, não consumiam sal (só sal vegetal, feito com aguapé) nem açúcar de cana. Saindo do Xingu, fomos documentar grupos de índios caingangues e guaranis aculturados que viviam nas proximidades de Bauru (SP). Os que trabalhavam eram boias-frias e os demais, mendigos, alcoólatras, com perturbações mentais. Praticamente todos eram hipertensos, obesos, com taxas de mortalidade altas e precoces. A comparação foi ao ar num documentário, As Razões do Coração, que teve índices altíssimos de audiência.

São informações que deveriam fazer parte de nossas discussões de hoje, quando estamos às voltas com várias crises na área de saúde – epidemias de dengue (mais de 220 casos novos por hora, 257.809, ou 55% do total, em São Paulo), índices altíssimos de obesidade, inclusive entre jovens e crianças, doenças cardiovasculares entre as mais frequentes causas de morte. Mas em lugar de prestar atenção aos modos de viver de indígenas, enquanto ainda na força de sua cultura, continuamos a tratá-los como seres estranhos, que vivem pelados, não falam nossas línguas, não trabalham segundo nossos padrões. A ponto de eles terem agora de se rebelar para que não se aprove no Congresso Nacional, sob pressão principalmente da “bancada ruralista”, uma proposta de emenda constitucional que lhes retira parte de seus direitos assegurados pela constituição de 1988 e transfere da Funai para o Congresso o poder de demarcar ou não terras indígenas.

Com esses rumos acentuaremos o esquecimento de que eles foram os “donos” de todo o território nacional, do qual foram gradativamente expulsos. Mas ainda são quase 1 milhão de pessoas de 220 povos, que falam 180 línguas, em 27 Estados. Agora avança, inclusive no Judiciário, a tese de que só pode ser reconhecido para demarcação território já ocupado efetivamente por eles antes de 1988. E assim cerca de 300 áreas correm riscos.

Só que nos esquecemos também dos relatórios da ONU, do Banco Mundial e de outras instituições segundo os quais as áreas indígenas são os lugares mais eficazes em conservação da biodiversidade – mais que as reservas legais e outras áreas protegidas. Que seus modos de viver são os que mais impedem desmatamentos – esse problema tão angustiante por sua influência na área do clima e dos regimes de chuvas.

Isso não tem importância apenas para o Brasil. A própria ONU, por meio de sua Agência para a Alimentação e Agricultura (FAO), afirma (Eco-Finanças, 17/4) que a “crise da água” afetará dois terços da população mundial em 2050 (hoje já há algum nível de escassez para 40% da população). E que o fator principal será o maior uso da água para produzir 60% mais alimentos que hoje.

Mas há diferenças de um lugar para outro. Os países ditos desenvolvidos, com menos de 20% da população mundial, consomem quase 80% dos recursos físicos; os Estados Unidos, com 5% da população, respondem por 40% do consumo. Segundo a sua própria Agência de Proteção Ambiental, os EUA jogam no lixo 34 milhões de toneladas anuais de alimentos. No mundo, um terço dos alimentos é desperdiçado (FAO, 5/2), enquanto mais de 800 milhões de pessoas passam fome e mais de 2 bilhões vivem abaixo da linha de pobreza. No Brasil mesmo, 3,4 milhões de pessoas passam fome (Folha de S.Paulo, 22/9/2014). A elas podemos somar mais de 40 milhões de pessoas que vivem do Bolsa Família.

Diante de tudo isso, vale a pena lembrar o depoimento do saudoso psicanalista Hélio Pellegrino, no livro Noel Nutels – Memórias e Depoimentos, sobre o médico que dedicou sua vida a grupos indígenas. “Se estamos destruindo os índios”, escreveu Hélio Pellegrino, “é porque nossa brutalidade chegou a um nível perigoso para nós próprios. Os índios representam a possibilidade humana mais radical e íntima de transar com a natureza (…). Homem e natureza são casados (…). Dissolvido esse casamento, o homem tomba num exílio feito de poeira amarga e estéril”. (O Estado de S. Paulo/ #Envolverde)

Washington Novaes é jornalista. E-mail:

** Publicado originalmente no site O Estado de S. Paulo.

(O Estado de S. Paulo)

Received wisdom about mental illness challenged by new report (Science Daily)

Date: March 11, 2015

Source: British Psychological Society

Summary: A new report challenges received wisdom about the nature of mental illness and has led to widespread media coverage and debate in the UK. Many people believe that schizophrenia is a frightening brain disease that makes people unpredictable and potentially violent, and can only be controlled by medication. However the UK has been at the forefront of research into the psychology of psychosis conducted over the last twenty years, and which reveals that this view is false.

21st March 2015 will see the US launch of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology’s ground-breaking report ‘Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia’.

The report, which will be launched at 9am at the Cooper Union, Manhattan, NYC by invitation of the International Society for Psychological and Social approaches to Psychosis (ISPS), challenges received wisdom about the nature of mental illness and has led to widespread media coverage and debate in the UK.

Many people believe that schizophrenia is a frightening brain disease that makes people unpredictable and potentially violent, and can only be controlled by medication. However the UK has been at the forefront of research into the psychology of psychosis conducted over the last twenty years, and which reveals that this view is false.


  • The problems we think of as ‘psychosis’ — hearing voices, believing things that others find strange, or appearing out of touch with reality — can be understood in the same way as other psychological problems such as anxiety or shyness.
  • They are often a reaction to trauma or adversity of some kind which impacts on the way we experience and interpret the world.
  • They rarely lead to violence.
  • No-one can tell for sure what has caused a particular person’s problems. The only way is to sit down with them and try and work it out.
  • Services should not insist that people see themselves as ill. Some prefer to think of their problems as, for example, an aspect of their personality which sometimes gets them into trouble but which they would not want to be without.
  • We need to invest much more in prevention by attending to inequality and child maltreatment.

Concentrating resources only on treating existing problems is like mopping the floor while the tap is still running.

The report is entitled ‘Understanding psychosis and schizophrenia: why people sometimes hear voices, believe things that others find strange, or appear out of touch with reality, and what can help’. It has been written by a group of eminent clinical psychologists drawn from eight UK universities and the UK National Health Service, together with people who have themselves experienced psychosis. It provides an accessible overview of the current state of knowledge, and its conclusions have profound implications both for the way we understand ‘mental illness’ and for the future of mental health services. ?

The report’s editor, Consultant Clinical Psychologist Anne Cooke from the Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology, Canterbury Christ Church University, said: “The finding that psychosis can be understood and treated in the same way as other psychological problems such as anxiety is one of the most important of recent years, and services need to change accordingly.

In the past we have often seen drugs as the most important form of treatment. Whilst they have a place, we now need to concentrate on helping each person to make sense of their experiences and find the support that works for them. My dream is that our report will contribute to a sea change in attitudes so that rather than facing prejudice, fear and discrimination, people who experience psychosis will find those around them accepting, open-minded and willing to help.”

Dr Geraldine Strathdee, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health, said: “I am a passionate advocate of supporting people to develop an understanding of the events and difficulties that led them to mental health services.

That is the first step to getting back in control, and this important report will be a vital resource both for them and for those of us who design and deliver services. The British Psychological Society are a great force for change right at the grass roots of frontline services, in both acute care and long term conditions, and are at the forefront of innovations that integrate physical and psychological care in primary care, community and acute hospital settings.”

Rt Hon Norman Lamb, UK Minister of State for Care and Support, said: “I strongly welcome the publication of this report. The Government is committed to the provision of psychological therapies, and has recently announced that, for the first time, maximum waiting times will be introduced for NHS mental health services, including for Early Intervention in Psychosis.

We have also committed substantial resources to support the provision of psychological care for people with a range of mental health problems, including psychosis. I am delighted, therefore, to add my voice in recommending this report, which explains in everyday language the psychological science of why people sometimes hear voices, believe things other people find strange, or appear out of touch with reality. I am particularly pleased that it is the product of a partnership between expert psychologists in universities and NHS Trusts, and experts by experience — people who have themselves experienced psychosis. It helps us to understand such experiences better, to empathise with those who are distressed by them and to appreciate why the Government has made the psychological care of mental health problems a priority.”

Professor Jamie Hacker-Hughes, President Elect of the British Psychological Society, said: “This report will be remembered as a milestone in psychological health.”

Jacqui Dillon, Chair of the UK Hearing Voices Network, said “This report is an example of the amazing things that are possible when professionals and people with personal experience work together. Both the report’s content and the collaborative process by which it has been written are wonderful examples of the importance and power of moving beyond ‘them and us’ thinking in mental health.”

Beth Murphy, Head of Information at the UK Mental Health Charity Mind, said: “We welcome this report which highlights the range of ways in which we can understand experiences such as hearing voices. Anyone of us can experience problems with our mental health, whether we are diagnosed or not.

People describe and relate to their own experiences in very different ways and it’s important that services can accommodate the complex and varied range of experiences that people have. This can only be done by offering the widest possible range of treatments and therapies and by treating the person as whole, rather than as a set of symptoms.”

An evolutionary approach reveals new clues toward understanding the roots of schizophrenia (AAAS)



Is mental illness simply the evolutionary toll humans have to pay in return for our unique and superior cognitive abilities when compared to all other species? But if so, why have often debilitating illnesses like schizophrenia persisted throughout human evolutionary history when the affects can be quite negative on an individual’s chances of survival or reproductive success?

In a new study appearing in Molecular Biology and Evolution, Mount Sinai researcher Joel Dudley has led a new study that suggests that the very changes specific to human evolution may have come at a cost, contributing to the genetic architecture underlying schizophrenia traits in modern humans.

“We were intrigued by the fact that unlike many other mental traits, schizophrenia traits have not been observed in species other than humans, and schizophrenia has interesting and complex relationships with human intelligence,” said Dr. Joel Dudley, who led the study along with Dr. Panos Roussos. “The rapid increase in genomic data sequenced from large schizophrenia patient cohorts enabled us to investigate the molecular evolutionary history of schizophrenia in sophisticated new ways.”

The team examined a link between these regions, and human-specific evolution, in genomic segments called human accelerated regions, or HARs. HARs are short signposts in the genome that are conserved among non-human species but experienced faster mutation rates in humans. Thus, these regions, which are thought to control the level of gene expression, but not mutate the gene itself, may be an underexplored area of mental illness research.

The team’s research is the first study to sift through the human genome and identify a shared pattern between the location of HARs and recently identified schizophrenia gene loci. To perform their work, they utilized a recently completed, largest schizophrenia study of its kind, the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC), which included 36,989 schizophrenia cases and 113,075 controls. It is the largest genome-wide association study ever performed on any psychiatric disease.

They found that the schizophrenic loci were most strongly associated in genomic regions near the HARs that are conserved in non-human primates, and these HAR-associated schizophrenic loci are found to be under stronger evolutionary selective pressure when compared with other schizophrenic loci. Furthermore, these regions controlled genes that were expressed only in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, indicating that HARs may play an important role in regulating genes found to be linked to schizophrenia. They specifically found the greatest correlation between HAR-associated schizophrenic loci and genes controlling the expression of the neurotransmitter GABA, brain development, synaptic formations, adhesion and signaling molecules.

Their new evolutionary approach provides new insights into schizophrenia, and genomic targets to prioritize future studies and drug development targets. In addition, there are important new avenues to explore the roles of HARs in other mental diseases such as autism or bipolar disorder.

Common anticholinergic drugs like Benadryl linked to increased dementia risk (Harvard Health Blog)

POSTED JANUARY 28, 2015, 8:55 PM

Beverly Merz, Harvard Women’s Health Watch

One long-ago summer, I joined the legion of teens helping harvest our valley’s peach crop in western Colorado. My job was to select the best peaches from a bin, wrap each one in tissue, and pack it into a shipping crate. The peach fuzz that coated every surface of the packing shed made my nose stream and my eyelids swell. When I came home after my first day on the job, my mother was so alarmed she called the family doctor. Soon the druggist was at the door with a vial of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) tablets. The next morning I was back to normal and back on the job. Weeks later, when I collected my pay (including the ½-cent-per-crate bonus for staying until the end of the harvest), I thanked Benadryl.

Today, I’m thankful my need for that drug lasted only a few weeks. A report published online this week in JAMA Internal Medicine offers compelling evidence of a link between long-term use of anticholinergic medications like Benadryl and dementia.

Anticholinergic drugs block the action of acetylcholine. This substance transmits messages in the nervous system. In the brain, acetylcholine is involved in learning and memory. In the rest of the body, it stimulates muscle contractions. Anticholinergic drugs include some antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants, medications to control overactive bladder, and drugs to relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

What the study found

A team led by Shelley Gray, a pharmacist at the University of Washington’s School of Pharmacy, tracked nearly 3,500 men and women ages 65 and older who took part in Adult Changes in Thought (ACT), a long-term study conducted by the University of Washington and Group Health, a Seattle healthcare system. They used Group Health’s pharmacy records to determine all the drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, that each participant took the 10 years before starting the study. Participants’ health was tracked for an average of seven years. During that time, 800 of the volunteers developed dementia. When the researchers examined the use of anticholinergic drugs, they found that people who used these drugs were more likely to have developed dementia as those who didn’t use them. Moreover, dementia risk increased along with the cumulative dose. Taking an anticholinergic for the equivalent of three years or more was associated with a 54% higher dementia risk than taking the same dose for three months or less.

The ACT results add to mounting evidence that anticholinergics aren’t drugs to take long-term if you want to keep a clear head, and keep your head clear into old age. The body’s production of acetylcholine diminishes with age, so blocking its effects can deliver a double whammy to older people. It’s not surprising that problems with short-term memory, reasoning, and confusion lead the list of anticholinergic side effects, which also include drowsiness, dry mouth, urine retention, and constipation.

The University of Washington study is the first to include nonprescription drugs. It is also the first to eliminate the possibility that people were taking a tricyclic antidepressant to alleviate early symptoms of undiagnosed dementia; the risk associated with bladder medications was just as high.

“This study is another reminder to periodically evaluate all of the drugs you’re taking. Look at each one to determine if it’s really helping,” says Dr. Sarah Berry, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “For instance, I’ve seen people who have been on anticholinergic medications for bladder control for years and they are completely incontinent. These drugs obviously aren’t helping.”

Many drugs have a stronger effect on older people than younger people. With age, the kidneys and liver clear drugs more slowly, so drug levels in the blood remain higher for a longer time. People also gain fat and lose muscle mass with age, both of which change the way that drugs are distributed to and broken down in body tissues. In addition, older people tend to take more prescription and over-the-counter medications, each of which has the potential to suppress or enhance the effectiveness of the others.

What should you do?

In 2008, Indiana University School of Medicine geriatrician Malaz Boustani developed the anticholinergic cognitive burden scale, which ranks these drugs according to the severity of their effects on the mind. It’s a good idea to steer clear of the drugs with high ACB scores, meaning those with scores of 3. “There are so many alternatives to these drugs,” says Dr. Berry. For example, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like citalopram (Celexa) or fluoxetine (Prozac) are good alternatives to tricyclic antidepressants. Newer antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin) can replace diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton). Botox injections and cognitive behavioral training can alleviate urge incontinence.

One of the best ways to make sure you’re taking the most effective drugs is to dump all your medications — prescription and nonprescription — into a bag and bring them to your next appointment with your primary care doctor.

Permission to Care: From Anxiety to Action on Climate Change (Desmog Canada)

Mon, 2015-01-26 12:59


Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to participate in discussions about climate change threats and environmental issues with people across private, public, governmental, and research sectors. Whether at an island retreat in Puget Sound, a corporate conference at a resort or in the halls of our esteemed universities, the same questions get asked: How can we get people to care more? How do we motivate people? What’s it going to take?

What if these are the wrong questions to be asking?

Let’s consider this question by first reconsidering the context.

Environmental issues can generate huge anxieties that make them hard for many people to contemplate. Climate change in particular taps into all sorts of cognitive dissonances and feelings of guilt, leaving many people feeling overwhelmed about their role in the problem and solution. This anxiety is often managed through an array of brilliant (usually unconscious) strategies, often both privately and socially, that help us avoid pain, discomfort and conflicts.

Assuming we can agree on these things, the questions we should be asking are: How can our well-established insights into loss and cognitive dissonance guide new approaches to reaching people? How can our understanding of the way anxiety impacts our psyche and conduct inform the way we engage, message and campaign for a more sustainable future?

Psychology and sustainability may seem like strange bedfellows but more than 100 years of psychoanalytic research reveals a lot about how people use unconscious processes to manage anxiety. If I am feeling rather down about the prognosis of our planet, I like to ask myself: “What would a good therapist do?” Does a therapist berate the patient for being scared, reticent or a bit stuck? Does a therapist offer cash incentives for changing behaviors? (I hope not.) One of the first things a (good) therapist does is create what’s called a sense of safety and containment. They can do this by acknowledging their patient’s conflict, suffering and struggle, by helping the patient feel “seen”. Then – and only then – do they form an alliance with the patient to work together in a collaborative, participatory way towards change.

How this translates into engaging people more widely and creatively can be surprising. For starters, acknowledging that people use unconscious strategies for managing anxiety changes the ways we consider (and research) how people think and feel about our world. Analysis needs to go beneath the surface to explore where people feel stuck in conflict and anxious. Second, a psychoanalytic paradigm asks not whether people care or not but focuses onwhere care may exist but may not have permission to be expressed.

This approach can infuse our engagement work, whether in research or strategy, with a mood of curiosity as opposed to frustration and irritation at how wasteful, greedy and short-sighted societies can be. And this mood of curiosity and inquiry can lead us into some unexpected behavior change strategies – particularly through conversation.

The power of conversation may be the most profound insight we can gain from those on the frontlines of the therapeutic professions. Conversation changes people. As Rosemary Randall’s development of Carbon Conversations demonstrates, it’s very simple – if we want people to change, we have to listen to them. Humans are designed to learn, be changed and process information in the act of conversing. In this context, engagement can move beyond the creation of “Green Teams” and champions, into a far more dynamic evolution that creates contexts for creative participation. This means letting go of some control and being open to seeing what emerges when we invite people to contribute (a concept usefully offered by British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott) and exercise their agency.

What all of this amounts to is a radical reframe, a shift from a focus on motivating, persuading, cajoling and gamifying to inviting, enabling, facilitating and supporting. This is about giving people permission to care. As deeply social beings, we need some permission, we need to feel safe. Now, more than any other time, we need to start practicing a new form of engagement that presumes there is more care than can be contained – it just needs some help being channeled.

This article originally appeared on Climate Access.

Image Credit: Mark Stevens via Flickr

Dahr Jamail | Mourning Our Planet: Climate Scientists Share Their Grieving Process (Truthout)

Sunday, 25 January 2015 00:00 By Dahr JamailTruthout | News Analysis 

Scientists write their feelings about climate change

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

I have been researching and writing about anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) for Truthout for the past year, because I have long been deeply troubled by how fast the planet has been emitting its obvious distress signals.

On a nearly daily basis, I’ve sought out the most recent scientific studies, interviewed the top researchers and scientists penning those studies, and connected the dots to give readers as clear a picture as possible about the magnitude of the emergency we are in.

This work has emotional consequences: I’ve struggled with depression, anger, and fear. I’ve watched myself shift through some of the five stages of grief proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance I’ve grieved for the planet and all the species who live here, and continue to do so as I work today.

I have been vacillating between depression and acceptance of where we are, both as victims – fragile human beings – and as perpetrators: We are the species responsible for altering the climate system of the planet we inhabit to the point of possibly driving ourselves extinct, in addition to the 150-200 species we are already driving extinct.

Can you relate to this grieving process?

If so, you might find solace in the fact that you are not alone: Climate science researchers, scientists, journalists and activists have all been struggling with grief around what we are witnessing.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

Take Professor Camille Parmesan, a climate researcher who says that ACD is the driving cause of her depression.

“I don’t know of a single scientist that’s not having an emotional reaction to what is being lost,” Parmesan said in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2012 report. “It’s gotten to be so depressing that I’m not sure I’m going to go back to this particular site again,” she said in reference to an ocean reef she had studied since 2002, “because I just know I’m going to see more and more of the coral dead, and bleached, and covered with brown algae.”

Last year I wrote about the work of Joanna Macy, a scholar of Buddhism, eco-philosophy, general systems theory and deep ecology, and author of more than a dozen books. Her initiative, The Work That Reconnects, helps people essentially do nothing more mysterious than telling the truth about what we see, know and feel is happening to our world.

In order to remain able to continue in our work, we first must feel the full pain of what is being done to the world, according to Macy.” Refusing to feel pain, and becoming incapable of feeling the pain, which is actually the root meaning of apathy, refusal to suffer – that makes us stupid, and half alive,” she told me. “It causes us to become blind to see what is really out there.”

I recently came across a blog titled, Is This How You Feel? It is an extraordinary compilation of handwritten letters from highly credentialed climate scientists and researchers sharing their myriad feelings about what they are seeing.

The blog is run and operated by Joe Duggan, a science communicator, who described his project like this: “All the scientists that have penned letters for this site have a sound understanding of climate change. Some have spent years designing models to predict changing climate, others, years investigating the implications for animal life. More still have been exploring a range of other topics concerning the causes and implications of a changing climate. As a minimum, they’ve all achieved a PhD in their area of expertise.”

With Joe’s permission, I am happy to share the passages below. In the spirit of opening the door to a continuing dialog among readers about our collective situation, what follows are the – often very personal – thoughts and feelings of several leading climate scientists.


“Like many others I feel frustrated with the current state of public discourse and I’m dismayed by those who, seemingly motivated by their own short-term self interest, have chosen to hijack that discussion,” wrote Dr. John Fasullo, a project scientist in the climate analysis section of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, on the Is This How You Feel? blog. “The climate is changing and WE are the primary cause.”

Professor Peter B. deMenocal with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory shared an analogy to the climate scientist’s predicament, comparing it to how a medical doctor would feel while having to inform their patient, who is an old, lifelong friend, of a dire but treatable diagnosis. The friend goes on to angrily disregard what you have to say, for a variety of very human reasons, as you watch helplessly as their pain and illness unfold over the rest of their now-shortened life. “Returning to our patient, I feel frustrated that my friend won’t listen,” he concluded.

Dr. Helen McGregor, a research fellow at the Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Sciences, shared a very emotionally honest letter about her experience as a climate scientist. Here is what she wrote in full:

I feel like nobody’s listening. Ok Sure, some people are listening but not enough of our leaders are listening – those that make decisions that influence all our lives. And climate change is affecting and will continue to affect all our lives.

I feel perplexed at why many of our politicians, business leaders, and members of the public don’t get that increased CO2 in the Earths atmosphere is a problem. The very premise that CO2 traps heat is based on fundamental physics – the very same physics that underpins so much of modern society. The very same physics that has seen higher C02 linked with warmer periods in the geological past. And sure, there have been warm periods in the past and the Earth weathered the storm (excuse the pun) but back then there weren’t millions of people, immovable infrastructure, or entire communities in harms way.

I feel astonished that some would accuse me of being part of some global conspiracy to get more money – if I was in it for the money I would have stayed working as a geologist in the mining industry. No, I do climate research because I find climate so very interesting, global warming or not.

I feel both exasperation and despair in equal measure, that perhaps there really is nothing I can do. I feel vulnerable, that perhaps by writing this letter I expose myself to trolling and vitriol – perhaps I’m better off just keeping quiet.


Dr. Jennie Mallela with the Research Schools of Biology and Earth Sciences at the Australian National University shared a range of emotions, including optimism.

“I believe people are capable of amazing things and I do believe that climate change can be halted and even reversed,” she wrote. “I just hope it happens in my lifetime. I don’t want to become the generation that future children talk of as having destroyed the planet. I’d like to be the generation that fought back (and won) against human induced climate change. The generation that worked out how to live in harmony with the planet – that generation!”

She wasn’t alone.

“So whilst there is enough good and committed people we can change our path of warming,” wrote Dr. Jim Salinger, an honorary research associate in climate science with the University of Auckland’s School of Environment. However, he went on to add, “I am always hopeful – but 4 to 5 degrees Celsius of change will be a challenge to survive.”

I asked Dr. Ira Lefier, an Atmospheric/Oceanic Scientist whose research has focused on methane how he felt about our current situation. He expressed his concerns and frustration, but also optimism.

“I find the current situation is highly distressing, in that the facts regarding global warming have been known for many decades, because like an aircraft carrier avoiding a collision, course changes can easily be managed well in advance, but become impossible at the last minute – inertia seals the future destiny,” he said. “And I ask myself, what did we (scientists and activists and concerned citizens of the planet), how did we get here, so close to the midnight? And I think that there was a tragic underestimate based on the successful campaign to save the Ozone Layer through the fight against CFCs – a gas with almost no political lobby, that the global society could easily accept the widespread changes needed to address global climate change through reducing CO2 emissions – which affects almost everyone on the planet. And that political change could be engendered simply by scientists presenting their facts and observations.

“So yes, I find it highly distressing that we are having a societal discussion on whether to take climate change seriously, half a century late. Still, I refuse not to be an optimist, – it is not yet too late. I continue to do whatever I can both scientifically and by communicating with the public, firstly, because it is the right thing to do, and secondly, in the hope and belief that even now, positive action will reduce the damage from ma warming climate to the ecosystem. I refuse to accept ‘apres moi le deluge’ [after me comes the flood].”


“As a human-being, and especially as a parent, I feel concerned that we are doing damage to the planet,” wrote Professor Peter Cox, of the University of Exeter, on the blog. “I don’t want to leave a mess for my children, or anyone else’s children, to clear-up. We are currently creating a problem for them at an alarming rate – that is worrying.”

Professor Gabi Hegerl, a professor of climate system science with the University of Edinburgh, wrote, “I look at my children and think about what I know is coming their way and I worry how it will affect them.”

Dr. Sarah Perkins, a climate scientist and extreme events specialist with the University of New South Wales, shared both her concern and hope about our Earth.

For sometime now I’ve been terribly worried. I wish I didn’t have to acknowledge it, but everything I have feared is happening. I used to think I was paranoid, but it’s true. She’s slipping away from us. She’s been showing signs of acute illness for quite a while, but no one has really done anything. Her increased erratic behavior is something I’ve especially noticed. Certain behaviors that were only rare occurrences are starting to occur more often, and with heightened anger. I’ve tried to highlight these changes time and time again, as well as their speed of increase, but no one has paid attention.

It almost seems everyone has been ignoring me completely, and I’m not sure why. Is it easier to pretend there’s no illness, hoping it will go away? Or because they’ve never had to live without her, so the thought of death is impossible? Perhaps they cannot see they’ve done this to her. We all have.

To me this is all false logic. How can you ignore the severe sickness of someone you are so intricately connected to and dependent upon. How can you let your selfishness and greed take control, and not protect and nurture those who need it most? How can anyone not feel an overwhelming sense of care and responsibility when those so dear to us are so desperately ill? How can you push all this to the back of your mind? This is something I will never understand. Perhaps I’m the odd one out, the anomaly of the human race. The one who cares enough, who has the compassion, to want to help make her better.

The thing is we can make her better!! If we work together, we can cure this terrible illness and restore her to her old self before we exploited her. But we must act quickly, we must act together. Time is ticking, and we need to act now.

Sharing both his frustration and concern, Dr. Alex Sen Gupta with the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales wrote:

I feel frustrated. The scientific evidence is overwhelming. We know what’s going on, we know why it’s happening, we know how serious things are going to get and still after so many years, we are still doing practically nothing to stop it. I feel concerned that unmitigated our inaction will cause terrible suffering to those least able to cope with change and that within my lifetime many of the places that make this planet so special – the snows on Kilimanjaro, the Great Barrier Reef, even the ice covered Arctic will be degraded beyond recognition – our legacy to the next generation.


“My overwhelming emotion is anger; anger that is fuelled not so much by ignorance, but by greed and profiteering at the expense of future generations,” wrote Professor Corety Bradshaw, the director of ecological modeling at the University of Adelaide. “I am not referring to some vague, existential bonding to the future human race; rather, I am speaking as a father of a seven year-old girl who loves animals and nature in general. As a biologist, I see irrefutable evidence every day that human-driven climate disruption will turn out to be one of the main drivers of the Anthropocene mass extinction event now well under way.”

The rest of his letter is worth reading in full:

Public indifference and individual short-sightedness aside, I am furious that politicians like Abbott and his anti-environment henchman are stealing the future from my daughter, and laughing about it while they line their pockets with the figurative gold proffered by the fossil-fuel industry. Whether it is sheer stupidity, greed, deliberate dishonesty or all three, the outcome is the same – destruction of the environmental life-support system that keeps us all alive and prosperous. Climates change, but the rapidity with which we are disrupting the current climate on top of the already heavily compromised environmental health of the planet makes the situation dire.

My frustration with these greedy, lying bastards is personal. Human-caused climate disruption is not a belief – it is one of the best-studied phenomena on Earth. Even a half-wit can understand this. As any father would, anyone threatening my family will by on the receiving end of my ire and vengeance. This anger is the manifestation of my deep love for my daughter, and the sadness I feel in my core about how others are treating her future.

Mark my words, you plutocrats, denialists, fossil-fuel hacks and science charlatans – your time will come when you will be backed against the wall by the full wrath of billions who have suffered from your greed and stupidity, and I’ll be first in line to put you there.

“The Pivotal Psychological Reality of Our Time”

Joe told me the response to his project has been, in general, positive.

“I have received emails from all over the world from people of all walks of life thanking me for establishing the website – from retired grandmothers through to undergraduate university students,” he said. “The letters have been picked up by various social media sites like Science Alert…and have subsequently reached massive audiences.”

He was happy to add that the responses from scientists have been positive, and said his question of “How does climate change make you feel?” is “something they have not been asked before.”

“Of course there have been some very vocal opponents to my work,” Joe added. “This is to be expected. As I have said in the past, there is a small but very vocal group of people out there whose sole goal is to misinform and mislead the general public about climate change. These people don’t have to use the facts, they don’t have to even use the real data. They can cherry-pick from graphs, or even tell flat-out lies in an attempt to mislead the greater public. To what end, who knows? ITHYF [Is This How You Feel] does not exist to change the minds of deniers. It exists to provide an avenue through which every day people can relate to climate change.”

The term “climate change deniers,” then, has an entirely new – and ever more relevant – meaning when viewed through the lenses of the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief, given that “denial” is literally one of the five stages.

Joe is now asking laypeople to send in their letters about how they feel, and plans to publish those as well.

“This approach is not the only way to communicate on climate change, but it is one way, and I certainly feel that it is effective,” he concluded.

The practice of scientists sharing their feelings runs contrary to the dominant consumer capitalist culture of the West, which guards against – and attempts to divert attention from – the prospect of people getting in touch with feelings provoked by witnessing the wholesale destruction of the planet.

In fact, Joanna Macy believes it is not in the self-perceived interest of multinational corporations, or the government and the media that serve them “for us to stop and become aware of our profound anguish with the way things are.”

Nevertheless, these disturbing trends of widespread denial, disinformation by the corporate media, and the worsening impacts of runaway ACD, which are all increasing, are something she is very mindful of. As she wrote in World as Lover, World as Self, “The loss of certainty that there will be a future is, I believe, the pivotal psychological reality of our time.”

We don’t know how long we have left on earth. Five years? 15 years? 30? Beyond the year 2100? But when we allow our hearts to be shattered – broken completely open – by these stark, cold realities, we allow our perspectives to be opened up to vistas we’ve never known. When we allow ourselves to fully experience the crisis in this way, we are then able to truly see it through new eyes.

Like reaching new heights on a mountain, we can see things we’ve never seen before. Our thinking, attitudes, and outlook on life changes dramatically. It is a new consciousness, one in which we realize the pivotal stage in history we find ourselves in.

Perhaps, within this new consciousness, we can live in this time with grace, dignity, and caring. Perhaps, here, we can find ways to save habitat for a few more species, while we share this precious lives and this precious time with loved ones, in the wild places we love so much, on this rare and precious world.

Affective Habitus, Environment & Emotions (Synthetic Zero)

“Ariel Salleh: The Vicissitudes of an Earth Democracy

Even as we face the global crisis, an Earth on fire, the role of water goes unacknowledged. Yet it is water that joins Humanity and Nature, mind and body, subject and object, men, women, queers, children, animals, plants, rocks, and air. Water carries the flow of desire, nourishes the seed, sculpts our valleys, and our imaginations. As water joins heaven and Earth, it steadies climates. But the Promethian drive to mastery, militarism, mining, manufacture, steals water, leaves deserts in its wake. More than peak oil, we face peak water. What kind of ecotheory will turn this Anthropocene around? Who embodies the deep flow of resistant affect that Adorno and Kristeva find in non-identity? Can the universities give us theory that is guided by this logic of water? Or are our canons and cognitions still too embedded in the commodities and objects of fire? While life on Earth falls into Anthropocenic disrepair, a global bourgeois culture promotes ad hoc action as policy and pastiche as style. Timothy Morton’s recent essay ‘The Oedipal Logic of Ecological Awareness’ is provocative in this respect. In response, we ask: What does the hybrid politics of ecological feminism say about affect and the dissolution of old binaries like Humanity versus Nature? How does its embodied materialism translate into an Earth Democracy? Whose affective habitus can nurture nature’s agency – indigenes, mothers, peasants? Whose common labour skills reproduce the unity of water and land?

Eileen Joy: Post/Apocalyptically Blue

This talk is an attempt to think about depression as a shared creative endeavor, as a trans-corporeal blue (and blues) ecology that would bind humans, nonhumans, and stormy weather together in what anthropologist Tim Ingold has called a meshwork, where “beings do not propel themselves across a ready-made world but rather issue forth through a world-in-formation, along the lines of their relationships.” In this enmeshment of the “strange strangers” of Timothy Morton’s dark ecology, “[t]he only way out is down” and art’s “ambiguous, vague qualities will help us to think things that remain difficult to put into words.” It may be, as Morton has also argued, that while “personhood” is real, nevertheless, “[b]oth the surface and the depth of our being are ambiguous and illusory.” And “still weirder, this illusion might have actual effects.” I want to see if it might be possible to cultivate this paradoxical interface (literally, “between faces”) between illusion and effects, especially with regard to feeling blue, a condition I believe is a form of a deeply empathic enmeshment with a world that suffers its own “sea changes” and which can never be seen as separate from the so-called individuals who supposedly only populate (“people”) it.”

Casos de esquizofrenia poderiam ser evitados se fosse possível prevenir infecção por parasita, diz estudo (SBMT)

Proliferação do parasita, que também está relacionado a outros transtornos mentais, é mais comum em países tropicais

Cerca de 30% da população mundial está infectada com um dos parasitas que mais intriga a ciência, o Toxoplasma gondii. Apesar de inofensivo para a maioria das pessoas saudáveis, pesquisas científicas comprovaram que o protozoário é capaz de alterar o comportamento de seres humanos e animais, além de possível ligação com a esquizofrenia. Recentemente, um estudo produzido nos Estados Unidos foi além, sugerindo que cerca de um quinto dos casos de esquizofrenia entre os norte-americanos pode envolver o parasita. Nos países mais pobres, esse índice tende a ser ainda maior.

O estudo, publicado na revista Preventive Veterinary Medicine, foi conduzido pelo médico veterinário e professor Gary Smith, na Seção de Epidemiologia e Saúde Pública da Escola de Medicina Veterinária da Universidade da Pensilvânia. Smith elaborou um cálculo que mede o quão importante é o fator de risco à infecção, que aumenta com a idade.

“Há cada vez mais evidências por meio de estudos de que pessoas infectadas por Toxoplasma têm um risco aumentado para esquizofrenia”, explica o pesquisador. A partir desse pressuposto, o desafio foi descobrir qual a proporção de casos do transtorno mental poderia ser evitada se fosse possível para prevenir a infecção humana com o parasita.

Pelos cálculos feitos em um programa de computador, esse índice seria de 21,4% para países como os Estados Unidos e os da Europa Ocidental, em que a incidência de infecção pelo T. gondiinão varia com a idade. “O resultado, no entanto, seria diferente para muitos países da América do Sul, porque a não incidência de infecção é claramente maior nos grupos etários mais jovens, especialmente entre os mais pobres”, disse.

Só no Brasil – País que tem o maior índice mundial de infectados (66,7%), cerca de 126 milhões de pessoas são hospedeiras do parasita. A proliferação deste, aliás, é mais comum nos países de clima tropical, principalmente nas nações mais pobres, onde há grandes concentrações urbanas e sem saneamento básico.

O mal é transmitido tanto pela ingestão de carne crua e terra contaminada quanto por meio do contato direto com secreções e fezes de gato. Também pode ser repassada ao feto durante a gravidez através da placenta – sendo recomendado, inclusive, que mulheres grávidas evitem contatos com gatos durante o período de gestação. Apesar de ser uma infecção comum tanto em pessoas quanto em animais, o Toxoplasma afeta especialmente os gatos – únicos seres onde o parasita consegue se reproduzir.


Pesquisas feitas em diversos países têm demonstrado como o T. gondii pode estar relacionado a problemas neurológicos, como a depressão, principalmente em pessoas do sexo feminino. Segundo reportagem da revista Scientific American, um desses estudos, desenvolvido no Instituto de Pesquisas Médicas Stanley, em Maryland (EUA), concluiu que mulheres infectadas com quantidades altas de Toxoplasma apresentavam maior tendência a ter filhos esquizofrênicos.

Outro trabalho, produzido por cientistas dinamarqueses obteve um resultado ainda mais alarmante. Segundo a pesquisa, as mulheres que tinham infecções do parasita apresentaram tendência 54% maior de tentarem o suicídio. Em geral, as tentativas eram violentas, utilizando armas brancas e de fogo. Entre aquelas sem histórico de doenças mentais, o índice também foi alto: 56% tinham mais chances de cometerem atentado contra a própria vida.

A preocupação quanto os efeitos do protozoário no organismo são também evidentes em ratos. De acordo com pesquisas, o parasita pode alterar o comportamento desses animais, fazendo-os, por exemplo, perder o medo do cheiro de gatos – alguns chegam até mesmo a sentir atração sexual com o odor. Além disso, pesquisadores descobriram que ratos infectados conseguem recuperar o comportamento normal tanto com remédios antiparasitários quanto com antipsicóticos.

Já se descobriu que a infecção aumenta os níveis do neurotransmissor conhecido como dopamina, que é um dos fatores da esquizofrenia quando em altas doses. Isso porque oToxoplasma possui um gene que codifica uma enzima fundamental para a produção de dopamina, sendo este o método de influência sobre o cérebro de seres humanos e animais. Os cientistas, agora, tentam entender de forma clara como o parasita se comporta no cérebro.

(Newsletter da SBMT)