Arquivo da tag: Saúde mental

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

Date:
April 25, 2016
Source:
Office of Naval Research
Summary:
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: http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/the-dark-side-of-ayahuasca-20130215#ixzz3uxd2HGGI

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

Microbes

IMAGE: THE HUMAN MICROBIOME MAY PLAY A ROLE IN EVERYTHING FROM OBESITY TO ASTHMA (FLICKR/PACIFIC NORTHWEST NATIONAL LABORATORY)

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.

AUDIO: https://soundcloud.com/abc_rn/excerpt-the-body-microbial/s-oz6JA

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.

MAUREEN MINCHIN, AUTHOR OF MILK MATTERS.

‘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

IMAGE: ANTONIE VAN LEEUWENHOEK WAS THE FIRST MICROBIOLOGIST AND THE FIRST TO OBSERVE MICRO-ORGANISMS USING A MICROSCOPE. (LICENSED UNDER PUBLIC DOMAIN VIA COMMONS)

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

Date:
August 25, 2015
Source:
George Washington University
Summary:
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*

JC_Dia-do-indio-2015_6117042015

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: wlrnovaes@uol.com.br.

** 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.

Rather:

  • 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)

24-FEB-2015

MOLECULAR BIOLOGY AND EVOLUTION (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS)

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

RENEE LERTZMAN

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.

Frustration

“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.

Hope

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].”

Concern

“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.

Anger

“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.

Suicídio

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)

http://sbmt.org.br/portal/casos-de-esquizofrenia-poderiam-ser-evitados-se-fosse-possivel-prevenir-infeccao-por-parasita-diz-estudo/?locale=pt-BR

The Surprising Link Between Gut Bacteria And Anxiety (Huff Post)

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Posted: 01/04/2015 10:05 am EST 

GUT BACTERIA

In recent years, neuroscientists have become increasingly interested in the idea that there may be a powerful link between the human brain and gut bacteria. And while a growing body of research has provided evidence of the brain-gut connection, most of these studies so far have been conducted on animals.

Now, promising new research from neurobiologists at Oxford University offers some preliminary evidence of a connection between gut bacteria and mental health in humans. The researchers found that supplements designed to boost healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract (“prebiotics”) may have an anti-anxiety effect insofar as they alter the way that people process emotional information.

While probiotics consist of strains of good bacteria, prebiotics are carbohydrates that act as nourishment for those bacteria. With increasing evidence that gut bacteria may exert some influence on brain function and mental health, probiotics and prebiotics are being increasingly studied for the potential alleviation of anxiety and depression symptoms.

“Prebiotics are dietary fibers (short chains of sugar molecules) that good bacteria break down, and use to multiply,” the study’s lead author, Oxford psychiatrist and neurobiologist Dr. Philip Burnet, told The Huffington Post. “Prebiotics are ‘food’ for good bacteria already present in the gut. Taking prebiotics therefore increases the numbers of all species of good bacteria in the gut, which will theoretically have greater beneficial effects than [introducing] a single species.”

To test the efficacy of prebiotics in reducing anxiety, the researchers asked 45 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 45 to take either a prebiotic or a placebo every day for three weeks. After the three weeks had passed, the researchers completed several computer tests assessing how they processed emotional information, such as positive and negatively-charged words.

The results of one of the tests revealed that subjects who had taken the prebiotic paid less attention to negative information and more attention to positive information, compared to the placebo group, suggesting that the prebiotic group had less anxiety when confronted with negative stimuli. This effect is similar to that which has been observed among individuals who have taken antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.

The researchers also found that the subjects who took the prebiotics had lower levels of cortisol — a stress hormone which has been linked with anxiety and depression — in their saliva when they woke up in the morning.

While previous research has documented that altering gut bacteria has a similarly anxiety-reducing effect in mice, the new study is one of the first to examine this phenomenon in humans. As of now, research on humans is in its early stages. A study conducted last year at UCLA found that women who consumed probiotics through regularly eating yogurt exhibited altered brain function in both a resting state and when performing an emotion-recognition task.

“Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut,” Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”

So are we moving towards a future in which mental illness may be able to be treated (or at least managed) using targeted probiotic cocktails? Burnet says it’s possible, although they’re unlikely to replace conventional treatment.

“I think pre/probiotics will only be used as ‘adjuncts’ to conventional treatments, and never as mono-therapies,” Burnet tells HuffPost. “It is likely that these compounds will help to manage mental illness… they may also be used when there are metabolic and/or nutritional complications in mental illness, which may be caused by long-term use of current drugs.”

The findings were published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

Ghost illusion created in the lab (Science Daily)

Date: November 6, 2014

Source: Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Summary: Patients suffering from neurological or psychiatric conditions have often reported ‘feeling a presence’ watching over them. Now, researchers have succeeded in recreating these ghostly illusions in the lab.

This image depicts a person experiencing the ghost illusion in the lab. Credit: Alain Herzog/EPFL

Ghosts exist only in the mind, and scientists know just where to find them, an EPFL study suggests. Patients suffering from neurological or psychiatric conditions have often reported feeling a strange “presence.” Now, EPFL researchers in Switzerland have succeeded in recreating this so-called ghost illusion in the laboratory.

On June 29, 1970, mountaineer Reinhold Messner had an unusual experience. Recounting his descent down the virgin summit of Nanga Parbat with his brother, freezing, exhausted, and oxygen-starved in the vast barren landscape, he recalls, “Suddenly there was a third climber with us… a little to my right, a few steps behind me, just outside my field of vision.”

It was invisible, but there. Stories like this have been reported countless times by mountaineers, explorers, and survivors, as well as by people who have been widowed, but also by patients suffering from neurological or psychiatric disorders. They commonly describe a presence that is felt but unseen, akin to a guardian angel or a demon. Inexplicable, illusory, and persistent.

Olaf Blanke’s research team at EPFL has now unveiled this ghost. The team was able to recreate the illusion of a similar presence in the laboratory and provide a simple explanation. They showed that the “feeling of a presence” actually results from an alteration of sensorimotor brain signals, which are involved in generating self-awareness by integrating information from our movements and our body’s position in space.

In their experiment, Blanke’s team interfered with the sensorimotor input of participants in such a way that their brains no longer identified such signals as belonging to their own body, but instead interpreted them as those of someone else. The work is published in Current Biology.

Generating a “Ghost”

The researchers first analyzed the brains of 12 patients with neurological disorders — mostly epilepsy — who have experienced this kind of “apparition.” MRI analysis of the patients’s brains revealed interference with three cortical regions: the insular cortex, parietal-frontal cortex, and the temporo-parietal cortex. These three areas are involved in self-awareness, movement, and the sense of position in space (proprioception). Together, they contribute to multisensory signal processing, which is important for the perception of one’s own body.

The scientists then carried out a “dissonance” experiment in which blindfolded participants performed movements with their hand in front of their body. Behind them, a robotic device reproduced their movements, touching them on the back in real time. The result was a kind of spatial discrepancy, but because of the synchronized movement of the robot, the participant’s brain was able to adapt and correct for it.

Next, the neuroscientists introduced a temporal delay between the participant’s movement and the robot’s touch. Under these asynchronous conditions, distorting temporal and spatial perception, the researchers were able to recreate the ghost illusion.

An “Unbearable” Experience

The participants were unaware of the experiment’s purpose. After about three minutes of the delayed touching, the researchers asked them what they felt. Instinctively, several subjects reported a strong “feeling of a presence,” even counting up to four “ghosts” where none existed. “For some, the feeling was even so strong that they asked to stop the experiment,” said Giulio Rognini, who led the study.

“Our experiment induced the sensation of a foreign presence in the laboratory for the first time. It shows that it can arise under normal conditions, simply through conflicting sensory-motor signals,” explained Blanke. “The robotic system mimics the sensations of some patients with mental disorders or of healthy individuals under extreme circumstances. This confirms that it is caused by an altered perception of their own bodies in the brain.”

A Deeper Understanding of Schizophrenia

In addition to explaining a phenomenon that is common to many cultures, the aim of this research is to better understand some of the symptoms of patients suffering from schizophrenia. Such patients often suffer from hallucinations or delusions associated with the presence of an alien entity whose voice they may hear or whose actions they may feel. Many scientists attribute these perceptions to a malfunction of brain circuits that integrate sensory information in relation to our body’s movements.

“Our brain possesses several representations of our body in space,” added Giulio Rognini. “Under normal conditions, it is able to assemble a unified self-perception of the self from these representations. But when the system malfunctions because of disease — or, in this case, a robot — this can sometimes create a second representation of one’s own body, which is no longer perceived as ‘me’ but as someone else, a ‘presence’.”

It is unlikely that these findings will stop anyone from believing in ghosts. However, for scientists, it’s still more evidence that they only exist in our minds.

Watch the video: http://youtu.be/GnusbO8QjbE


Journal Reference:

  1. Olaf Blanke, Polona Pozeg, Masayuki Hara, Lukas Heydrich, Andrea Serino, Akio Yamamoto, Toshiro Higuchi, Roy Salomon, Margitta Seeck, Theodor Landis, Shahar Arzy, Bruno Herbelin, Hannes Bleuler, Giulio Rognini. Neurological and Robot-Controlled Induction of an Apparition. Current Biology, 2014; DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2014.09.049

Parasite-schizophrenia connection: One-fifth of schizophrenia cases may involve the parasite T. gondii (Science Daily)

Date: October 29, 2014

Source: University of Pennsylvania

Summary: Many factors, both genetic and environmental, have been blamed for increasing the risk of a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Some, such as a family history of schizophrenia, are widely accepted. Others, such as infection with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite transmitted by soil, undercooked meat and cat feces, are still viewed with skepticism. A new study used epidemiological modeling methods to determine the proportion of schizophrenia cases that may be attributable to T. gondii infection. The work suggests that about one-fifth of cases may involve the parasite.

The parasite T. gondii has been shown to alter behavior in rodents. Smith’s study supports a link to schizophrenia in humans. Credit: Image courtesy of University of Pennsylvania

Many factors, both genetic and environmental, have been blamed for increasing the risk of a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Some, such as a family history of schizophrenia, are widely accepted. Others, such as infection with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite transmitted by soil, undercooked meat and cat feces, are still viewed with skepticism.

A new study by Gary Smith, professor of population biology and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, used epidemiological modeling methods to determine the proportion of schizophrenia cases that may be attributable to T. gondii infection. The work, published in the journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine, suggests that about one-fifth of cases may involve the parasite.

“Infection with Toxoplasma is very common, so, even if only a small percentage of people suffer adverse consequences, we could be talking about problems that affect thousands and thousands of people,” Smith said.

In the United States, just over a fifth of the population is infected with T. gondii. The vast majority aren’t aware of it. But there are some populations that need to be concerned. For example, if a woman becomes infected for the first time during pregnancy, her fetus can die or suffer serious developmental problems. People with HIV or other diseases that weaken the immune system are susceptible to a complication of T. gondii infection called toxoplasmic encephalitis, which can be deadly.

Though the medical community has long believed that most healthy people suffer no adverse effects from a T. gondii infection, recent studies have found evidence of worrisome impacts, including an association with schizophrenia because the parasite is found in in the brain as well as in muscles. Other work has shown that some antipsychotic drugs can stop the parasite from reproducing. In addition, field and laboratory studies in mice, rats and people have shown that infection with T. gondiitriggers changes in behavior and personality.

To further investigate this connection, Smith sought to calculate the population attributable fraction, or PAF, a metric epidemiologists use to determine how important a risk factor might be. In this case, Smith explained that the PAF is “the proportion of schizophrenia diagnoses that would not occur in a population if T. gondii infections were not present.”

The usual method of calculating the PAF was not well suited to examining the link between schizophrenia and T. gondii, because some of the variables are constantly in flux. For example, the proportion of people infected by T. gondii increases with age. Using a standard epidemiological modeling format, but taking into account all of the age-related changes in the relevant factors, Smith found the average PAF during an average lifetime to be 21.4 percent.

“In other words, we ask, if you could stop infections with this parasite, how many cases could you prevent?” Smith said. “Over a lifetime, we found that you could prevent one-fifth of all cases. That, to me, is significant.”

Smith noted that in some countries, the prevalence of T. gondii infection is much higher than in the U.S., and these countries also have a higher incidence of schizophrenia.

People with schizophrenia have greatly reduced life expectancies, and many are unable to work. Family members may also leave the workforce to care for relatives with the disease. For these reasons and others, schizophrenia acts as a large drain on the economy, responsible for $50 to $60 billion in health-care expenditures in the U.S. each year.

“By finding out how important a factor T. gondii infection is, this work might inform our attitude to researching the subject,” Smith said. “Instead of ridiculing the idea of a connection between T. gondii and schizophrenia because it seems so extraordinary, we can sit down and consider the evidence. Perhaps then we might be persuaded to look for more ways to reduce the number of people infected with Toxoplasma.”

The study was supported by the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gary Smith. Estimating the population attributable fraction for schizophrenia when Toxoplasma gondii is assumed absent in human populations.Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2014.10.009

Should the Japanese give nuclear power another chance? (Science Daily)

Date: October 23, 2014

Source: ResearchSEA

Summary: On September 9, 2014, the Japan Times reported an increasing number of suicides coming from the survivors of the March 2011 disaster. In Minami Soma Hospital, which is located 23 km away from the power plant, the number of patients experiencing stress has also increased since the disaster. What’s more, many of the survivors are now jobless and therefore facing an uncertain future.


On September 9, 2014, the Japan Times reported an increasing number of suicides coming from the survivors of the March 2011 disaster. In Minami Soma Hospital, which is located 23 km away from the power plant, the number of patients experiencing stress has also increased since the disaster. What’s more, many of the survivors are now jobless and therefore facing an uncertain future.

This is not the first time that nuclear power has victimized the Japanese people. In 1945, atomic bombs exploded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, creating massive fears about nuclear power in the Japanese population. It took 20 years for the public to erase the trauma of these events. It was then — in the mid 1960s(?) — that the Fukushima Daiichii Nuclear Power Plant was built.

According to Professor Tetsuo Sawada, Assistant Professor in the Laboratory of Nuclear Reactors at Tokyo University, it took a lot of effort to assure people that nuclear power was safe and beneficial. The first step was a legal step: In 1955, the Japanese government passed a law decreeing that nuclear power could only be used for peaceful purposes.

“But that law was not enough to assure people to accept the establishment of nuclear power,” said Prof. Sawada.

He explained that the economy plays an important role in public acceptance of nuclear power. Through the establishment of nuclear power plants, more jobs were created, which boosted the economy of the Fukushima region at that time.

“Before the Fukushima disaster, we could find many pro-nuclear people in the area of nuclear power plants since it gave them money,” said Prof. Sawada.

Now, more than forty years have passed and the public’s former confidence has evolved into feelings of fear about nuclear power and distrust toward the government.

According to a study conducted by Noriko Iwai from the Japanese General Social Survey Research Center, the Fukushima nuclear accident has heightened people’s perception of disaster risks, fears of nuclear accident, and recognition of pollution, and has changed public opinion on nuclear energy policy.

“Distance from nuclear plants and the perception of earthquake risk interactively correlate with opinions on nuclear issues: among people whose evaluation of earthquake risk is low, those who live nearer to the plants are more likely to object to the abolishment of nuclear plants,” said Iwai.

This finding is in line with the perception of Sokyu Genyu, a chief priest in Fukujuji temple, Miharu Town, Fukushima Prefecture. As a member of the Reconstruction Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, he argued that both the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants should be shut down in response to the objection of 80% of Fukushima residents.

However, the Japanese government, local scientists and international authorities have announced that Fukushima is safe. Radiation levels are below 1mSv/y, a number that, according to them, we should not be worried about. But the public do not believe in numbers.

But Genyu was not saying that these numbers are scientifically false. Rather, he argues that the problem lies more in the realm of social psychology. Despite the announcement about low-radiation levels, the Japanese people are still afraid of radiation.

“It is reasonable for local residents in Fukushima to speak out very emotionally. Within three months of the disaster, six people had committed sucide. They were homeless and jobless, ” said Genyu.

It is heart-breaking to know that victims of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident died not because of radiation, but instead because of depression. Besides the increasing number of suicides, the number ofpatients suffering from cerebrovascular disease (strokes)has also risen. In Minami-Soma Hospital, the population of stroke patients increased by more than 100% after the disaster.

Local doctors and scientists are now actively educating students in Fukushima, convincing them that the radiation will not affect their health.

Dr. Masaharu Tsubokura, a practicing doctor at Minami-Soma Hospital, has been informing students that Fukushima is safe. But sadly, their responses are mostly negative and full of apathy.

“I think the Fukushima disaster is not about nuclear radiation but is rather a matter of public trust in the technology ,” said Dr. Tsubokura.

Dr. Tsubokura has given dosimeters, a device used to measure radiation, to children living in Minami-Soma city. But apparently, this was not enough to eliminate people’s fears.

In 2012, Professor Ryogo Hayano, a physicist from the University of Tokyo, joined Dr. Tsubokura in Minami-Soma Hospital and invented BABYSCAN technology, a whole-body scanning to measure radiation in small children as well as to allay the fears of Fukushima parents.

“BABYSCAN is unnecessary but necessary. It is unnecessary because we know that the radiation is low. But it is necessary to assure parents that their children are going to be okay,” said Prof. Hayano.

After witnessing the fears of the Fukushima people, Prof. Hayano thinks that nuclear power is no longer appropriate for Japan. He believes that the government should shut down nuclear power plants.

“As a scientist, I know that nuclear power is safe and cheap. But looking at the public’s fear in Fukushima, I think it should be phased out,” said Prof. Hayano.

But, does the government care about the public when it comes to politics?

It has only been three years since the disaster and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been keen to revive the country’s nuclear power plants. The operations of more than 50 nuclear power plants in Japan have been suspended because of the Daiichi power plant meltdown.

Last month, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority approved the reopening of a power plant in Sendai for 2015.

Treating mental illness by changing memories of things past (Science Daily)

Date: August 12, 2014

Source: Elsevier

Summary: Author Marcel Proust makes a compelling case that our identities and decisions are shaped in profound and ongoing ways by our memories. This truth is powerfully reflected in mental illnesses, like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addictions. In PTSD, memories of traumas intrude vividly upon consciousness, causing distress, driving people to avoid reminders of their traumas, and increasing risk for addiction and suicide. In addiction, memories of drug use influence reactions to drug-related cues and motivate compulsive drug use.

 

“Memory reconsolidation is probably among the most exciting phenomena in cognitive neuroscience today. It assumes that memories may be modified once they are retrieved which may give us the great opportunity to change seemingly robust, unwanted memories,” explains Dr. Lars Schwabe of Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany. Credit: Image courtesy of Elsevier

In the novel À la recherche du temps perdu (translated into English as Remembrance of Things Past), Marcel Proust makes a compelling case that our identities and decisions are shaped in profound and ongoing ways by our memories.

This truth is powerfully reflected in mental illnesses, like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addictions. In PTSD, memories of traumas intrude vividly upon consciousness, causing distress, driving people to avoid reminders of their traumas, and increasing risk for addiction and suicide. In addiction, memories of drug use influence reactions to drug-related cues and motivate compulsive drug use.

What if one could change these dysfunctional memories? Although we all like to believe that our memories are reliable and permanent, it turns out that memories may indeed be plastic.

The process for modifying memories, depicted in the graphic, is called memory reconsolidation. After memories are formed and stored, subsequent retrieval may make them unstable. In other words, when a memory is activated, it also becomes open to revision and reconsolidation in a new form.

“Memory reconsolidation is probably among the most exciting phenomena in cognitive neuroscience today. It assumes that memories may be modified once they are retrieved which may give us the great opportunity to change seemingly robust, unwanted memories,” explains Dr. Lars Schwabe of Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany. He and his colleagues have authored a review paper on the topic, published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.

The idea of memory reconsolidation was initially discovered and demonstrated in rodents.

The first evidence of reconsolidation in humans was reported in a study in 2003, and the findings have since continued to accumulate. The current report summarizes the most recent findings on memory reconsolidation in humans and poses additional questions that must be answered by future studies.

“Reconsolidation appears to be a fundamental process underlying cognitive and behavioral therapies. Identifying its roles and mechanisms is an important step forward to fully harnessing the reconsolidation process in psychotherapy,” said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

The translation of the animal data to humans is a vital step for the potential application of memory reconsolidation in the context of mental disorders. Memory reconsolidation could open the door to novel treatment approaches for disorders such as PTSD or drug addiction.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lars Schwabe, Karim Nader, Jens C. Pruessner. Reconsolidation of Human Memory: Brain Mechanisms and Clinical Relevance. Biological Psychiatry, 2014; 76 (4): 274 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.03.008

Bactéria pode aumentar inteligência (Exame)

Microbiologia | 24/05/2010 15:50

Cientistas acreditam que espécie também tem capacidades antidepressivas por aumentar níveis de serotonina no cérebro

Célio Yano 

São Paulo – Uma espécie de bactéria que os cientistas já acreditavam ter capacidades antidepressivas pode também deixar pessoas mais inteligentes. A descoberta foi apresentada hoje no 110º Encontro Geral da Sociedade Americana de Microbiologia (ASM, na sigla em inglês), realizado em San Diego, nos Estados Unidos.

“A Mycobacterium vaccae é uma bactéria de solo natural, que as pessoas geralmente ingerem ou respiram quando passam algum tempo na natureza”, disse Dorothy Matthews, que conduziu a pesquisa junto com Susan Jenks. Espécie não-patogênica, a M. vaccae tem esse nome por ter sido encontrada pela primeira vez em fezes de vaca.

De acordo com a ASM, estudos anteriores já haviam mostrado que bactérias da espécie mortas injetadas em ratos estimulam o crescimento de alguns neurônios que resultam no aumento de níveis de serotonina e reduzem a ansiedade.

Como a serotonina, tipo de neurotransmissor, desempenha um papel importante no aprendizado, Dorothy e Susan imaginaram que a M. vaccae vivas poderiam aumentar a capacidade de aprendizado do rato. Elas então alimentaram as cobaias com bactérias vivas e testaram a habilidade dos roedores para percorrer um labirinto. Conforme as pesquisadoras, os ratos que se alimentaram da bactéria atravessaram o labirinto duas vezes mais rápido e com menor índice de ansiedade que ratos que não haviam recebido o tratamento.

Em um segundo experimento, as bactérias foram removidas da dieta dos animais e eles foram testados novamente. Embora os ratos percorressem o labirinto mais lentamente do que haviam feito quando ingeriram a bactéria, eles ainda eram mais rápidos que os ratos que não haviam ingerido M. vaccae em nenhum momento. Após três semanas de descanso, os ratos ainda percorriam o labirinto mais rapidamente que os demais, mas os resultados já não eram mais estatisticamente significantes, o que sugere que o efeito foi temporário.

“Esta pesquisa mostra que M. vaccae pode ter uma função na ansiedade e aprendizado de mamíferos”, disse Dorothy. “É interessante imaginarmos que criar ambientes de aprendizado nas escolas que incluam momentos ao ar livre, onde M. vaccae esteja presente, pode baixar a ansiedade e aumentar a capacidade de aprender novas tarefas”, complementou.

Does That Cat Have O.C.D.? (New York Times)

It was love at first pet when Laurel Braitman and her husband adopted a 4-year-old Bernese mountain dog, a 120-pound bundle of fur named Oliver.

The first few months were blissful. But over time, Oliver’s troubled mind slowly began to reveal itself. He snapped at invisible flies. He licked his tail until it was wounded and raw. He fell to pieces when he spied a suitcase. And once, while home alone, he ripped a hole in a screen and jumped out of a fourth-floor window. To everyone’s astonishment, he survived.

Oliver’s anguish devastated Dr. Braitman, a historian of science, but it also awakened her curiosity and sent her on an investigation deep into the minds of animals. The result is the lovely, big-hearted book “Animal Madness,” in which Dr. Braitman makes a compelling case that nonhuman creatures can also be afflicted with mental illness and that their suffering is not so different from our own.

In the 17th century, Descartes described animals as automatons, a view that held sway for centuries. Today, however, a large and growing body of research makes it clear that animals have never been unthinking machines.

ANIMAL MADNESS How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves. By Laurel Braitman. Simon & Schuster. 384 pages. $28.CreditSonny Figueroa/The New York Times

We now know that species from magpies to elephants can recognize themselves in the mirror, which some scientists consider a sign of self-awareness. Rats emit a form of laughter when they’re tickled. And dolphins, parrots and dogs show clear signs of distress when their companions die. Together, these and many other findings demonstrate what any devoted pet owner has probably already concluded: that animals have complex minds and rich emotional lives.

Unfortunately, as Dr. Braitman notes, “every animal with a mind has the capacity to lose hold of it from time to time.”

Take Gigi, a female gorilla who developed what looked like panic attacks after being terrorized by a younger male. Whenever she saw her tormentor, she “seemed to shut down, rocking and trembling,” Dr. Braitman writes. Many other beasts round out the miserable menagerie, including Sunita, a tiger with stress-induced facial tics; Charlie, a macaw who plucked out all her feathers; and Gus, a polar bear who swam endless figure eights — for as many as 12 hours a day — in his pool at the Central Park Zoo.

Dr. Braitman and the experts she consults are careful about how they interpret this behavior. For example, although a dog’s nonstop tail-licking may resemble the endless hand-washing of a human with obsessive-compulsive disorder, one veterinary behaviorist points out that because she cannot prove that dogs are having obsessive thoughts, she prefers a diagnosis of “compulsive disorder” instead.

Still, it’s clear that the animals are suffering, and the triggers are often the same sorts of stress and trauma that can cause breakdowns in humans: a natural disaster, abuse, the loss of a loved one. And we’re not the only species that bears the burden of war; some of the military dogs that served in Iraq and Afghanistan display the same PTSD-like symptoms that afflict their human colleagues.

Dr. Braitman does not shy away from controversial topics — most notably, the question of whether animals can commit suicide. Charlie, the feather-plucking macaw, died when she fell out of a tree and onto a metal stake in the ground, prompting her owner to wonder if the bird had deliberately brought about her own demise. “Suicide” is a loaded word, and Charlie’s story is unconvincing, but animals can certainly engage in self-harming behaviors, from repeatedly banging their heads against walls to simply refusing to eat.

Animals “may have fewer tools available to them to inflict mortal wounds and also lack humanity’s sophisticated cognitive abilities to plan their own ends, but they can and do harm themselves,” Dr. Braitman writes. “Sometimes they die.”

Throughout the book, she argues that anthropomorphism — or the assignment of human traits to other species — can serve a useful purpose, especially if we “anthropomorphize well.” She writes, “Instead of self-centered projection, anthropomorphism can be a recognition of bits and pieces of our human selves in other animals and vice versa.”

Though we may never know for sure what parrots or polar bears are feeling, “making educated guesses about animal emotions” is often the first step in alleviating their pain. Healing troubled animal minds is now a bona fide industry, populated with dog behaviorists, cat whisperers, elephant monks and horse massagers.

For some animals, behavioral therapy, environmental enrichment or companionship is enough to ease the agony. Others may need a pharmaceutical assist — from Prozac, Valium, Thorazine or one of the many psychiatric drugs now available to creatures throughout the animal kingdom.

“Prozac Nation has been offering citizenship to nonhumans for decades,” Dr. Braitman writes. Gigi, the terrorized gorilla, received a round of Xanax and Paxil and eventually recovered (mostly) with the help of a psychiatrist and a zookeeper who never gave up on her.

Though humans are a leading cause of animal unhappiness — captivity alone causes many problems, even in the absence of outright neglect or abuse — “Animal Madness” is also brimming with compassion and the tales of the many, many humans who devote their days to making animals well.

Boosting depression-causing mechanisms in brain increases resilience, surprisingly (Science Daily)

Date: April 17, 2014

Source: Mount Sinai Medical Center

Summary: New research uncovers a conceptually novel approach to treating depression. Instead of dampening neuron firing found with stress-induced depression, researchers demonstrated for the first time that further activating these neurons opens a new avenue to mimic and promote natural resilience.

Researchers produced antidepressant-like behavioral effects by reversing out-of-balance electrical activity in reward circuit neurons of susceptible mice exposed to social stress. Further increasing an excitatory current (lh potentiation) triggered a compensatory increase in a potassium channel current (K’ current) — as did activating the potassium channel (K+ current) using pulses of light in mice with brain circuitry genetically engineered to respond to it (optogenetic excessive activation). Credit: Ming-Hu Han, Ph.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

A new study points to a conceptually novel therapeutic strategy for treating depression. Instead of dampening neuron firing found with stress-induced depression, researchers demonstrated for the first time that further activating these neurons opens a new avenue to mimic and promote natural resilience. The findings were so surprising that the research team thinks it may lead to novel targets for naturally acting antidepressants.

Results from the study are published online April 18 in the journal Science.

Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai point out that in mice resilient to social defeat stress (a source of constant stress brought about by losing a dispute or from a hostile interaction), their cation channel currents, which pass positive ions in dopamine neurons, are paradoxically elevated to a much greater extent than those of depressed mice and control mice. This led researchers to experimentally increase the current of cation channels with drugs in susceptible mice, those prone to depression, to see whether it would enhance coping and resilience. They found that such boosting of cation channels in dopamine neurons caused the mice to tolerate the increased stress without succumbing to depression-related symptoms, and unexpectedly the hyperactivity of the dopamine neurons was normalized.

Allyson K. Friedman, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow in Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and the study’s lead author said: “To achieve resiliency when under social stress, the brain must perform a complex balancing act in which negative stress-related changes in the brain actively trigger positive changes. But that can only happen once the negative changes reach a tipping point.”

The research team used optogenetics, a combination of laser optics and gene virus transfer, to control firing activity of the dopamine neurons. When light activation or the drug lamotrigine is given to these neurons, it drives the current and neuron firing higher. But at a certain point, it triggers compensatory mechanisms, normalizes neuron firing, and achieves a kind of homeostatic (or balanced) resilience.

“To our surprise, we found that resilient mice, instead of avoiding deleterious changes in the brain, experience further deleterious changes in response to stress, and use them beneficially,” said Ming-Hu Han, PhD, at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who leads the study team as senior author.

Drs. Friedman and Han see this counterintuitive finding as stimulating research in a conceptually novel antidepressant strategy. If a drug could enhance coping and resilience by pushing depressed (or susceptible) individuals past the tipping point, it potentially might have fewer side effects, and work as a more naturally acting antidepressant.

Eric Nestler, MD, PhD, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai praised the study. “In this elegant study, Drs. Friedman and Han and their colleagues reveal a highly novel mechanism that controls an individual’s susceptibility or resilience to chronic social stress. The discoveries have important implications for the development of new treatments for depression and other stress-related disorders.”

The study, “Enhancing Depression Mechanisms in Midbrain Dopamine Neurons Achieves Homeostatic Resilience,” was also coauthored by J.J. Walsh, B. Juarez, S.M. Ku, D. Chaudhury, J. Wang, X. Li, D.M. Dietz, N. Pan, V.F. Vialou, Z. Yue, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and R. L. Neve at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge MA.

National Institute of Mental Health Grant R01 MH092306 and F32 MH096464 provided support for this research.

Journal Reference:

  1. A. K. Friedman, J. J. Walsh, B. Juarez, S. M. Ku, D. Chaudhury, J. Wang, X. Li, D. M. Dietz, N. Pan, V. F. Vialou, R. L. Neve, Z. Yue, M.-H. Han. Enhancing Depression Mechanisms in Midbrain Dopamine Neurons Achieves Homeostatic ResilienceScience, 2014; 344 (6181): 313 DOI:10.1126/science.1249240

Discurso sobre o sonho pode ajudar no diagnóstico de doenças mentais (Fapesp)

Pesquisadores brasileiros desenvolvem técnica de análise matemática de relatos sobre sonhos, capaz de auxiliar na identificação de sintomas de esquizofrenia e bipolaridade (imagem: divulgação)

17/03/2014

Por Elton Alisson

Agência FAPESP – A pista dada por Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) no livro “A intepretação dos sonhos, de 1899, de que “os sonhos são a estrada real para o inconsciente”, chave para a Psicanálise, também pode ser útil na Psiquiatria, no diagnóstico clínico de transtornos mentais, como a esquizofrenia e a bipolaridade, entre outras.

A constatação é de um grupo de pesquisadores do Instituto do Cérebro da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), em colaboração com colegas do Departamento de Física da Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE) e do Centro de Pesquisa, Inovação e Difusão em Neuromatemática (Neuromat) – um dos CEPIDs da FAPESP.

Eles desenvolveram uma técnica de análise matemática de relatos de sonhos que poderá, no futuro, auxiliar no diagnóstico de psicoses.

A técnica foi descrita em um artigo publicado em janeiro na Scientific Reports, revista de acesso aberto do grupo Nature.

“A ideia é que a técnica, relativamente simples e barata, seja utilizada como ferramenta para auxiliar os psiquiatras no diagnóstico clínico de pacientes com transtornos mentais de forma mais precisa”, disse Mauro Copelli, professor da UFPE e um dos autores do estudo, à Agência FAPESP.

De acordo com Copelli – que realizou mestrado e doutorado parcialmente com Bolsa da FAPESP –, apesar dos esforços seculares para aumentar a precisão da classificação dos transtornos mentais, o atual método de diagnóstico de psicoses tem sido duramente criticado.

Isso porque ele ainda peca pela falta de objetividade e pelo fato de a maioria dos transtornos mentais não contar com biomarcadores (indicadores biométricos) capazes de auxiliar os psiquiatras a diagnosticá-los com maior exatidão.

Além disso, pacientes com esquizofrenia ou transtorno bipolar muitas vezes apresentam sintomas psicóticos comuns, como alucinações, delírios, hiperatividade e comportamento agressivo – o que pode comprometer a precisão do diagnóstico.

“O diagnóstico dos sintomas psicóticos é altamente subjetivo”, afirmou Copelli. “Por isso mesmo, a última versão do Manual Diagnóstico e Estatístico de Transtornos Mentais [publicado pela Associação Americana de Psiquiatria em 2013] foi muito atacada”, avaliou.

A fim de desenvolver um método quantitativo para avaliar sintomas psiquiátricos, os pesquisadores gravaram, com o consentimento dos envolvidos, os relatos dos sonhos de 60 pacientes voluntários, atendidos no ambulatório de psiquiatria de um hospital público em Natal (RN).

Alguns dos pacientes já tinham recebido o diagnóstico de esquizofrenia, outros de bipolaridade e os demais, que formaram o grupo de controle, não apresentavam sintomas de transtornos mentais.

Os relatos dos sonhos dos pacientes, feitos à psiquiatra Natália Bezerra Mota, doutoranda na URFN e primeira autora do estudo, foram transcritos.

As frases dos discursos dos pacientes foram transformadas por um software desenvolvido por pesquisadores do Instituto do Cérebro em grafos – estruturas matemáticas similares a diagramas nas quais cada palavra dita pelo paciente foi representada por um ponto ou nó, como o feito em uma linha de crochê.

Ao analisar os grafos dos relatos dos sonhos dos três grupos de pacientes os pesquisadores observaram que há diferenças muito claras entre eles.

O tamanho, em termos de quantidade de arestas ou links, e a conectividade (relação) entre os nós dos grafos dos pacientes diagnosticados com esquizofrenia, bipolaridade ou sem transtornos mentais apresentaram variações, afirmaram os pesquisadores.

“Os pacientes com esquizofrenia, por exemplo, fazem relatos que, quando representados por grafos, possuem menos ligações do que os demais grupos de pacientes”, disse Mota.

Diferenças de discursos

Segundo os pesquisadores, a diferenciação de pacientes a partir da análise dos grafos de relatos dos sonhos foi possível porque suas características de fala também são bastante diversificadas.

Os pacientes esquizofrênicos costumam falar de forma lacônica e com pouca digressão (desvio de assunto) – o que explica por que a conectividade e a quantidade de arestas dos grafos de seus relatos são menores em comparação às dos bipolares.

Por sua vez, pacientes com transtorno bipolar tendem a apresentar um sintoma oposto ao da digressão, chamado logorreia ou verborragia, falando atabalhoadamente frases sem sentido – chamado na Psiquiatria de “fuga de ideias”.

“Encontramos uma correlação importante dessas medidas feitas por meio das análises dos grafos com os sintomas negativos e cognitivos medidos por escalas psicométricas utilizadas na prática clínica da Psiquiatria”, afirmou Mota.

Ao transformar essas características marcantes de fala dos pacientes em grafos é possível dar origem a um classificador computacional capaz de auxiliar os psiquiatras no diagnóstico de transtornos mentais, indicou Copelli.

“Todas as ocorrências no discurso dos pacientes com transtornos mentais que no grafo têm um significado aparentemente geométrico podem ser quantificadas matematicamente e ajudar a classificar se um paciente é esquizofrênico ou bipolar, com uma taxa de sucesso comparável ou até mesmo melhor do que as escalas psiquiátricas subjetivas utilizadas para essa finalidade”, avaliou.

O objetivo dos pesquisadores é avaliar um maior número de pacientes e calibrar o algoritmo (sequência de comandos) do software desenvolvido para transformar os relatos dos sonhos em grafos que possam ser usados em larga escala na prática clínica de Psiquiatria.

Apesar de utilizada inicialmente para o diagnóstico de psicoses, a técnica poderá ser expandida para diversas outras finalidades, contou Mota.

“Ela poderá ser utilizada, por exemplo, para buscar mais informações sobre estrutura de linguagem aplicadas à análise de relatos de pessoas não apenas com sintomas psicóticos, mas também em diferentes situações de declínio cognitivo, como demência, ou em ascensão, como durante o aprendizado e o desenvolvimento da fala e escrita”, indicou a pesquisadora.

Papel dos sonhos

Os pesquisadores também desenvolveram e analisaram, durante o estudo, os grafos de relatos sobre atividades realizadas pelos pacientes voluntários na véspera do sonho.

Os grafos desses relatos do dia a dia, chamados de “relatos de vigília”, não foram tão indicativos do tipo de transtorno mental sofrido pelo paciente como outros, disse Copelli.

“Conseguimos distinguir esquizofrênicos dos demais grupos usando a análise dos grafos dos relatos de vigília, mas não conseguimos distinguir bem os bipolares do grupo de controle dessa forma”, contou.

Os pesquisadores ainda não sabem por que os grafos dos discursos sobre o sonho são mais informativos sobre psicose do que os grafos da vigília.

Algumas hipóteses esmiuçadas na pesquisa de doutorado de Mota estão relacionadas a mecanismos fisiológicos de formação de memória.

“Acreditamos que, por serem memórias mais transitórias, os sonhos podem ser mais demandantes cognitivamente e ter maior impacto afetivo do que as memórias relacionadas ao cotidiano, e isso pode tornar seus relatos mais complexos”, contou a pesquisadora.

“Outra hipótese é que o sonho está relacionado a um evento vivenciado exclusivamente por uma pessoa, sem ser compartilhado com outras, e por isso talvez seja mais complexo de ser explicado do que uma atividade relacionada ao cotidiano”, disse.

Para testar essas hipóteses, os pesquisadores pretendem ampliar a coleta de dados aplicando questionários em pacientes com registro de primeiro surto psicótico, com o objetivo de esclarecer se outros tipos de relatos, como de memórias antigas, podem se equiparar ao sonho em termos de informação psiquiátrica. Eles também querem verificar se podem usar o método para identificar sinais ou grupo de sintomas (pródromo) e acompanhar efeitos de medicações.

“Pretendemos investigar em laboratório, com eletroencefalografia de alta densidade e diversas técnicas de mensuração de distâncias semânticas e análise de estrutura de grafos, de que forma os estímulos recebidos imediatamente antes de dormir influenciam os relatos de sonhos produzidos ao despertar”, disse Sidarta Ribeiro, pesquisador do Instituto do Cérebro da UFRN.

“Estamos particularmente interessados nos efeitos distintos de imagens com valor afetivo”, afirmou Ribeiro, que também é pesquisador associado do Neuromat.

O artigo Graph analysis of dream reports is especially informative about psychosis (doi: 10.1038/srep03691), de Mota e outros, pode ser lido na revista Scientific Reports emwww.nature.com/srep/2014/140115/srep03691/full/srep03691.html.

Japanese Town: Half the survivors of mega-earthquake, tsunami, have PTSD symptoms (Science Daily)

Date: March 6, 2014

Source: Brigham Young University

Summary: A new study shows that more than half the survivors in one Japanese town exhibited ‘clinically concerning’ symptoms of PTSD following the country’s mega-earthquake and tsunami. Two-thirds of survivors also reported symptoms of depression. Having work to do has proven important in increasing resilience.

Though just two of Hirono’s 5,418 residents lost their lives in Japan’s mega-earthquake and tsunami, a new study shows that the survivors are struggling to keep their sanity.

One year after the quake, Brigham Young University professor Niwako Yamawaki and scholars from Saga University evaluated the mental health of 241 Hirono citizens. More than half of the people evaluated experienced “clinically concerning” symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Two-thirds of the sample reported symptoms of depression.

Those rates exceed levels seen in the aftermath of other natural disasters, but what happened in Japan wasn’t just a natural disaster. Leaked radiation from nuclear power plants forced residents of Hirono to relocate to temporary housing far from home.

“This was the world’s fourth-biggest recorded earthquake, and also the tsunami and nuclear plant and losing their homes — boom boom boom boom within such a short time,” said Yamawaki, a psychology professor at BYU. “The prevalence one year after is still much higher than other studies of disasters that we found even though some time had passed.”

Yamawaki got the idea for this study while shoveling mud from a damaged Japanese home one month after the tsunami flooded coastal towns. She had just arrived for a previously scheduled fellowship at Saga University. During her off-time, she traveled to the affected area and volunteered in the clean-up effort. One seemingly stoic homeowner broke down in tears when Yamawaki and her husband thanked her for the chance to help.

“She said ‘This is the first time I have cried since the disaster happened,'” Yamawaki said. “She just said ‘Thank you. Thank you for letting me cry.'”

Back at Saga University, Yamawaki collaborated with Hiroko Kukihara to conduct a study on the mental health and resilience of survivors. Their report appears in the journal Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences.

Participants in the study lived in temporary housing provided by the Japanese government when Hirono was evacuated. With an average age of 58, the people are noticeably older than the populations of normal Japanese towns. Yamawaki suspects that young people were more likely to permanently relocate elsewhere in Japan following the disaster.

The researchers didn’t just measure the rates of mental illness; they also performed a statistical analysis to learn what fostered resilience among the survivors. Eating right, exercising regularly and going to work all promoted resilience and served as a buffer against mental illness.

“Having something to do after a disaster really gives a sense of normalcy, even volunteer work,” Yamawaki said.

As the researchers got to know survivors, they heard from so many that they missed seeing their former neighbors. The mass relocation outside the radiation zone broke up many neighborhood ties.

“Japanese are very collectivistic people and their identity is so intertwined with neighbors,” Yamawaki said. “Breaking up the community has so much impact on them.”

While it’s hard to fathom the scope of the devastation in the coastal region of Fukushima, most survivors believe something like this will happen again. If so, this new study provides a blueprint for how to help them put their lives back together again.

Journal Reference:

  1. Hiroko Kukihara, Niwako Yamawaki, Kumi Uchiyama, Shoichi Arai, Etsuo Horikawa. Trauma, depression, and resilience of earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster survivors of Hirono, Fukushima, Japan.Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/pcn.12159