Emotion-processing networks disrupted in sufferers of depression – via UIC News Center

depressed teenage girl

Regions of the brain that normally work together to process emotion become decoupled in people who experience multiple episodes of depression, neuroscientists report. The findings may help identify which patients will benefit from longterm antidepressant treatment to prevent the recurrence of depressive episodes.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

“Half of people who have a first depressive episode will go on to have another within two years,” says Scott Langenecker, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at UIC and corresponding author on the study.

Disruptions in the network of areas of the brain that are simultaneously active during problem-solving and emotional processing have been implicated in several mental illnesses, including depression. But in addition, “hyperconnectivity,” or too much connection, within the “resting network,” or areas active during rest and self-reflection, has also been linked to depression.

“If we can identify different network connectivity patterns that are associated with depression, then we may be able to determine which are risk factors for poorer outcomes down the line, such as having multiple episodes, and we can keep those patients on preventive or maintenance medication,” Langenecker explained. “We can also start to see what medications work best for people with different connectivity patterns, to develop more personalized treatment plans.”

In previous research, Langenecker found that the emotional and cognitive brain networks were hyperconnected in young adults who had depression. Areas of the brain related to rumination – thinking about the same thing over and over again – a known risk factor for depression, were also overly connected in adolescents who had experienced depression.

In the new study, Langenecker said he and his coworkers wanted to see if different patterns of network-disruption would show up in young adults who had experienced only one episode of depression versus several episodes.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to scan the brains of 77 young adults (average age: 21.) Seventeen of the participants were experiencing major depression at the time of the scan, while 34 were currently well. Of these 51 patients, 36 had experienced at least one episode of depression in the past, and these individuals were compared  to 26 participants who had never experienced a major depressive episode. None were taking psychiatric medication at the time they were scanned.

All fMRI scans were done in a resting state — to show which areas of the brain are most synchronously active as one relaxes and lets their mind wander.

The researchers found that the amygdala, a region involved in detecting emotion, is decoupled from the emotional network in people who have had multiple episodes of depression. This may cause emotional-information processing to be less accurate, Langenecker said, and could explain “negative processing-bias”  in which depression sufferers perceive even neutral information as negative.

The researchers also saw that participants who had had at least one prior depressive episode — whether or not they were depressed at the time of the scan — exhibited increased connectivity between the resting and cognitive networks.

“This may be an adaptation the brain makes to help regulate emotional biases or rumination,” Langenecker said.

“Since this study provides just a snapshot of the brain at one point in time, longer-term studies are needed, to determine whether the patterns we saw may be predictive of a future of multiple episodes for some patients and might help us identify who should have maintenance treatments and targets for new preventive treatments,” he said.

Rachel Jacobs, Alyssa Barba, Jennifer Gowins, Heide Klumpp, Lisanne Jenkins, Dr. Olusola Ajilore and Dr. K. Luan Phan of the UIC College of Medicine, and Dr. Brian Mickey, Dr. Marta Pecina, Margaret Sikora, Kelly Ryan, David Hsu, Robert Welsh and Jon-Kar Zubieta of the University of Michigan are co-authors on the paper.

This study was funded in part by the UIC Center for Clinical and Translational Science and grants RO1 Q2 601, MH091811 and RO1 MH101487 from the National Institutes of Health. – See more at: http://news.uic.edu/emotion-processing-networks-disrupted-in-sufferers-of-depression#sthash.2snQXaQd.dpuf

Source: Emotion-processing networks disrupted in sufferers of depression | UIC News Center

The full paper, published in Psychological Medicine, “Decoupling of the amygdala to other salience network regions in adolescent-onset recurrent major depressive disorder” by  S. A. Langenecker et al. can be viewed here free of charge until 31st March 2016.


The Relationship Between Sleep and Alzheimers

Oregon Health & Science University in Portland has begun a research project to better understand the how relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. The research will focus on a “key process” in the brains of sleeping humans which will be the first of its kind and will hopefully illuminate the ways in which sleep and Alzheimer’s are intertwined.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s sleep problems are very common for patients. Sometimes even years before patients develop more noticeable cognitive problems or memory loss they will suffer from disrupted sleep.

In the last five years studies have found that people, and mice, that were suffering from poor sleep patterns had a buildup of beta amyloid plaque in their brains. Beta amyloid plaque, a sticky mixture of proteins, collects in synapses. It is also a key characteristic in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers think that sleep might sweet toxins in the brain which would prevent beta amyloid from collecting in synapses. However, it is still not clear if the disrupted sleep is caused by the beta amyloid buildup or the beta amyloid buildup causes the disrupted sleep, “It may be a vicious cycle,” Miroslaw Machiewicz from the National Institute on Aging told the AP.

In order to help further solve this mystery, the team at the Oregon Health & Science University plans to observe people’s brains in a hyper-sensitive MRI machine while they sleep. They hope to see when the sweeping in the brain occurs in the sleep cycle. This new study could further illuminate, and possibly highlight, the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s which could help find new treatments and preventative measures in the future. Despite this excitement, scientists do acknowledge that participants may have a hard time sleeping in a noisy and small MRI machine. Good luck sleeping!

Writing well is important: The value of a science-based approach

The Reader's Brain How Neuroscience Can Make You a Abetter Wrtier

No matter what initially drew you to medicine, you most likely failed to picture yourself spending a hefty portion of your time writing. But, if you entered academic medicine, writing ends up occupying a significant amount of your time. Universities require us to bring in a stream of funding, which requires us to write grant proposals. In the US, only one of every seven proposals researchers write receive funding—and this statistic excludes the highly competitive and prestigious R01 awards offered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In addition, to first obtain funding, researchers usually need at least one publication as evidence of expertise in the area their proposal targets. Once you obtain funding, you face still greater pressure to produce a stream of publications that demonstrate you’re making progress in achieving your grant’s specific aims. Moreover, most universities tie job offers and promotions to your publications and papers you present at meetings. In short, in academic medicine, writing is inescapable—and integral to your success.

However, few researchers or clinicians understand the advantages of writing well in a now-competitive environment. A well-written proposal or manuscript increases your odds in receiving funding or getting published. Why? Three of the top seven reasons why journal reviewers and editors reject manuscripts include poor focus, organization, and writing (1). In addition, poor writing ranks fourth in the ten most common reasons why Respiratory Care rejects papers (2). Writing also figured in the top reasons why reviewers rejected manuscripts for a conference, slated for subsequent publication in Academic Medicine (3).

In addition, academic medicine often requires writers to generate reader-friendly lay summaries or recommendations for practice that the general public understands. UK-based journals, including The Lancet-, BMJ­-, and Nature-affiliated journals, place particular emphasis on writing articles comprehensible to a general audience, not just subject-matter experts. In the US, the NIH favors research proposals that contain some outreach to the general public. In NIH-funded Clinical and Translational Science Institutes, including the one in which I teach at the University of Florida, we include in our courses for fellows and faculty instruction on reaching lay readers and writing reader-friendly prose.

All these demands bring us to the nub of a rather vexing problem. The handful of publications on writing in medicine contain advice on tackling the rhetorical and content challenges of each section of a proposal or manuscript. A few others have bravely struck out into territory normally claimed by English studies faculty—the components of readable sentences. However, neither approach tells, say, a gastroenterologist how she can identify a problematic sentence or avoid burying important data. The how-to-get-published advice helps you dodge common errors in study design, data analysis and reporting, and the handling of introductions and discussions (1, 4, 5). Other resources included now-dead URLs featuring writing advice on avoiding passive voice and wordiness. But, while most researchers might grasp why passive voice is something to be avoided along with verbosity, few of us know how to recognize when we use either—let alone how to avoid using them.

The first brave foray into giving researchers advice on writing well in academic medicine appeared in Gopen and Swan’s 1990 article on scientific writing (6). Their work tackled examples of academic prose, used linguistics to examine the challenges poor writing throws at its readers, and offered guidance on handling sentence-level challenges. That article represented a quiet milestone on the science of writing, which should have begun a decades-long series of studies on psycholinguistics and its valuable insights into how writers need to write to accommodate the challenges words and sentences pose to our readers’ brains. Instead, however, to use Hamlet’s dying words, the rest is silence.

This silence is particularly ironic, given our growing knowledge of how the reading brain processes written language. Gopen and Swan’s work focused on how words, sentence structure, and connections between sentences impact writing. Their 1990 article used dramatic “before” and “after” versions of scientific writing to demonstrate how to make easily readable even the most complex information. In addition, they established a valuable precedent in recognizing that, as researchers, we are data-driven. Provide a researcher or clinician with data-driven methods for improving their writing, and you’re speaking to us via a conduit we understand.

I spent nearly two decades using research on reading drawn from psycholinguistics and neuroscience to understand reading in multimedia documents before I realized its value to creating a methodology in creating principles for writing. In English studies, every book on writing seeks to be the last word on the subject. In science, you realize that your research can only begin or add to conversations on your subject. My book, The reader’s brain: How neuroscience can make you a better writer uses empirical data to begin a much-needed conversation and research on the connection between writing and the reading brain. One student claimed these methods enabled her to become a full professor and dean within a decade of taking my course via her hefty list of grants and peer-reviewed publications. I hope others in medicine find it as useful—and that considerable conversation and debate ensue.

–Yellowlees Douglas

  1. D.W., Byrne. (1998). Publishing your medical research paper. What they don’t

teach in medical school. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

  1. Pierson, David J. (2004). The top 10 reasons why manuscripts are not accepted for publication. Respiratory care, 49(10), 1246-1252. PMid:15447812
  2. Bordage, Georges. (2001). Reasons reviewers reject and accept manuscripts: the strengths and weaknesses in medical education reports. Academic Medicine, 76(9), 889-896. PMid:11553504
  3. Provenzale, James M. (2007). Ten principles to improve the likelihood of publication of a scientific manuscript. American Journal of Roentgenology, 188(5), 1179-1182. PMid:17449755
  4. Browner, Warren S. (1998). Publishing and presenting clinical research. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  5. Gopen, George D, & Swan, Judith A. (1990). The science of scientific writing. American Scientist, 550-558.

“So you want to become a consultant Psychiatrist” Career Pathways 2

Blog Post by Dr Rashid ZAMAN BSc(Hons) MBBCHIR (Cantab) DGM MRCGP MRCPsych

·         What does speciality offer?  

The speciality is interesting, because it is able to link scientific underpinning of medicine (particularly neuroscience) with its human face. The training is fairly structured and is more responsive to the personal issues that may affect doctors (children, part time work etc). Read more of this post

Cerebellar Disorders

Blog Post by Mario Ubaldo Manto, University of Brussels, Founding Editor of the journal The Cerebellum and founder of the Society for Research on the Cerebellum

Our knowledge of cerebellar functions and cerebellar disorders has increased dramatically during the past century. New pathophysiological mechanisms have been elucidated during these last decades. With the advent of new technologies, cerebellar disorders are increasingly recognized, and the field of cerebellar symptoms has been extended to cognitive operations and emotions.

Cerebellar disorders are often heterogeneous and the diagnosis may remain a real challenge. A typical example is autosomal dominant spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs). The prevalence of SCAs is estimated to be 1-4/100,000. Patients exhibit a slowly progressive cerebellar syndrome with various combinations of oculomotor disorders, dysarthria, dysmetria/kinetic tremor, and/or ataxic gait. They can present also with pigmentary retinopathy, extrapyramidal movement disorders (parkinsonism, dyskinesias, dystonia, chorea), pyramidal signs, cortical symptoms (seizures, cognitive impairment/behavioral symptoms) and peripheral neuropathy. SCAs are also genetically heterogeneous and the clinical diagnosis of subtypes of SCAs is complicated by the noticeable overlap of the phenotypes between genetic subtypes.

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A Meeting of Minds – Cambridge Clinical Neuroscience and Mental Health Symposium

Blog Post by Jenny Ridge, Academic & Professional Marketing, Medicine

neuroscience logoThe Cambridge Clinical Neuroscience and Mental Health Symposium starts today, with Press authors ready to speak on the most up-to-date research.

Organised by Cambridge Neuroscience, whose mission is to increase our fundamental understanding of brain function and enhance quality of life, the Symposium is a highly significant event for all neuroscientists. The Symposium connects the varied and vast areas of neuroscience research and teaching that takes place across the University of Cambridge and affiliated institutions and is vital to furthering the aims of Cambridge Neuroscience.

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