Mindfulness shows promise in preventing depression relapse

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 8.11.17 PM

Depression is not only the most common mental illness, it’s also one of the most tenacious. Up to 80 percent of people who experience a major depressive episode may relapse. Drugs may lose their effectiveness over time, if they work at all.

But a growing body of research is pointing to an intervention that appears to help prevent relapse by altering thought patterns without side effects: mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or MBCT. Read more

Brain scans may help predict treatment response for depression

Some one in five patients drop out of mental health-care treatment, often because their first treatment didn’t work. Is there a way to predict what will?

A growing number of psychologists and other scientists are using MRI, fMRI and PET on a quest to find out. Although it’s still in the very early stages, their research suggests that clinicians may one day be able to match patients to effective treatments and ease symptoms faster by using information from brain imaging, along with other biomarkers such as DNA and hormone levels.

“It’s possible that within our lifetimes you will go to your doctor’s office, give blood, and if it’s not prohibitively expensive, get an fMRI,” says Gabriel Dichter, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina. “We accept it as part of standard care of neurology and cancer care, so why not for mental health?” Read more

Smart lighting may ease Alzheimer’s symptoms and help teens sleep

Mariana Figueiro wlth her blue light table.
Mariana Figueiro wlth her blue light table.

As evening approaches in the dementia ward at the Albany County Nursing Home, patients’ irritability and confusion rises. Come nighttime, many residents have problems sleeping — wandering, wheeling or perhaps falling in the halls.

So two years ago, health researchers installed what the home’s nurse manager Karen Pitcher calls “the miracle table,” a repurposed flat screen TV that emits a bluish-white light. They gathered residents around it at mealtimes, and allowed them to congregate there whenever they pleased from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The goal was to help stimulate the residents’ circadian rhythms — the hormones that ebb and flow according to light and other signals — and help correct the sleep disorders that are all too common among the ward’s elderly patients, especially those with dementia.

The miracle table worked some wonders. What happened wasn’t a complete reversal of symptoms, but was significant nonetheless for many patients. Read more

Invisible caregivers: Millions of kids help take care of family members without help

What Kyllian Warman remembers most about her childhood is caring for her father, an alcoholic who eventually developed liver and colon cancer. She helped her mother feed him, dress him, give him medicine and clean up after him, all while also watching her younger brother.

“If I wasn’t taking care of my dad, I would support my mom, helping her do taxes, go through bills and do housework. I just thought, ‘This is what I have to do. Everybody’s got to make it out of this alive,'” says Warman, who is now 20.

Warman was just one of thousands of American children who perform such caregiving duties every day. According to the latest data available from the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and the United Hospital Fund, in 2005 at least 1.3 million U.S. children ages 8 to 18 helped to care for a sick or disabled relative, with 72 percent of these caring for a parent or grandparent and 11 percent for a sibling. Read more


Turning lives around with hope

Some 16 million American children — 22 percent — live in poverty, a factor that increases their chances of academic struggles, social and behavioral problems, and depression.

Yet not all poor children are doomed to bad outcomes. Some survive and flourish despite hardships. Why? As a researcher who worked at the Yale Child Study Center from 1992 to 2005, Valerie Maholmes, PhD, suggests that poor children who succeed have a factor in common: hope.

“I’m not talking about miracles,” explains Maholmes, chief of the Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “I’m talking about planning and motivation and determination.” Read more at Monitor on Psychology

Why aren’t more people taking Truvada?

In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the first-ever drug to protect against HIV in high-risk uninfected individuals. Studies showed that Truvada, when taken consistently, greatly reduced the risk of infection in men having sex with men and transgender women having sex with men, prompting one FDA panelist to say Truvada was “an amazing opportunity to turn the tide on this epidemic.”

Two years later, the number of Americans taking the pill is minute compared to the half-million who the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) thinks could benefit from Truvada, otherwise known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. Why has adoption been so slow? Read more at Monitor on Psychology