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Researchers find link between brain activity and depressed mood

Raghu Kshitiz

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Researchers from University of California San Francisco have identified a common pattern of brain activity linked to feelings of low mood, particularly in people who have a tendency toward anxiety.

The findings published in the journal Cellcould help scientists to develop new therapies to help people with mood disorders such as depression by convincing the brain to ‘unlearn’ the detrimental signaling patterns of these diseases, according to researchers at the UCSF.

The study was funded by the Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

“It is remarkable that we are able to see the actual neural substrates of human mood directly from the brain,” study leader Dr Edward Chang, a UCSF Health neurosurgeon and neuroscientist, said in a press release.

“The findings have scientific implications for our understanding of how specific brain regions contribute to mood disorders, but also practical implications for identifying biomarkers that could be used for new technology designed to treat these disorders, which is a major priority of our SUBNETS effort,” Chang said.

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The researchers recruited 21 patient volunteers with epilepsy who had had 40 to 70 electrodes implanted on the brain’s surface and in deeper structures of the brain as part of standard preparation for surgery to remove seizure-causing brain tissue.

Over seven to 10 days,the researchers recorded a wide range of brain activity in these patients over the course of seven to 10 days, particularly focusing on certain deep brain structures that have been previously implicated in mood regulation.

The researchers then used computational algorithms to match patterns of brain activity to changes in the patients’ reported mood. Patients logged their mood throughout the day.

These new algorithms were developed by the lead author, Lowry Kirkby, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Sohal lab, and Francisco Luongo, PhD, a recent alumnus of UCSF’s Neuroscience Graduate Program.

In the past, most human brain research on mood disorders relied on studies in which participants lie in an fMRI scanner and look at upsetting images or listen to sad stories.

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Suicide can’t be predicted by asking about suicidal thoughts : Study

Gorkha Post

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Most people who died of suicide deny they experience suicidal thoughts when asked by doctors in the weeks and months leading up to their death, a major Australian study has found.

The findings, co-authored by clinical psychiatrist and Professor Matthew Large from UNSW’s School of Psychiatry, Sydney that published in the journal BJPsych Open The meta-analysis challenge the widely-held assumption that psychiatrists can predict who will suicide by asking if they are preoccupied with thoughts of killing themselves.

The study showed that 80% of patients who were not undergoing psychiatric treatment and who died of suicide reported not to have suicidal thoughts when asked by their psychiatrist or GP.

“If you meet someone who has suicidal ideation there is a 98 per cent chance that they are not going to suicide,” said Professor Large, an international expert on suicide risk assessment who also works in the emergency department of a major Sydney hospital.

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“But what we didn’t know was how frequently people who go on to suicide have denied having suicidal thoughts when asked directly,” he added.

“This study proves we can no longer ration psychiatric care based on the presence of suicidal thoughts alone. We need to provide high-quality, patient-centred care for everyone experiencing mental illness, whether or not they reveal they are experiencing suicidal thoughts,” Professor Large said.

About one in 10 people will have suicidal ideation in their lifetime. But the study showed suicidal ideation alone was not rational grounds for deciding who gets treatment and who does not, Professor Large said.

“We know that suicide feeling is pretty common and that suicide is actually a rare event, even among people with severe mental illness,” Professor Large added.

Suicidal ideation tells us an awful lot about how a person is feeling, their psychological distress, sometimes their diagnosis and their need for treatment but it’s not a meaningful test of future behaviour.

Suicidal feelings can fluctuate rapidly and people may suicide very impulsively after only a short period of suicidal thoughts.

But, people had good reasons not to disclose thoughts of suicide, fearing stigma, triggering over-reactions or upsetting family and friends, and being involuntarily admitted for psychiatric treatment, Professor Large said.

Professor Large emphasized that clinicians should not assume that patients experiencing mental distress without reporting suicidal ideas were not at elevated risk of suicide.

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