Probiotics To Treat Depression?


What you eat can have a major impact on how you feel emotionally.

Probiotics to Treat DepressionA diet rich in probiotics — which support the growth of “healthy” bacteria in the gut — is known to boost digestive health and can even improve a person’s immune system. But now an increasingly robust body of evidence suggests that gut bacteria may exert a significant effect on brain function and mental health.

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that can be found in your body, as well as in supplements and foods fermented with live active cultures such as some yogurts, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir. These “good” bacteria are known to promote digestive and immune health, and researchers are discovering that they may support mental health as well.

Once considered a fringe idea, a growing number of scientists have become interested in probiotics and prebiotics as potential treatments for anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. And in a small, new study at Leiden University, researchers found additional support for the idea: they report that among 40 healthy subjects, those who underwent four weeks of probiotic treatment showed a decrease in negative thoughts and feelings.

For the study, the researchers administered multistrain probiotics — meaning that they contained different types of bacteria — to 20 healthy participants every day for four weeks. The other 20 participants received a placebo. At the outset of the study and then again after the month had gone by, the participants filled out a questionnaire assessing sensitivity to depression.

Participants who took the probiotics were significantly less reactive to sad moods. Improving the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut seemed to have a protective effect against rumination, the type of obsessive negative thinking that often predicts depression.

The researchers don’t yet know how probiotics reduce sad mood, but it’s possible that they increase levels of plasma tryptophan, a key neurochemical involved in mood, which can be found in the gut.

“Unquestionably, further research needs to be carried out,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Lorenza Colzato of Leiden University, told The Huffington Post in an email. “But the hope is that probiotics supplementation may work as a potential and effective preventive strategy for depression.”

Boosting healthy bacteria in the gut may also be an effective way to treat anxiety. In a recent study, neuroscientists at Cambridge University found a short course ofprebiotics — non-digestible dietary fiber that act as food for good bacteria — to have an anti-anxiety effect, lessening study subjects’ emotional responses to negative stimuli.

“It is likely that these compounds will help to manage mental illness,” the study’s lead author, Oxford neurobiologist Dr. Philip Burnet, told The Huffington Post in January. “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.”

Leiden University’s findings were published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.


Related Online Continuing Education (CE/CEU) Courses:

Depression is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that provides an overview to the various forms of depression, including signs and symptoms, co-existing conditions, causes, gender and age differences, and diagnosis and treatment options.

Depression: What You Must Know is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that provides in depth information about the diagnosis and treatment of depression in a simple, straightforward way.

Clergy Stress and Depression is a 4-hour online CEU course that provides clinicians with an understanding of the complex factors that cause stress and depression in clergy, along with recommendations for prevention and treatment.

Caregiver Help: Depression and Grief is a 2-hour online video-based continuing education (CE/CEU) course that addresses caregiver depression and grief and provides a three-step process that can help develop an attitude of creative indifference toward the people, situations and events that cause emotional stress.

Nutrition in Mental Health & Substance Abuse is a 3-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that discusses how good nutrition impacts a person’s mental health and well being.

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Professional Development Resources maintains responsibility for all programs and content. Professional Development Resources is also approved by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the California Board of Behavioral Sciences; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; and by theTexas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners.

Robin Williams’ Death Reveals How Hard It Can Be To Climb Out Of Depression


Robin Williams' Death Reveals How Hard It Can Be To Climb Out Of DepressionThe suicide death of beloved comedian and actor Robin Williams shocked many of his fans. But those who knew him were aware of his ongoing struggle with depression.

According to his publicist, Williams, 63, was completing a 12-step program for drug abuse and had been battling severe depression.

“You’re standing at a precipice and you look down, there’s a voice and it’s a little quiet voice that goes, ‘Jump,'” Williams told Diane Sawyer during an interview about his struggle with addiction in 2006. “The same voice that goes, ‘Just one.’ … And the idea of ‘just one’ for someone who has no tolerance for it, that’s not the possibility.”

More recently, Williams talked about the overwhelming fear and anxiety that led him to seek solace in alcohol.

“Having depression and being in a suicidal state twists reality. It doesn’t matter if someone has a wife or is well loved,” Julie Cerel, a psychologist and board chair of American Association of Suicidology, told USA Today. “They get so consumed by the depression and by the feelings of not being worthy that they forget all the wonderful things in their lives.”

Indeed, a major reason people with suicidal thoughts don’t seek help is the belief that nothing could possibly make things better, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Ariane Sherine, a writer for The Guardian, recently spoke with The Huffington Postabout her struggle.

“When I was suicidal and having suicidal ideations daily, hourly, I never imagined that I would be this happy and this stable again,” said Sherine.

“Please don’t give up,” she told HuffPost Live’s Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. “Life can get better … It might involve a lot of trial and error, but it’s possible to feel normal again, or almost normal again.”

Though we can never know what took place in Williams’ personal life, the actor’s now-public struggles have many people thinking about the difficulties faced by those battling depression and addiction. That’s especially important in light of recent evidence that high-profile suicides may inspire young people to take their own lives.


Each year, 34,000 people commit suicide, about twice as many deaths as caused by homicide — about one death per 15 minutes. By 2030, depression will outpace cancer, stroke, war and accidents as the world’s leading cause of disability and death, according to the the World Health Organization.

While the elderly have the highest rate of suicide, anyone can be suicidal. Men, in general, are more likely to complete suicide, even though women are more likely to attempt it. About half of all suicides occur in men ages 25 to 65. Risk factors include overwhelming situations, such as aging, substance abuse, emotional trauma, unemployment or financial problems, according to the NIH.

Fully 90 percent of those who take their own lives struggle with an underlying mental health issue. According to the latest estimate, 13 percent of people will experience depression at some point in their lives. And about 15 percent of those with clinical depression will die by suicide.


Substance abuse in combination with a preexisting mental health condition, such as depression or bipolar disorder, can be deadly, according to the website of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, a suicide prevention organization. Often, someone suffering from mental illness will seek alcohol or drugs to relieve symptoms, but this can lead to impaired judgment and impulsive behavior.

Williams discussed the interplay of substance abuse and suicidal thoughts during a 2010 interview on the comedy podcast WTF with Mark Maron [at 52:00]. Describing a dark period of drinking alone in his hotel room two years earlier and briefly considering suicide, Williams said his “conscious brain” told his drunk brain to “put the suicide over here in ‘discussable.’ Let’s leave it over here in the discussion area” until he was sober.


It can be difficult to determine when a depressed loved one has progressed to suicidal tendencies. The SAVE network recommends asking the following questions in a non-judgmental and non-confrontational manner:

Do you ever feel so badly that you think about suicide?
Do you have a plan to commit suicide or take your life?
Have you thought about when you would do it (today, tomorrow, next week)?
Have you thought about what method you would use?

Suicidal individuals may talk about feeling hopeless or guilty, pull away from loved ones and complete tasks that seem geared toward getting affairs in order, giving away possessions or otherwise arranging for family, according to the NIH.


If you or anyone you know has threatened suicide or is displaying tendencies, it is important to seek immediate help.

For a loved one struggling with depression, there are ways to offer support. (Though it is essential to know that depression is not due to a failure of support on the family’s part.)

When talking to someone suffering depression, “it’s best not to say anything that is going to make them think that what they’re dealing with is because of a lack of coping skills, personal weakness or a character flaw,” Dr. Adam Kaplin, an associate professor in the departments of psychiatry and neurology at Johns Hopkins University, told The Huffington Post for a previous article. “The worst part of depression is that it narrows the field of vision into a very small tube so they can’t see the options. A lot of [the goal of helping] is giving people a hope that things will get better.”


Related Online Continuing Education (CE/CEU) Courses:

Depression is a free 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that provides an overview to the various forms of depression, including signs and symptoms, co-existing conditions, causes, gender and age differences, and diagnosis and treatment options.

Depression: What You Must Know is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that provides in depth information about the diagnosis and treatment of depression in a simple, straightforward way.

Clergy Stress and Depression is a 4-hour online CEU course that provides clinicians with an understanding of the complex factors that cause stress and depression in clergy, along with recommendations for prevention and treatment.

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists; by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) to offer home study continuing education for NCCs (#5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB #1046, ACE Program); the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (#PCE1625); the Florida Boards of Clinical Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling (#BAP346) and Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).

Is Depression in Men Taboo?

By Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Is Depression in Men Taboo?A new study suggests that people are less likely to perceive men as being depressed and in need of professional help, even when their symptoms are identical to women’s.

“A lot of attention has been paid to depression in women, and with good reason: depression is twice as common in women,” said Dr. James B. Potash, the editor of the study and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa.

“There has been relatively little focus on education about depression in men. This [study] emphasizes the importance of figuring out how to get through to men that depression can be disabling and treatment is important.”

In the study, a group of about 600 adults were asked to read a short story of a hypothetical depressed person. This scenario, which was written to portray the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression (also known as major depression), read in part:

For the past two weeks, Kate has been feeling really down. She wakes up in the morning with a flat, heavy feeling that sticks with her all day. She isn’t enjoying things the way she normally would. In fact, nothing gives her pleasure. Even when good things happen, they don’t seem to make Kate happy.

Fifty-seven percent of the study participants recognized Kate’s symptoms — which included difficulty concentrating, fatigue and insomnia — as a mental health disorder. Over three-fourths of those people correctly labeled the disorder as depression.

Only 10% of the participants said Kate did not have a problem.

The researchers presented the same story to another group of 600 people. This time, however, “Kate” was replaced with “Jack,” and all the pronouns were switched from female to male.

These small changes had a significant effect — although nearly the same number of people recognized Jack as having a mental health problem (52%), over twice as many said he did not have a problem at all (21%) compared to those in the Kate scenario.

Furthermore, men themselves were less likely than women to say that Jack is depressed — a pattern that was not seen with Kate.

Why the difference? Male stereotypes that emphasize traits such as toughness and strength may discourage both women and men, and especially the latter, from acknowledging depression in men, said study author Viren Swami.

“Men are expected to be strong, deny pain and vulnerability, and conceal any emotional fragility,” said Swami, a psychologist at the University of Westminster, in London.

“Because of these societal expectations, men appear to have poorer understanding of mental health and aren’t as good at detecting symptoms of depression compared with women.”

Potash says the findings also may reflect the fact that women are generally more in touch with emotions and better at articulating them. Some men might have all the outward signs of depression, and yet when asked about their mood they “may not be able to say much more than ‘I don’t know,’” he says. “A substantial minority of men just don’t describe depression.”

In addition, men’s failure to recognize depression in a fellow male may represent a kind of defense mechanism prompted by an “unconscious identification” with that man, says Dr. Radu Saveanu, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“They may think, ‘If this guy is having trouble and may need treatment, I may be in the same position someday,’” says Saveanu, who was not involved in the study. “That anxiety distorts the ability to be more objective.”

In the study, men were more likely than women to recommend that Kate seek professional help, but this gap disappeared in the Jack scenario. Men also expressed less sympathy for Jack than women did.

This independent mindset is more common among males, said Potash. Men tend to think that pulling themselves out of depression is “something they ought to be able to do,” he said. “It’s the stereotype of men who never ask for directions. They won’t admit that they can’t take care of it themselves.”

Gender, however, isn’t the only factor that influences our views on depression. Swami also found that participants of both sexes who harbored negative attitudes towards psychiatry and science felt that both Kate and Jack’s symptoms were less distressing, more difficult to treat, and less worthy of sympathy or professional help.


Depression: What You Must Know

Professional Development Resources, an accredited provider of online continuing education courses for psychologists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, social workers, occupational therapists and dietitians, offers a 2-hour online course titled Depression: What You Must Know that provides in depth information about the diagnosis and treatment of depression in a simple, straightforward way.

Major Depression is a very common illness that can be life threatening, yet the majority of sufferers of this illness never get proper treatment. This is despite the fact that there are many different and varied treatments currently available. Dr’s Kuna and Nelson-Kuna will share with you published information combined with their joint 36 years of experience to give you their honest opinion on what is likely hype and what has been proven to work. Learn more…

Light at Night may Contribute to Depression

By Nika Soon-Shiong Los Angeles Times

Exposure to light at night may contribute to depression, study saysTV sets, laptops, iPads and iPhones are modern society’s instruments for increased productivity, social connectedness and entertainment after a long day’s work. Ironically, a new study published in Molecular Psychiatry shows that these devices also contribute to an increase of major depressive disorder.

The 24-hour society made possible by the advent of the electric light bulb has come at a significant biological cost. Light at night disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythms and has been linked to breast cancer, heart disease and obesity.

The new experiment, led by Tracy Bedrosian, a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University, analyzed the relationship between exposure to artificial light at night and mood disorder. The subjects of the study were adult female hamsters, since females — both rodent and human — are twice as likely as males to develop major depressive disorder. One group of hamsters was kept on a cycle of 16 hours of normal light and eight hours of dim light, which was five times brighter than the maximum light power of a full moon and comparable to light pollution in urban centers. The control group of hamsters was on a schedule of 16 hours of daylight and eight hours of darkness.

The researchers tested the hamsters in the nighttime light group for signs of depression. After four weeks of sleeping with light at night, the hamsters lost some of their appetite for sugar. In addition, when forced to swim, the animals spent more time immobile in the water and less time trying to reach safety.

According to the research team, the results show that there was some physiological change in the hamsters’ brains when they were exposed to light at night.

For instance, they produced more of a protein called TNF, or tumor necrosis factor. This is one of a family of proteins called cytokines — chemical messengers in the body that are released in response to injury or inflammation. If they are released constantly — such as during exposure to light at night — damage occurs that could result in depression. In the brain, the hippocampus is extremely vulnerable because it has many receptors for these cytokines. The hippocampus plays a critical role in major depressive disorder.

Furthermore, the amount of nighttime light used in the study is enough to suppress the release of melatonin, which is linked to depressive effects. Melatonin is a hormone secreted during the dark, and when that doesn’t happen, the body’s time-of-day information is distorted. In rodents, melatonin prevents stress-induced, depression-like behaviors.

The study authors noted that 99% of people in the United States and Europe deal with light pollution on a nightly basis. This could account for some of the increase in the incidence of major depression over the last few decades, they wrote, adding that further research is necessary to explore the extent of the link.

There was some good news: The negative effects of exposure to light at night are reversible if that exposure is decreased. Within two weeks of returning the hamsters to a standard light/dark cycle, the hamsters regained their taste for sugar and were more willing to swim, the researchers reported. Also, hamsters that were forced to endure the nighttime light but allowed to take a drug that inhibited their production of TNF swam just as much as the control hamsters on the normal light/dark schedule.


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4 Ways To Help a Man Fight Depression

This guest article from YourTango was written by Julia Flood.

4 Ways To Help a Man Fight DepressionYou’ve noticed that your partner seems sad, irritable, or overly critical. Maybe he has expressed hopelessness or guilt. You have noticed a loss of interest in his usual activities, concentration trouble, or changes in his sleep pattern. All these could be signs that your man is struggling with some form of depression.

Depression isn’t only hard for him; mood disturbances also have a big impact on your relationship. But how do you bring up the subject? Many men have difficulty talking about their feelings in the first place. The prospect of having a mental health disorder is difficult to hear for anyone. Even gentle suggestions that the problem may lie within himself will likely not be appreciated.

As the saying goes, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” So what can you do to help?

Let me start by explaining what not to do.

1. Don’t say “Look on the bright side.”

People with depression may have a long list of what is wrong with the world. You as a non-depressed person may not agree and will want to convince your partner otherwise. The goal however isn’t to fix a problem on the content level or even to change his negative feelings, but to help both of you feel less isolated. So don’t talk him out of it — this doesn’t work!

Instead, aim to be fully present and willing to listen to his strong feelings. Don’t take it personally. What he says is not so much about you, but a window into his experience. Connecting during the dark times will help heal your relationship.

2. Don’t ask “Why?” and “How come?”

While it is good to show interest in his feelings and adapt a curious, non-defensive attitude, these questions are too analytical. What you’re going for is not a rational explanation, but helping him vent the feelings that will otherwise fester.

Better questions are: “Tell me why this is important to you.” “What is the most difficult part for you?” “That really bothers you, doesn’t it?” “You sound worried, what are you afraid of in this situation?” Or simply, “Tell me more!”

3. Don’t blame each other.

Even though your partner may be nagging at you, many people suffering from mood issues secretly blame themselves. He may also worry about overwhelming you with his burden or fears you may leave him if you find out how dark his thoughts are. It might help to externalize the problem. Depression can be a “third party” in the relationship and must be acknowledged as such. If the problem is neither him or you, but “it,” you can be allies in battling this together, just like you would with any other illness.

4. Don’t hesitate to encourage professional therapy.

The timing and tone is important here. “Man, you really need therapy,” is blaming or dismissive, but if you have done the work of being present and demonstrating your willingness to listen to your partner’s feelings, education on the illness can have a tremendously normalizing effect.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 16% of US Americans will get Major Depressive Disorder at some point in their lives, and there are many other types of “low-grade depression” as well. Depression is very treatable with psychotherapy and/or medication, so getting a thorough medical assessment is very important.

One last piece of advice: Don’t lose sight of your own needs in the process. Sooner or later you will need attention or assistance from your partner as well, so don’t postpone your desires and requests for him indefinitely. Make sure to take good care of your own body and mind, and surround yourself with people who can be supportive to you both.


Related Online Continuing Education Courses:

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The Simple Exercise That Could Help Decrease Depression

Walking Could Help To Decrease Depression, Review Finds

Walking Could Help To Decrease Depression, Review FindsWalking is effective in helping to decrease depressive symptoms, according to a new review of studies.

Research published in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity shows that “walking has a statistically significant, large effect on the symptoms of depression in some populations.”

The review showed that walking works as well as other kinds of exercise in helping lower depressive symptoms.

The review included eight studies, evaluating a total of 341 people, which all showed that walking is able to lessen symptoms of depression. But the researchers cautioned that the ways the studies were conducted — like how long the people walked, at what pace, and how often — were different from study to study, so more research is needed to find what is the most effective.

“The beauty of walking is that everybody does it,” Adrian Taylor, a professor at the University of Exeter who studies depression, addiction and stress, told BBC News.

The Mayo Clinic explained that exercise may help fight depression by prompting the release of chemicals in the brain that are linked with feeling happy, and could also help to calm the body by raising body temperature. It could also help by serving as a distraction, boosting confidence and social interaction, and serving as a “substitute” for more unhealthy coping practices like drinking alcohol.


Link Between Fast Food and Depression Confirmed

Link Between Fast Food and Depression ConfirmedAccording to a recent study headed by scientists from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada, eating commercial baked goods (fairy cakes, croissants, doughnuts, etc.) and fast food (hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza) is linked to depression.

Published in the Public Health Nutrition journal, the results reveal that consumers of fast food, compared to those who eat little or none, are 51% more likely to develop depression.

Furthermore, a dose-response relationship was observed. In other words this means that “the more fast food you consume, the greater the risk of depression,” explains Almudena Sánchez-Villegas, lead author of the study.

The study demonstrates that those participants who eat the most fast food and commercial baked goods are more likely to be single, less active and have poor dietary habits, which include eating less fruit, nuts, fish, vegetables and olive oil. Smoking and working more than 45 hours per week are other prevalent characteristics of this group.

A long-term study

With regard to the consumption of commercial baked goods, the results are equally conclusive. “Even eating small quantities is linked to a significantly higher chance of developing depression,” as the university researcher from the Canary Islands points out.

The study sample belonged to the SUN Project (University of Navarra Diet and Lifestyle Tracking Program). It consisted of 8,964 participants that had never been diagnosed with depression or taken antidepressants. They were assessed for an average of six months, and 493 were diagnosed with depression or started to take antidepressants.

This new data supports the results of the SUN project in 2011, which were published in the PLoS One journal. The project recorded 657 new cases of depression out of the 12,059 people analysed over more than six months. A 42% increase in the risk associated with fast food was found, which is lower than that found in the current study.

Sánchez-Villegas concludes that “although more studies are necessary, the intake of this type of food should be controlled because of its implications on both health (obesity, cardiovascular diseases) and mental well-being.”

The impact of diet on mental health

Depression affects 121 million people worldwide. This figure makes it one of the main global causes of disability-adjusted life year. Further still, in countries with low and medium income it is the leading cause.

However, little is known about the role that diet plays in developing depressive disorders. Previous studies suggest that certain nutrients have a preventative role. These include group B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and olive oil. Furthermore, a healthy diet such as that enjoyed in the Mediterranean has been linked to a lower risk of developing depression.


Shock Therapy’s Mystery Closer to Being Solved

By Rachael Rettner, MyHealthNewsDaily Staff Writer

Shock Therapy's Mystery Closer to Being SolvedWhile “shock therapy” has been used in psychiatry for more than 70 years, researchers had little idea how the controversial treatment worked to treat depression. Now, scientists say they may have solved the mystery.

The therapy, which provides electrical stimulation to the brain and is extremely effective in treating severe depression, appears to affect how brain areas communicate with each other. It relieves “over-communication” in the brain that may make it difficult for people with depression to think and concentrate, said study researcher Jennifer Perrin, a mental health researcher at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

“We believe we’ve solved a 70-year-old therapeutic riddle,” said study researcher Ian Reid, a psychiatrist at the university.

By understanding how the treatment, properly known today as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), works, researchers may one day be able to replace it with something that has a lower risk of side effects, but is just as effective, Perrin said. However, such a replacement treatment is a long way off, she said.

How ECT Works

Electroconvulsive therapy, first used in the 1930s, involves placing electrodes on the forehead and passing electrical currents through the brain in order to induce a seizure lasting from 30 to 60 seconds. In the early years of the therapy, patients were not given anesthesia, and high levels of electricity were used.

Today, the therapy is safer because patients receive anesthesia and electricity doses are much more controlled, according to the Mayo Clinic. Still, the treatment can impair short-term memory and, in rare cases, cause heart problems.

ECT is one of the most effective treatments in psychiatry — 75 to 85 percent of patients who receive it recover from their symptoms, Reid said. That compares with about 40 percent of depression patients who recover after treatment from their primary care physician, Reid said.

Currently, ECT is used only in patients who are severely depressed and at risk for suicide, or patients who have not responded to other treatments, Reid said.

In the new study, the researchers scanned the brains of nine severely depressed patients, before and after they received ECT, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Patients typically received eight treatments, and the final brain scan was performed about one week after the last treatment, Perrin said. All patients had previously failed to respond to antidepressants, but were successfully treated with ECT.

The researchers examined the brains so-called “functional connectivity,” or internal communication pattern, Perrin said.

The treatment appeared to turn down an overactive connection between brain regions responsible for mood and emotion and those responsible for thinking and concentrating, the researchers said. Perrin likened the mechanism to dialing down a stereo that’s too loud.

Testing Depression Treatments

Recently, researchers have proposed depression may be due to a hyper-connectivity, or over-communication between the brain regions implicated in the new study’s results.

“For the first time, we can point to something that ECT does in the brain that makes sense in the context of what we think is wrong in people who are depressed,” Reid said.

Researchers may be able to test the effectiveness of existing or new treatments for depression by seeing how well they relieve this hyper-connection, Perrin said.

The study brings us a step closer to understanding exactly how ECT works, said Dr. Laura Gilley-Hensley, of the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute, who was not involved in the study. However, there is still the question of how an electrical stimulus would lead changes in the brain’s connectivity, Gilley-Hensley said.

In addition, we don’t know why ECT works so much better than antidepressants, which have also been shown to reduce brain connectivity, Gilley-Hensley said.

Future studies may lead to finding more precise doses of ECT to further reduce the risk of side effects and the time it takes for treatment to work, Gilley-Hensley said. Brain connectivity levels could be used as a way to see if patients are responding to the treatment, she said.

The findings will be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Pass it on: Scientists may have figured out how shock therapy works to treat depression.


Can Facebook Updates Predict Depression Ahead of Doctors?

Post written by Jamie Condliffe

Can Facebook Updates Predict Depression Ahead of Doctors?We all have friends that post ambiguous, leading or confessional posts on Facebook. Often, they’re plain irritating—but could they be used to spot mental health problems ahead of trained clinicians?

A report in the New York Times suggests that specialists in adolescent mental health believe that dark status updates shouldn’t simply be ignored, but used as early warning signs of depression.

During a research study run last year at the University of Washington, 30 percent of 200 students posted updates that met the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for a symptom of depression, “reporting feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, insomnia or sleeping too much, and difficulty concentrating” according to the NYT.

“You can identify adolescents and young adults on Facebook who are showing signs of being at risk, who would benefit from a clinical visit for screening,” said Dr. Megan A. Moreno, one of the researchers, to the NYT.

But the problem is sifting the signal from the noise: which status updates really point to problems, and which are harmless? At the moment, it’s still difficult to tell.

Regardless, clinicians are beginning to use updates as a complement to their usual practice. Dr. Gregory T. Eells, director of Cornell’s counseling and psychological services, said to the NYT:

“People do post very distressing things. Sometimes they’re just letting off steam, using Facebook as something between a diary and an op-ed piece. But sometimes we’ll tell the team, ‘check in on this person.’ ”

Obviously, tentative steps are required when using Facebook to help with diagnosis of mental illness, and often time clinicians might be dealing with false positives. But when a person’s future health—or even their life—is at stake, false positives aren’t, perhaps, too much of a problem. While analyzing Facebook statuses will never replace human intervention, it might stop diagnoses slipping through the net. [New York Times]


Migraine Increases Risk Of Depression In Women

Migraine Increases Risk Of Depression In Women

Research released today shows that women who have a tendency for migraines or have had them in the past, have a greater risk for developing depression.

The study gathered data on more than 36,000 women, who were all classified as not having depression. They were enrolled in the Women’s Health Study and gave information about their history of migraines.

The women also gave information about diagnoses of depression.

From 36,154, a total of 6,456 had current or past problems with migraines, and during the following 14 years of the study, more than half of them developed depression.

Those that had a history of migraines were nearly twice as likely to develop depression as those that had no history of the affliction. The results did not vary substantially, regardless of the type of migraine. Those with aura, which is described as visual disturbances that appear as flashing lights, zigzag lines or a temporary loss of vision, had the same risks as other types of migraine.

It’s useful information that patients and doctors alike should be aware of when treating depression.


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