Tag Archive: brain function

Sep 14

Antidepressants Help You Focus on the Positive

bipolar 2

I am always interested in articles that help us understand how medications work, and perhaps how the brain functions in different mood states. Today I got a copy of a pre-publication article from the American Journal of Psychiatry that confirms other research about antidepressants – antidepressants work, at least in part, by helping us to shift …

Continue reading »

Sep 13

Hormones and Food

In an earlier post we talked about some of the research on appetite. We reviewed some of the peptide hormones that regulate appetite and how the entire system that controls appetite is really designed to cope better with a time of scarcity than a time of plenty. Here I want to talk more specifically about …

Continue reading »

Sep 10

Dual Treatment: Medications and Therapy Work Together to Treat Depression

A review in the prestigious journal JAMA Psychiatry suggests that there may be a clear biological explanation of how medications and psychotherapy work together to treat depression. The authors note that recent, unexpected, research findings suggest that antidepressant medications reactivate the brain’s ability to relearn old lessons. The medications allow the brain to modify old …

Continue reading »

Sep 07

Therapy or Medications for Depression?

A new study published in the most prestigious psychiatric journal (JAMA Psychiatry – see reference below) strongly suggests that a brain scan might be able to help people decide whether therapy or medications are more likely to treat their depression. As background, although some people feel that for more severe depression medications are more effective, …

Continue reading »

Aug 30

Brain Scan Diagnosis?

A newly developed brain scanning method that measures blood flow to different parts of the brain may help to distinguish between bipolar and unipolar depression, according to a study that got a fair amount of media attention. The study of 54 adult women used a novel way of measuring brain function called arterial spin labeling …

Continue reading »

Aug 30

Childhood Trauma – Brain Effects

Experiencing trauma in childhood is associated with changes in the brain during teenage years, according to a study of 117 adolescents using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The researchers compared MRI’s from age 12 with MRI’s from age 16. They asked the teenagers about childhood trauma and also did psychiatric diagnostic interviews. There were significant differences in …

Continue reading »

Aug 29

Hunger Regulation

Recently several folks have asked us questions about diet, hunger, weight gain, and nutrition. Certainly for many people with depression, gaining weight is an important issue, both as a cause and consequence of depression. Let’s begin by trying to make some sense of hunger. In other posts we will be talking about how stress and …

Continue reading »

Aug 20


If you are a ginseng believer, then ginseng is the one supplement that all of us should be taking. Russian scientist Israel Brekhman coined the term “adoptegens” to refer to agents that helped individuals deal with stress. The prime example of this, in his view, was ginseng. [If you are interested in an example of …

Continue reading »

Aug 20

Memory, Stress and Aging

Many older people are concerned about impaired memory, and the relationship between memory, stress, and aging can be difficult to untangle. Obviously worry about memory problems can be a source of anxiety and stress. But can stress and anxiety be a cause of memory problems? And if so what can be done about it? Elsewhere …

Continue reading »

Aug 18

Emotion Regulation and Bipolar

Researchers from the University of Mannheim investigated brain activity in people at increased risk of bipolar disorder to see if there was something about how these people handled negative emotions that might them be at increased risk of mood cycles. They used a powerful brain imaging technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging that allows researchers …

Continue reading »

Aug 13

Life Energy

Freud came up with the term libido to describe the sum of all the human instincts related to love. In his view, there was a limited amount of this libidinal energy and it was important to use it wisely. Invest it in the wrong activities and you could end up with nothing to show for …

Continue reading »

Aug 12

Mood and the Brain’s Clock

As we slowly move from summer to fall, it may be timely that the issue of Biological Psychiatry that arrived in the mail today is devoted to how the brain’s clock affects mood. It points to growing evidence that part of what drives mood cycles are disruptions in the brain’s daily (circadian) rhythms. It appears …

Continue reading »

Aug 08

Selective Attention

One morning, while I was riding a bike, I got to thinking about how mood affects attention and how that, in turn, creates a different reality for us depending on what mood we’re in. To think all these thoughts were sparked by my reaction to the image of a dead squirrel… Several weeks ago, it …

Continue reading »

Jul 16

Depressed Mothers and Oxytocin

Oxytocin is often brought up in conversations about childbirth. After childbirth, new mothers normally experience surges of oxytocin that increase feelings of maternal bonding, trust, and empathy. In addition to facilitating pair bonding, recent studies have shown oxytocin  plays a greater role in mental health than originally thought. Low levels of oxytocin may be a …

Continue reading »

Jul 12

Brain Power

Problems with memory are common for people with depression (and the rest of us, as we age, as well). Although the most important thing to do to improve brain function is to address mood extremes, there are often residual problems, and sometimes there are negative brain effects from the medications that help stabilize mood. A …

Continue reading »

May 26

Coming Home

Where does the mind go when it is not occupied by the worries, frustration, and anxiety? Does it go to a happy place, or are people naturally angry? According to Rick Hanson, PhD, the mind constantly fluctuates between a reactive and responsive state. When in the responsive state, the body is able to relax and …

Continue reading »

Apr 25

The Big Fight

How is it that so many couples end up having knock down, drag out fights?  How can seemingly rational people end up saying things that just don’t make any sense? Several people that I’ve seen recently have told me a similar story.  As in every relationship, they have had certain long-standing issues in their relationships, …

Continue reading »

Apr 21

Stress and Your Brain

Stress has a major affect on our bodies and our brain. The release of catecholamines (adrenaline and related chemicals) and cortisol causes significant changes throughout our body that are designed to prepare us for “fight or flight.” By shutting down all non-essential functions the stress response system prepares us for a life and death struggle …

Continue reading »

Mar 30

Nature’s Cycles

It should be raining. It is March in the San Francisco Bay area, and we have had hardly any rain for the past three months. It’s a funny thing, but even though I have been taking advantage of the good weather to go out bicycle riding and hiking, there’s a part of me that doesn’t …

Continue reading »

Mar 18


What do small sticks used to start a fire have to do with bipolar moods? Not much… Kindling in the context of this post refers to a phenomenon that is well documented in some people with seizure disorders and which may have relevance to some people with bipolar moods. Bob Post, who was for many …

Continue reading »

Older posts «

» Newer posts

Fetch more items