Intermittent Fasting and Brain Health

Conventional wisdom, especially in the realm of diet and health, often turns out not to be right. Conventional wisdom (as it happens, heavily subsidized by grants from the Kellogg Foundation) has argued that “breakfast is the most important meal” and “fasting diets are unhealthy.” An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Casazza in 2013 suggested that the …

TV Watching Leads to Impaired Cognition

How can we build up foundational, long-lasting healthy habits while young? We know it’s important—a perennial question, if not one we face day-to-day. By building those habits early on, we can set ourselves up for healthier living long-term, and place our children on a better track for a healthier, more positive adolescence and early adulthood. In fact, the habits we …

Aerobic Exercise Stimulates Neuron Growth

Moderate aerobic exercise appears to be the best form of exercise to stimulate neuron growth. One of the great challenges facing anyone who has wrestled with depression is how best to counteract the negative effects on brain development and cognitive function that have clearly been linked to recurrent depression. Depression leads directly to reductions in the brain’s growth hormone (brain …

Exercise and Stress – How Exercise Prevents Depression

Exercise seems to reduce stress. But how does this work? And what about exercise effects on depression? An article in the New York Times summarizes a recent publication in the journal Cell which may explain how exercise prevents depression. A wealth of research shows that regular exercise reduces the risk of depression. A very large study in Britain, for example, suggested that …

Sleep and the Lunar Cycle

One of our readers wondered if bipolar people are more sensitive to lunar cycles. I could not find any evidence for that, but I did run across a recent research report suggesting that everyone (bipolar or not) may have a sleep cycle that corresponds to the phase of the moon. Researchers at the University of Basel studied 33 people and …

Evolutionary Psychology and Understanding Depression

We are glad to finally have a summary of a fascinating conversation with Dr. Julio Ozores up on this site in our “Conversations” series. Dr. Ozores challenges us to think about depression in a new way. Although many of us struggle with the negative effects of depression in our lives, are (or were) there benefits to depression that have led …

Passing on PTSD to Children

At a recent scientific meeting, Rachael Yehada showed that traits that are related to posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD can be passed on to children during pregnancy. Mothers in New York City who were pregnant on September 11, 2001 and developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had children with low cortisol in their blood (a sign of PTSD). But if the fathers …

Brain Cell Formation in Older Brains

Cell formation. Readers of this blog may recall that we reported last year the discouraging findings from Dr. Pasco Rakic (professor of neuroanatomy at Yale University) that there is very little neurogenesis (creation of new neurons) in the brains of older primates (including humans). Now, an article by Kristy Spalding published a few months ago in Cell suggests that the …

Befriending Stress

A colleague recommended this fantastic TED talk by Kelly McGonigal on the cardiovascular and social benefits of befriending stress (and potentially other negative emotions) as opposed to fearing these types of feelings. Kelly offers a fascinating perspective on oxytocin as a stress hormone that serves as a mechanism for resilience, helping people connect with others in times of challenge. Kelly …

Long Term Antipsychotics – Adverse Effects on Brain?

This post is a bit off topic. I have tried to not focus on medication issues in this blog on the grounds that there are many, many websites that talk about medications and very little else. However one of the blog’s most loyal readers sent in an email about long term antipsychotic medications and potential adverse effects on brain function …

Do Maternal Antidepressants (SRI’s) Cause Autism in Their Children?

Maternal Antidepressants. Two studies have suggested a link between prenatal exposure to antidepressant medication and autism spectrum disorders.  We are pleased to learn: that does not appear to be the case! Not surprisingly, the studies mentioned above received a lot of attention and created a lot of concern for women taking antidepressant medications, and their partners, who planned to have …

Changing Hormone Levels and Mood

I was on the phone yesterday having an urgent consultation with a woman we have worked for 15 years. She has had a pretty straight forward history of depression and anxiety that we’ve treated primarily with antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy. She’s had a good response to this treatment approach. The two things about her depression that are a little …

Oxytocin and Maternal Depression

There is lots of interest these days in how maternal depression affects kids, and also in how to prevent those effects. Recent research has suggested that the hormone oxytocin may play an important role in what happens. A nice review of this literature appeared in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry. The authors note that the …

Cognition Enhancing Apps

An experimental computer program is associated with improved attention and working memory in people over age 60, even 6 months after training. Somewhat fuzzy-brained after a poor night of sleep I ran across this summary of a paper that was just published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature (Anguera JA et al., Nature 2013 Sep 5; 501:97). Where could I test drive this application, …

Depression and Inflammation

Recently there has been increasing interest in the relationship between depression and chronic overactivity of the body’s biological defense system – inflammation. When we have an infection, or an injury, or almost any other kind of illness, the body activates a series of processes designed to respond to the threat. Unfortunately, the inflammation system, especially if it is turned on …

My Brain Isn’t Working

 Difficulties with cognition and focus are almost universal in folks with moods. In the scientific literature there have been attempts to distinguish between mood related problems and problems that tend to persist regardless of mood state. There is probably nothing that can more profoundly affect our brain’s ability to focus than an episode of depression or mania. These functional brain …