Antidepressants Help You Focus on the Positive

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 from negative information to positive …

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 the interplay between other hormone …

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 neuron connections in a way …

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, the fact is that most …

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 (ASL). This approach allowed much …

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 how the brains of teenagers …

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 the hormone system relates to …

Ginseng

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 the controversy that surrounds many …

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 we will be talking about …

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 to see which parts of the …

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 had been an especially dark …

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 phenomenon linked to depression. Maternal …

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 wonderful older man who came …

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, areas where one or the …

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 Nowadays there are no life …

Kindling

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 years Chief of the Biological …