Monthly Archives: December 2010

A Short Video on Human Evolution

As something of a hobby, over the past 18 months I have been filming primates in various places. To pause and reflect on where we have come from, I am filled with awe at the truth laid out by Charles Darwin. To watch the Ring Tailed Lemur is to see not just a magnificent creature but also our relative. A relative separated from us by over 60 million years. To think that they had turned one way and we another. The circumstances are unclear as one would expect given such a time period. Perhaps our ancestors outpopulated the Lemurs. One thing became clear though. They all but disappeared from other parts of the world. They became isolated on the island of Madagascar. It is thought that they arrived there after the separation of Madagascar from Africa. Indeed it is speculated that they migrated across on driftwood, surviving a long journey on whatever foliage was available. Meanwhile in Africa, our ancestors were taking a very different journey. With the passage of time our ancestors would develop ever more sophisticated skills as brain volume increased and adaptation to challenging environments shaped our history. Yet in the same instance there is still a strong connection. One simple example will suffice. For the Lemur, the digits of the hands and feet are divergent. A little while spent with these creatures is enough to show how versatile their interactions with the environment can be as a result and how this can shape their behavioural strategies. Further along our journey other significant adaptations have occurred and broadly speaking we may think of the primates as consisting of two groups – the Strepsirrhini which include the Lemurs and the Haplorrhini. The latter group includes the Old World Monkeys, the New World Monkeys and the Greater Apes of which we are a member. When looking through the eyes of a primatologist or anthropologist an understanding of the connections becomes a focus for study and the insights gained can be quite profound when applied to our evolution and nature.

So to cut to the chase, what I did was to aggregate footage from my travels into a short 5 minute video. In the first half, our journey is illustrated by reference to the groups that diverged from our ancestors over a given period of time. In the second half, i’ve included public domain footage from the Prelinger Archives enabling me to contrast footage of humans and other primates. The reader i’m sure will disagree with some (or even all!) of the comparisons I’ve made but it is not unreasonable to make comparisons given the success of evolutionary theory (I would also add that some of the clips have been added rather lightheartedly – i’m sure the vertical sit-up wasn’t originated by the Squirrel Monkey).  The general theories of evolutionary psychology or psychiatry can be made more specific through such observations particularly where they are environmentally contextualised. Such comparisons also offer the possibility of ‘centering’ – a movement away from the anthropomorphic into a primatomorphic view that is perhaps necessary for us to gain an insight into the complexities and problems posed by our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. I would also like to thank the various organisations that have supported me in this endeavour as well as the talented musician Rick Clarke who has selflessly made available his music for use by others.

Index: An index of the site can be found here. The page contains links to all of the articles in the blog in chronological order. Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk. Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

Novel Drug Discoveries in Alzheimer’s Disease

In a short report titled ‘A diverse portfolio of novel drug discovery efforts for Alzheimer’s disease: Meeting report from the 11th International Conference on Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery, 27-28 September 2010, Jersey City, NJ, USA’ (freely available here), authors Lee and colleagues outline new developments in Alzheimer’s Disease drug therapies. These developments are all at the research stage and so it may be some time before we see them used clinically if they are successful. The authors essentially highlight areas of interest in the conference and their report is broadly divided into biomarkers, targetting Amyloid-Beta pathology, neuroprotection/cognitive enhancement and frontotemporal dementia/tauopathies. In terms of biomarkers, the authors summarise new approaches including metabolomics and immunosignatures as well as quality control in all stages of data management. For the targetting of Beta-Amyloid pathology the authors mention talks on β-secretase and γ-secretase enzymes, RAGE and fibrinogen. Neuroprotective and cognitive enhancement strategies are varied and ultimately will depend on the clinical trials. The authors mention allopregnanolone, cAMP responsive element-binding protein and Sildenafil, hippocampal hyperexcitability and levetriacetam as well as blocking Aβ oligomer binding to neurons amongst other strategies. Finally in terms of frontotemporal dementia and the tauopathies the authors mention mitoxantroneantisense nucleic acid tag and
phosphatase 2A. The field is so complex that the report represents a ‘snapshot of a snapshot’ of the current research in the field of dementia. Nevertheless this highly structured report offers a framework on which to extend an understanding of additional strategies into dementia diagnosis and treatment.

Index: An index of the site can be found here. The page contains links to all of the articles in the blog in chronological order. Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk. Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

News Round-Up 2010 3rd Edition: Visual Motion Processing in Alzheimer’s Disease and Freud’s Effect on British Culture

A brief report on progress in therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease has been published at the Journal of Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy. The authors summarise different strategies being pursued currently including those  targetting the Amyloid-Beta peptide.

A longitudinal study (n=3494) examining the relationship between caffeine intake and subsequent dementia found that there was no significant association between caffeine intake and forms of dementia including Vascular and Alzheimer’s Dementia. There was found to be  a significant difference between those in the lowest and highest quartiles of caffeine intake with those in the highest quartile having a lower number of dementia associated brain lesions at post-mortem.

In an article freely available here, researchers detail the post-mortem findings on the first person with Alzheimer’s Disease to undergo PET scan imaging with Pittsburgh B compound. The researchers found a strong correlation between the PET findings and the occurrence of plaques but not tangles at post-mortem. Thus this study lends support to the benefits of Pittsburgh B compound in the assessment process although there are limitations on the conclusions that can be drawn.

In a study including 214 subjects – young, middle-aged, older adults and people with Alzheimer’s Disease the latter group were differentiated by performance on a visual motion processing task in which randomly moving dots were presented in the visual field. It will be interesting to see the results of further studies in this area.

A recent paper in the Lancet Neurology reviews developments in behavioural variant Frontotemporal Dementia including a new classification scheme which is characterised by the likelihood that the disease is correct.

There is a write-up here of a study involving participants in their 20′s, 40′s and 60′s. The researchers found evidence that the older adult group were better at reappraising negative events positively but that the other two groups scored more highly on tasks that involved ‘detached appraisal’ in which events are viewed while dissociating feelings.

Mind Hacks has another interesting round-up of Spike Activity featuring links to a radio program on the influence of Freud on British Culture as well as a case-study on a person who was unable to experience fear after a lesion to the Amygdala.

Index: An index of the site can be found here. The page contains links to all of the articles in the blog in chronological order. Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk. Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.