Monthly Archives: March 2012

A New Human-Like Species May Have Been Found in China and #9 Research Studies/Books That Tell Us About Health and Illness: News Round-Up March 2012 3rd Edition

There’s a very interesting study in PLOS One by Curnoe and colleagues who have anlaysed human remains in South China. The specimens date back 11,000 years and the skulls are characterised by the presence of brow ridges and a lateral extension of the zygomatic arches (cheekbones) compared to modern human control groups. The specimens are further characterised by Taurodontism, that is teeth in which the pulp chamber and body of the tooth contribute to a larger proportion of the tooth in relation to the root. Taurodontism is also seen in Neanderthal specimens (e.g these specimens dating back 230,000 years were found in Pontnewydd Cave in Wales) . Taurodontism also occurs in association with pathological conditions including Amelogenesis Imperfecta.

The researchers have thus provided convincing evidence that the specimens they have grouped together are significantly different from control groups of modern humans in a number of ways. There are still other approaches that can be used to investigate this further and so the researchers are cautious about concluding that the specimens represent a new species at this stage . Nevertheless if this does prove to be a new species it adds to other species that lived in Africa, Asia and Europe in the last 30,000 years including a specimen found in Tanzania, the controversial Homo Floresiensis species of  the Indonesian Island of Flores, the Neanderthals and the Siberian Denisovans.

Figure 3. Longlin 1 partial skull (each bar = 1 cm). Curnoe D et al, 2012, PLoS ONE 7(3): e31918, Creative Commons Attribution License

Figure 12. Isolated M3 – specimen MLDG 1747 (scale bar = 1 cm) exhibiting marked taurodontism, Curnoe D et al, 2012, PLoS ONE 7(3): e31918, Creative Commons Attribution License

The BMJ has a study in which the researchers report from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. This is a large study and the researchers divided subjects into three groups according to their health literacy skills. This was measured using the ability to understand medical instructions as an example. The researchers found that the lower the health literacy, the higher was the risk of mortality in that group. The researchers noted that most of the subjects were classed as having high literacy and that the low literacy group were relatively under-represented in their study.

In a study looking at the build-up of Amyloid plaques and blood pressure, researchers used Positron Emission Tomography and Pittsburgh-B compound (which binds to Amyloid plaques) to investigate people in late middle-age. The researchers found that systolic blood pressure was significantly and positively correlated with the cerebral/cerebellar ratio of PiB distribution volume ratio (a marker of Amyloid presence) in both the Frontal and Temporal regions amongst other findings. These results may help to better characterise the relationship between blood-pressure and Alzheimer’s Disease as raised blood pressure is a risk factor for dementia.

The researchers in an Italian structural MRI study have found evidence of changes up to 10 years before the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. These changes discriminated between those who did and didn’t later develop Alzheimer’s Disease. The latter group were characterised by a significantly smaller right Medial Temporal Lobe volume at baseline

In a study at the Institute of Psychiatry, researchers investigated gene associations with mood, psychosis, agitation and behavioural dyscontrol in people with dementia. Amongst other findings, researchers found a significant association between the Dopamine Transporter gene DAT-3 and agitation.

In a small post-mortem study, there was found to be a depletion of Cholinergic neurons in the brainstem in people with Lewy Body Dementia compared to a control group and people who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is thought to play an important role in memory.

In a Japanese post-mortem study, the researchers investigated the neuropathological correlates of 18 FDG Fluorodeoxyglucose areas of hypometabolism and concluded that areas of occipital hypometabolism were associated with Lewy pathology in Lewy Body Dementia and Temporo-Parietal hypometabolism is associated with Alzheimer’s Disease pathology in Alzheimer’s Disease. While these results are not unsurprising, confirmation of this relationship is useful.

The Neuroskeptic has a write-up of a recent paper in which the researchers report that eye-blinking can interfere with the scan results in functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging studies although there is scope for modifying protocols to incorporate these findings. Bradley Voytek notes in the comments section that the influence of eye blinking has also been found in EEG studies.

There is a write-up on a series of articles in the Schizophrenia Bulletin on how smartphones can be used in the clinical setting for uses ranging from completion of questionnaires through to prompting for self-monintoring.

Discover Magazine has a piece by evolutionary neurobiologist Dr Mark Changizi on the evolutionary significance of music and language which he writes about in his new book ‘Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man’. Changizi suggests that music and language resemble naturally occurring phenomenon. Professor Robin Dunbar has also written a book on the evolution of language and music and I have made a brief video illustrating Professor Dunbar’s concepts below.

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.

#3 Ways UNESCO Made It Easier to Understand Human History

The history of our race is immensely complex. A comprehensive historical account of humanity would include descriptions of many now extinct languages, cultures and civilisations. To understand our identity, it is natural for us to ask about our past and to understand how we fit into this bigger picture. From the perspective of a psychiatrist, the course of human history is not immediately relevant to psychiatric practice. However history, as part of the humanities is immensely important in understanding people and particularly the origins of cultural practices. Significant historical events can have profound effects on societies many hundreds or even thousands of years afterwards, dictating the normative values within a society. These values in turn influence the boundaries of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ attitudes and behaviours. Much has been written about the treatment of people with mental illness in different periods of history illustrating how such illnesses are perceived through the lens of historical cultural values.

One simple question we can ask is ‘How can we make sense of such a complex history?’. While there is no simple answer the efforts of UNESCO present us with one solution. UNESCO is short for the ‘United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’. The aims of UNESCO are clearly outlined on their website which includes the following statement

UNESCO works to create the conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values

UNESCO has undertaken the ambitious task of detailing and communicating the history of humanity in a way which is inclusive to a multiplicity of perspectives. Here are #3 ways that UNESCO have achieved this.

#1 UNESCO’s website ‘The History of Humanity. The website acts as a central point for the History of Humanity projects.

#2 UNESCO’S collective work ‘The History of Humanity’. ‘The History of Humanity’ is a work created by a collective group of experts ‘The International Commission of the History of the Scientific and Cultural Development of Humankind’ ‘consisting of thirty scholars of international repute‘ with a further reference to ‘450 distinguished scholars from all around the world‘. The paper version of the book is available from here as is a sample online chapter. The work organises history around ‘structures’ and the interactions of centres of civilisations according to the following time periods.

Volume I: Prehistory and the Beginnings of Civilization
Volume II: From the Third Millenium to the Seventh Century BC
Volume III: From the Seventh Century BC to the Seventh Century AD
Volume IV: From the Seventh to the Sixteenth Century
Volume V: From the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century
Volume VI: The Nineteenth Century
Volume VII: The Twentieth Century

#3 UNESCO’s YouTube Channel videos. UNESCO have uploaded a number of videos to YouTube many of which are distributed under a Creative Commons License. This means that with appropriate attribution and adherence to the conditions of the license, the videos can be redistributed and even edited. Here is a selection of the videos from the Channel.

UNESCO-2 – The Cro-Magnon Man

UNESCO -4- The Egypt of the Pyramids

UNESCO -3- The First China’s Emperor

UNESCO – 14 – Galileo Galilei

The French Revolution

UNESCO – 22 – Abraham Lincoln

Mahatma Gandhi – Pilgrim of Peace

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.

#5 Great Positive Psychology Resources

Positive Psychology is the branch of psychology dealing with the factors that help us to lead the ‘good life’. If you start with the principle that living a fulfilling life can be studied and the resulting principles used to facilitate the ‘good life’ then you’ll be interested in this branch of science. Positive Psychology is an integral part of the ‘Health and Wellbeing’ movement. There are some great resources on the internet for Positive Psychology and 5 of these are given below

#1 The Centre for Confidence website ‘Positive Psychology Resources’ section. This is a great introduction to the subject, taking the reader through subjects like resilience, well-being and the story of Positive Psychology

#2 The ‘Action for Happiness’ website. ‘Action for Happiness’ is a UK based movement using the principles of Positive Psychology. At the time of writing 20,252 people have made a pledge to this movement (including me!).  Checkout the ‘Great Dream‘ mnemonic for 10 principles of living a happier life backed up by research. They have a YouTube channel as well as a Twitter account with frequent updates.

#3 Martin Seligman talks about Positive Psychology in a TED talk. Professor Martin Seligman is an iconic figure in the field of psychology and founder of Positive Psychology.

#4 The University of Pennsylvania ‘Positive Psychology Center‘. This is a great resource for Positive Psychology linking to papers, videos, press releases and books on Positive Psychology.

#5 Psychology Today articles on ‘Positive Psychology. Psychology Today have a great series of articles introducing the reader to Positive Psychology

Do you know any other great resources on Positive Psychology that you would recommend?

Appendix – Posts on Positive Psychology on this Blog

Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature – Part 1

Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature – Part 2. Scales

Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature – Part 3. Depression

Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature – Part 4. Purpose in Life Across the Lifespan: Adolescence and Early Adulthood

Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature – Part 5. Purpose in Life Across the Lifespan: Adulthood

Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature – Part 6. Purpose in Life Across the Lifespan: Older Adulthood

Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature Part 7. Purpose in Life Across the Lifespan

Purpose in Life and Conditions of the Heart

Purpose in Life and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Having a Purpose in Life and the Risk of Cognitive Decline

Having a Purpose in Life Reduces the Risk of Death

Purpose in Life and Caregiving

What is Purpose in Life?

Positive Psychology Blogged

Building Resilience

The Moral Sense

Successful Cognitive and Emotional Aging

Review: Mental Illness and Well-Being

Book Review: The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction (Unabridged)

Review: Literature and Happiness

Review: A Balanced Psychology and A Full Life

Book Review: Positive Psychology in a Nutshell

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.