News Round-Up:November 2009 2nd Edition


News in Brief

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence has released guidance on mental wellbeing at work. The document has a wide audience including members of the public (where applicable in the UK) and complements previous NICE guidance in the workplace. The quick reference guide contains 5 recommendations relating to strategic/coordinated approaches to mental wellbeing, assessment of opportunities for wellbeing of employees, flexible working, the role of line managers and supporting micro, small and medium-sized businesses. This has been widely reported with a number of articles looking at how these recommendations might impact on health services themselves (see here, here and here). This comes at the same time as a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which produced findings from a survey of 2000 employees which included results relating to mental health (covered here). The researchers in an american study covered here found that of 472 million prescriptions for psychotropic medications prescribed between August 2006 and July 2007, only 1/4 were prescribed by psychiatrists. Virtualised desktops save time in booting up the computer and in this article a proprietary system using virtualised desktops was suggested to save clinicians 30 minutes on average each day

Research in Dementia

There is coverage here of a 20-year longitudinal study published in Neurology which identified associations with the development of mild cognitive impairment and it will be interesting to see how these findings inform further research in this area. This article looks at another study published in Neurology this time on Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) and finding that 42% of subjects had a family history on the basis of a related outcome measure  (see here for further information). There is coverage of the recent Society of Neuroscience conference in Chicago over at the Alzforum and this featured a number of presentations on Alzheimer’s Disease.

Research in Pervasive Development Disorders

A neuroimaging  study (n=88) compared people with Asperger Syndrome and Autism with controls and found a significant difference between the Asperger and Autism groups in terms of structural MRI findings with the latter group having increased grey matter volume in the frontal and temporal lobes (Toal et al, 2009). However it will be interesting to see this data be included in a meta-analysis with other similar studies as well as to see the findings of larger replication studies. This study is timely given the recent discussion about dropping the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome (see below).

Research in Psychosis

There is a discussion here of some of the recent genetic evidence of similarities between Schizophrenia and Autism in terms of analysis of copy number variants. The possible role of a form of interneuron known as the gliaform cell in psychosis is discussed in this article.

Publications on Affective Disorders

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence has released guidance on the treatment of depression in people with chronic health problems – the quick reference guide is here. A small case series which looked at deep brain stimulation for severe depression provided some evidence of efficacy although given the sample size, it will be interesting to see the outcome of a relevant systematic review or meta-analysis which incorporates this data.


There was discussion recently of the diagnosis of Asperger syndrome being dropped from the next edition of the DSM and this will mean an expansion of the autism diagnostic category. This was originally discussed in a New York Times article (which requires (free) registration). The article features an interview with Dr Catherine Lord, who is one of 13 members of the working group on autism and neurodevelopmental disorders. The group are considering a number of amendments to the autism diagnosis including the addition of comorbidity that have been associated with the condition including disorders of attention and anxiety. However the suggestion regarding Asperger syndrome has not yet been ratified by the group. There have been a number of responses in the media. This article contains interviews with a doctor who runs a clinic, a parent of a child with Asperger’s syndrome and the president of a non-profit organisation for raising awareness of the condition. There is some information on the DSM-V process here.

Psychiatry 2.0

There is further discussion of the DSM-V Asperger syndrome diagnosis on the left-brain, right-brain blog and at the time of writing there are 87 comments, testimony to the interest this discussion is creating. Dr Grohol also covers this over at Psychcentral. At the ISCI healthcare blog there is an article looking at some of the ways in which twitter is being used in healthcare. MindHacks has another news roundup in ‘Spike Activity‘ and included is a link to an interview with Terry Pratchett about Alzheimer’s Disease. The ‘Heal My PTSD‘ blog contains a round-up of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) news including the use of a virtual reality environment for re-experiencing trauma as part of a therapeutic intervention. This BBC article looks at some of the ways web 2.0 technology is being used by the research community. Patients in the USA are beginning to carry their healthcare information around with them in iPhone apps as reported in this article. The Science in the Open blog has an article looking at how an open collobarative framework might change science (Science 2.0) with the possibility of the science being separated into data acquisition, data analysis and dissemination of results. An article here looks at recent research which counters the argument that use of the internet has casued people to become more isolated. They cite research which suggests that people are not more isolated than in 1985 and elsewhere that people who use the web regularly are more likely to participate in social activities such as meeting up with friends . See here for more information.

Miscellaneous Research

A study of babbling in babies (covered here) found evidence that after only an hour’s exposure to a new language, the baby’s babbling with the speaker of that new language differed from that with speakers of the native language.


Toal F, Daly EM, Page L, Deeley Q, Hallahan B, Bloemen O, Cutter WJ, Brammer MJ, Curran S, Robertson D, Murphy C, Murphy KC, Murphy DG.Psychol Med. 2009 Nov 6:1-11. [Epub ahead of print]. Clinical and anatomical heterogeneity in autistic spectrum disorder: a structural MRI study.


You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link


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).


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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.


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