News Round-Up: February 2009 3rd Edition

A recent study showed a significant difference in visual impairment between those with and without subsequent dementia (n=625) although it will be interesting to see if there is a causal link or else explanatory confounders. There are results from a preliminary study involving the use of Oxytocin in people with Asperger Syndrome. The researchers concluded that there was evidence of increased responses to social cues including the degree of cooperativeness of other players in a ball game. However this was a small study with 13 subjects and it will be interesting to see the results of larger replication studies.

Over at the Alzheimer’s Forum there is coverage on some recent genetics papers showing the possible involvement of a number of Progranulin mutations in the pathogenesis of Frontotemporal Dementia. There is coverage here also. Scientific American has an article on neurogastroenterology – the study of the enteric nervous system and has some intriguing comments on how a ‘mental illness’ could affect this part of the nervous system which uses serotonin amongst other neurotransmitters. They suggest that there might be insights into irritable bowel syndrome and it will be interesting to see how this develops. The authors of a small study (n=54) found evidence of reduced response inhibition in subjects with Type 2 Diabetes.

There are further preliminary results on vascular decompression in Multiple Sclerosis and it will be interesting to see the results of further research in this area. The use of neuroscience in court cases was discussed at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a mock trial was staged and the associated complexities explored. A neurosurgeon commenting in the Journal of the American Medical Association has called for helmets to be used in skiing and snowboarding which to reduce the risk of head injuries in accidents. The authors of a Nature Neuroscience paper have found evidence that A-Type K+ channels and T-Type Ca Channels act together during action potential transmission.

A small chinese study has shown evidence of several structural differences between chinese and caucasian brains (Tang et al, 2010). Using structural MRI the team compared the brains of 35 caucasians and 35 chinese subjects and concluded that there were differences in the height, anterior-posterior length and width and then proceeded to construct a chinese reference database using 56 subjects. However this is a small study and there are difficulties in drawing conclusions on the basis of such broad racial ethnic categories*.

An american study looked at census data between the years 1990 and 2006 in the state of Virginia and concluded that socioeconomic status was strongly inversely associated with mortality and that if the mortality rates of the 5 most affluent states and cities were applicable throughout the state there would be a 25% reduction in mortality.


Dr Dan Carlat takes a further look at the DSM-V draft proposals here. Dr Charles Parker has further coverage here and also over at the Corpus Callosum blog. There is a look at grief in the draft DSM-V proposals at Psychotherapy Brown Bag.

Psychiatry 2.0

Buckeye Psychiatry covers a recent study looking at preference for sweet tasting drinks in children and an association with depressive symptoms and a family history of alcohol dependence.  Dr Shock has a link to a video by Dr Ben Goldacre on the placebo effect. Dr D has a post on parenting and choosing a book on the subject. Over at the FABLE blog there is a piece on sadness and growth. Over at Mind Hacks there is a link to a collection of artwork on mental illness. There is a look at a follow-up study of childhood ADHD at psychcentral.  Wray Herbert looks at subsidies for healthy food versus the effects of taxes on fats and sugars on healthy eating. There is detailed coverage of a conference on biological and social aspects of psychiatric disorders at Somatosphere and includes discussion of DSM-V as well as trajectories – the movement of a person from one diagnostic category to another over time. The Genetic Genealogist discusses a pending conference which will feature a small group of people who have had their genomes sequenced discussing their experiences. Over at the Wolfram Alpha Blog there are links to a collection of videos about Wolfram Alpha on YouTube.

Evolutionary Psychiatry

The Primatology blog has a look at a recent study on the length of Macaque ‘conversations’.

* On other measures in specific ethnic groups there are found to be larger variations within the ethnic groups than between them so the same argument could be applied here. Additionally the categories of ‘Chinese’ and caucasian are extremely broad and each contains further ethnic groups.


Tang Y, Hojatkashani C, Dinov ID, Sun B, Fan L, Lin X, Qi H, Hua X, Liu S, Toga AW.  Neuroimage. 2010 Feb 9. [Epub ahead of print]. The Construction of a Chinese MRI Brain Atlas: A Morphometric Comparison Studybetween Chinese and Caucasian Cohorts.


You can find an index of the site here. The page contains links to all of the articles in the blog in chronological order.


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).

TAWOP Channel

You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link


If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail


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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