News Round-Up: April 2010 1st Edition

A widely reported study (e.g see here and here) looked at a murine model of schizophrenia and the researchers provide evidence of a neural substrate for the association of chromosome 22q11 with schizophrenia. The researchers found that the deletion was associated with a disconnection between the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. It will be interesting to see if evidence of this disconnection is found in people with chromosome 22q11 mutations or deletions.

An economic analysis of a stepped-care model of prevention of anxiety and depression in older adults showed that the incidence could be halved and a costing per depression-free year was calculated (Harm van Marwijk et al, 2010). The study was performed in the Netherlands and included older adults over the age of 75 (n=170).  The stepped care model included ‘watchful waiting, bibliotherapy, problem-solving treatment and antidepressant medication’ following a mailing of the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale (CES-D) to the patient and follow-up call.

In a widely reported BMJ study, the use of checklists – care bundles – for 56 conditions was associated with a marked reduction in mortality rates at a North London NHS Trust. There is coverage of a paper here which suggests that linking Electronic Healthcare Records with DNA databases can accelerate the identification of relationships between genes and disease.

Psychiatry 2.0

PsychCentral has a round-up of the best of their blogs including an article on mindfulness and meaning. Mind Hacks has another Spike Activity including links to a video debate on Vul et al’s fMRI paper, a widely covered paper on TMS disruption of moral decision making (see also this TED talk by Rebecca Saxe who is an author on the paper) as well as a New Scientist piece on embodied cognition.

The Differential Biology Reader has a look at statistical tools in this post

Our tools do constrain us, and while knowing the principles and concepts is important, there is another aspect of statistical literacy, which is making your tools do what you want‘*

At the Mouse Trap, there is an interesting piece on a PNAS study investigating the relationship between stress and neurogenesis in a murine model and Gautam speculates about antidepressant action. Lehrer has a piece on the relationship between attention and general intelligence at the Frontal Cortex blog here. Buckeye Psychiatry has a brief but interesting post on a recent study comparing rates of cognitive decline (aggregate of 4 cognitive tasks) in Alzheimer’s Disease, MCI and a control group. Cole Bitting reflects on context building in this FABLE post. At Psychology Today there is a look at a study providing evidence that self-esteem peaks at 60. The Neurocritic revisits mirror neurons and links to a series of articles critiquing the concept. As mirror neurons have been linked to empathy this whole topic is very important for models of social cognition.

Over at Blue to Blue there is a post contrasting reading information on the internet with reading a novel (what about a novel on the internet!). Dr Shock links to a TED talk by a magician on the placebo effect in this post.  There is an interesting deconstruction of a Katy Perry song at the psychiatry fun blog. There is also a Wiki containing a list of songs about mental illness here. . A database of movies of cells after gene silencing has been created and there is coverage here.

There is coverage of a paper in Neurobiology of Aging providing preliminary evidence of age-related grey matter changes associated with the traits of conscientiousness and neuroticism and it will be interesting to see the results of larger longitudinal replication studies.

Evolutionary Psychiatry

Colin Blakemore argues in this piece that the human brain increased in volume dramatically as a result of a new mutation at around the time of mitochondrial Eve 200,000 years ago rather than through gradual cumulative culture-associated changes. In another proposal Professor Bruce Yankner speculates that an increase in energy utilisation by the human brain could explain why humans are susceptible to Alzheimer’s Disease which is not identified in other species (even those with large brains).

While not directly related to mental illness but instead to models of human evolution, the Laetoli footprints have been analysed and in this paper the authors state that they are the earliest evidence of hominid bipedalism (3.6 million years ago). There are theories that suggest that bipedalism was accompanied by adaptive cognitive changes. There is an interesting piece on cultural transmission in chimpanzees at the primate diaries here.


Harm van Marwijk et al. Cost-effectiveness of a stepped care intervention to prevent depression and anxiety in late life: randomised trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 2010. 196. 319-325.

* Creative Commons 3.0 license applies

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