New research reveals how key proteins interact to regulate the body’s response to stress
Targeting these proteins may help treat or prevent stress-related psychiatric disorders
The biological mechanisms behind stress-related psychiatric conditions, including major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are poorly understood.
New research now details the interplay between proteins involved in controlling the body’s stress response and points to potential therapeutic targets when this response goes awry. The study, which was conducted by an international team led by investigators at McLean Hospital, appears in the journal Cell Reports.
Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) and colleagues worldwide describe a new science-based intervention for hiccups in a research letter published June 18 in the journal JAMA Network Open.
In the publication, the scientists coined a new term for the intervention: the “forced inspiratory suction and swallow tool,” or FISST. The team also reported the results of a survey of 249 users who were asked whether it is superior to hiccup home remedies such as breathing into a paper bag.
“Hiccups are occasionally annoying for some people, but for others they significantly impact quality of life,” said Ali Seifi, MD, associate professor of neurosurgery in UT Health San Antonio’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine. “This includes many patients with brain and stroke injury, and cancer patients. We had a couple of cancer patients in this study. Some chemotherapies cause hiccups.”
Regular readers know that I am a dyed in the wool bicycle rider. But, I must confess that these e-scooters have sparked my imagination. They look like so much fun, BUT, you get NO exercise benefit from riding around on them. The places that I might use one for would deprive me of the exercise of walking or taking my bicycle, so I am confined to admiring them from afar. But, if you also find yourself interested in hopping on one, read the following with much care.
As pandemic restrictions begin to loosen around the country and summer temperatures rise, more people will be moving about on public rideshare electric scooters. With that comes this warning: Ride with safety.
A Henry Ford Health System study published in The Laryngoscope, shows that head and neck injuries caused by use of e-scooters have been on the rise since rideshare systems were introduced to the public in late 2017.
Kathleen Yaremchuk, M.D., Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and the study’s senior author, said that a review of emergency visits in the last three years showed e-scooter injuries have increased significantly with many related to head and neck injuries. “Since e-scooters became a popular form of transportation in major cities, the number of injuries jumped significantly because they’ve become more available to more people,” said Dr. Yaremchuk.
A study of nearly 2,500 adults found that having trouble falling asleep, as compared to other patterns of insomnia, was the main insomnia symptom that predicted cognitive impairment 14 years later.
Results show that having trouble falling asleep in 2002 was associated with cognitive impairment in 2016. Specifically, more frequent trouble falling asleep predicted poorer episodic memory, executive function, language, processing speed, and visuospatial performance. Further analysis found that associations between sleep initiation and later cognition were partially explained by both depressive symptoms and vascular diseases in 2014 for all domains except episodic memory, which was only partially explained by depressive symptoms.
“While there is growing evidence for a link between insomnia and cognitive impairment in older adults, it has been difficult to interpret the nature of these associations given how differently both insomnia and cognitive impairment can present across individuals,” said lead author Afsara Zaheed, a graduate student in clinical science within the department of psychology at the University of Michigan. “By investigating associations between specific insomnia complaints and cognition over time using strong measures of cognitive ability, we hoped to gain additional clarity on whether and how these different sleep problems may lead to poor cognitive outcomes.”
Insomnia involves difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or regularly waking up earlier than desired, despite allowing enough time in bed for sleep. Daytime symptoms include fatigue or sleepiness; feeling dissatisfied with sleep; having trouble concentrating; feeling depressed, anxious, or irritable; and having low motivation or energy.
Most people listen to music throughout their day and often near bedtime to wind down. But can that actually cause your sleep to suffer? When sleep researcher Michael Scullin, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, realized he was waking in the middle of the night with a song stuck in his head, he saw an opportunity to study how music — and particularly stuck songs — might affect sleep patterns.
Scullin’s recent study, published in Psychological Science, investigated the relationship between music listening and sleep, focusing on a rarely-explored mechanism: involuntary musical imagery, or “earworms,” when a song or tune replays over and over in a person’s mind. These commonly happen while awake, but Scullin found that they also can happen while trying to sleep.
“Our brains continue to process music even when none is playing, including apparently while we are asleep,” Scullin said. “Everyone knows that music listening feels good. Adolescents and young adults routinely listen to music near bedtime. But sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. The more you listen to music, the more likely you are to catch an earworm that won’t go away at bedtime. When that happens, chances are your sleep is going to suffer.”
“Preaching to the choir” – was my first reaction to this study, having published lots of posts on this very subject.
Increasing evidence shows that physical activity and exercise training may delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In aging humans, aerobic exercise training increases gray and white matter volume, enhances blood flow, and improves memory function. The ability to measure the effects of exercise on systemic biomarkers associated with risk for AD and relating them to key metabolomic alterations may further prevention, monitoring, and treatment efforts. However, systemic biomarkers that can measure exercise effects on brain function and that link to relevant metabolic responses are lacking.
To address this issue, Henriette van Praag, Ph.D., from Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine and Brain Institute and Ozioma Okonkwo, Ph.D., Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and Department of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and their collaborators, tested the hypotheses that three specific biomarkers, which are implicated in learning and memory, would increase in older adults following exercise training and correlate with cognition and metabolomics markers of brain health. They examined myokine Cathepsin B (CTSB), brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and klotho, as well as metabolomics, which have become increasingly utilized to understand biochemical pathways that may be affected by AD.
Study used data from cell phone apps and watches, brain activity and lifestyle factors to generate predictions of depression; results could lead to individualized treatment plans for mental health
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the World Health Organization, depression affects 16 million Americans and 322 million people worldwide. Emerging evidence suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbating the prevalence of depression in the general population. With this trajectory, it is evident that more effective strategies are needed for therapeutics that address this critical public health issue.
In a recent study, publishing in the June 8, 2021 online edition of Nature Translational Psychiatry, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine used a combination of modalities, such as measuring brain function, cognition and lifestyle factors, to generate individualized predictions of depression.
The machine learning and personalized approach took into account several factors related to an individual’s subjective symptoms, such as sleep, exercise, diet, stress, cognitive performance and brain activity.
People in the UK with sleep problems are at an increased risk of dying, finds a new study from the University of Surrey and Northwestern University.
In a paper published by the Journal of Sleep Research, researchers reveal how they examined data* from half a million middle-aged UK participants asked if they had trouble falling asleep at night or woke up in the middle of the night.
The report found that people with frequent sleep problems are at a higher risk of dying than those without sleep problems. This grave outcome was more pronounced for people with Type-2 diabetes: during the nine years of the research, the study found that they were 87 per cent more likely to die of any cause than people without diabetes or sleep disturbances.
The study also found that people with diabetes and sleep problems were 12 per cent more likely to die over this period than those who had diabetes but not frequent sleep disturbances.
Malcolm von Schantz, the first author of the study and Professor of Chronobiology from the University of Surrey, said:
“Although we already knew that there is a strong link between poor sleep and poor health, this illustrates the problem starkly.”
“The question asked when the participants enrolled does not necessarily distinguish between insomnia and other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea. Still, from a practical point of view it doesn’t matter. Doctors should take sleep problems as seriously as other risk factors and work with their patients on reducing and mitigating their overall risk.”
Professor Kristen Knutson of Northwestern University, the senior co-author of the study, said:
“Diabetes alone was associated with a 67 per cent increased risk of mortality. However, the mortality for participants with diabetes combined with frequent sleep problems was increased to 87 per cent. In order words, it is particularly important for doctors treating people with diabetes to also investigate sleep disorders and consider treatments where appropriate.”
“There’s a stigma around mental illness,” says Cvengros, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Rush University Medical Center. “And that makes people hesitant to tell their loved ones, or their doctors, that something is wrong.” Cvengros was writing in the Rush Stories publication.
But even those who don’t say anything usually communicate their problem via changes in their body language and behavior.
Learning to recognize these six nonverbal signs can equip you to extend needed help and compassion to the people in your life who may be struggling with depression:
1. Changing body language
“If someone in your life is depressed, you’ll probably notice that their body language changes,” Cvengros says. How it changes depends on the person. Some people might make less eye contact than usual. Others may have a more slumped posture. Their hand gestures may become less frequent, or slower.
As mammals age, immune cells in the brain known as microglia become chronically inflamed. In this state, they produce chemicals known to impair cognitive and motor function. That’s one explanation for why memory fades and other brain functions decline during old age. But, according to a new study from the University of Illinois, there may be a remedy to delay the inevitable: dietary fiber.
Dietary fiber promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut. When these bacteria digest fiber, they produce short-chain-fatty-acids (SCFAs), including butyrate, as byproducts.
“Butyrate is of interest because it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties on microglia and improve memory in mice when administered pharmacologically,” says Rodney Johnson, professor and head of the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I, and corresponding author on the Frontiers in Immunology study.
Practicing the meditative, rhythmic flow of tai chi works just as well as aerobic exercise and strength training for achieving some health benefits such as reducing waist size and improving cholesterol, new findings suggest.
Results of a randomized controlled trial published online May 31 in the Annals of Internal Medicine show that people who have a tough time with some kinds of aerobic exercise may gain similar benefits from tai chi.
The study is “very impressive,” says Bavani Nadeswaran, MD, of the University of California Irvine’s Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, who was not involved in the study.
Many people have arthritis or back pain, “and aerobic exercise can be hard on them,” she says. “The good thing about exercises like tai chi and yoga is that they are low-impact.” That means that people who can’t run or get access to a pool for swimming have a viable alternative.
The study included nearly 550 adults ages 50 and up in Hong Kong who were randomly assigned to engage in tai chi, aerobic exercise with strength training, or no exercise program for 12 weeks. All had waistlines greater than 35.4 inches for men and 31.5 inches for women.
Researchers from the National Cheng Kung University Hospital in Taiwan combined the results of past studies to understand the effect that listening to music can have on the quality of older adults’ sleep. Their work suggests that:
Older adults (ages 60 and up) living at home sleep better when they listen to music for 30 minutes to one hour at bedtime.
Calm music improves older adults’ sleep quality better than rhythmic music does.
Older adults should listen to music for more than four weeks to see the most benefit from listening to music.
Why Older Adults Have Trouble Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
As we age, our sleep cycles change and make a good night’s sleep harder to achieve. What does it really mean to get a good night’s sleep? If you wake up rested and ready to start your day, you probably slept deeply the night before. But if you’re tired during the day, need coffee to keep you going, or wake up several times during the night, you may not be getting the deep sleep you need.  According to the National Institute on Aging, older adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
But studies have shown that 40 to 70 percent of older adults have sleep problems and over 40 percent have insomnia, meaning they wake up often during the night or too early in the morning. Sleep problems can make you feel irritable and depressed, can cause memory problems, and can even lead to falls or accidents.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the leading modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and premature death worldwide. And key to treating patients with conditions ranging from chest pain to stroke is understanding the intricacies of how the cells around arteries and other blood vessels work to control blood pressure. While the importance of metals like potassium and calcium in this process are known, a new discovery about a critical and underappreciated role of another metal – zinc – offers a potential new pathway for therapies to treat hypertension.
All the body’s functions depend on arteries channeling oxygen-rich blood – energy – to where it’s needed, and smooth muscle cells within these vessels direct how fast or slow the blood gets to each destination. As smooth muscles contract, they narrow the artery and increase the blood pressure, and as the muscle relaxes, the artery expands and blood pressure falls. If the blood pressure is too low the blood flow will not be enough to sustain a person’s body with oxygen and nutrients. If the blood pressure is too high, the blood vessels risk being damaged or even ruptured.