Scientists Identify Molecular Marker of Major Depression

DNA structureFrom Psychiatric News Alert: Increased amounts of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) may serve as a molecular marker of major depression, according to a study published today inCurrent Biology.

Sequencing of two components of the genome suspected to be associated with adverse life experiences revealed a significant association between major depression and the amount of mtDNA.

“We could find no evidence that stressful life events act via changes in mtDNA or telomere length to increase the risk of major depression. These findings identify increased amounts of mtDNA as a molecular marker of major depression and have important implications for understanding how stress causes the disease.” the authors concluded.

Jonathan Flint, a professor of molecular psychiatry at the University of Oxford and senior author on the paper, stated in a press release:

“We have only a snapshot of the relationship between the molecular markers and depression. We want to know how they change over time—before, during, and after a depressive illness. That information will tell us much about their clinical utility.”

To read more on biomarkers for depression, see the Psychiatric News article “Scientists Closer to Finding Tests for DepressionBiomarkers.”

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

The Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health Campaign seeks to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health and that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development from birth. National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day is a key strategy of the Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health Campaign.

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day Events reinforce the importance of children’s mental health.

2015 marks the 10th anniversary of Awareness Day; the official observance is Thursday, May 7. ​Learn about activities and events being planned across the country for Awareness Day 2015


Study Finds Coordinated Specialty Care for First-Episode Psychosis Improves Functioning and Recovery

From Psychiatric News Alert: Measures of occupational and social functioning improved significantly over time, symptoms declined, and rates of remission improved in patients who received services in a specially designed, team-based intervention for first-episode psychosis.

?????????????Those results were reported in “Implementing Coordinated Specialty Care for Early Psychosis: The RAISE Connection Program,” published online in Psychiatric Services in Advance.

The RAISE (Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode) Connection Program Implementationand Evaluation Study developed tools to implement and disseminate an innovative, team-based intervention designed to promote engagement and treatment participation, foster recovery, and minimize disability among individuals experiencing early psychosis. RAISE is a project of the National Institute of Mental Health; the study was conducted by researchers at multiple institutions involved in RAISE.

A total of 65 individuals in RAISE Connection Program treatment across two sites (Baltimore and New York City) were enrolled and received services for up to two years. Primary outcomes such as social and occupational functioning and illness symptoms were evaluated. Trajectories for individuals’ outcomes over time were analyzed.

In the follow-up period, the occupational functioning score on the Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC) version of the Global Assessment of Functioning increased on average by .96 points per month, and the MIRECC GAF social functioning scale increased by .38 points per month. In the follow-up period, the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) total score decreased on average by .54 points per month. For every month of follow-up, the PANSS positive score decreased on average by .20 points.

“The overall project was successful in that the treatment program was delivered and tools useful to other clinical settings were produced,” the researchers said. “The strengths of this study lie in the demonstrated feasibility of delivering the coordinated specialty care model… Notwithstanding the lack of a built-in comparison group, participant outcomes were promising, with improvements comparable to those seen with other successful interventions.”

For related information on this topic, see the Psychiatric News article, “Benefits Persist Decade After Early Psychosis Intervention.”

Photo Credit: DPC | Andres Rodriguez

New Brain Research Center to Open

Returning unhealthy brains back to health

From Friends of the Semel Institute: The new Staglin Family Music Festival Center for Brain and Behavioral Health will open at UCLA on July 1. Funding is being provided by the family of Shari and Garen Staglin, owners of the Staglin Family Vineyard in Napa Valley and longtime supporters of UCLA.

“The center will focus on brain health and will develop novel methods to get the unhealthy brain back to the healthy state,” said Dr. Michael Fanselow, Professor of Psychiatry at the Semel Institute, Distinguished Professor of Psychology in the UCLA College and Director of the new center. Dr. Michelle Crask, Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Director of the Anxiety Disorders Research Center, will serve as Associate Director.

Learn more in this UCLA Newsroom story.

General Meeting: April 20, 2015

downloadCheryl Tchir and Danielle Anderson will be presenting on the Mindfulness at the 7:30 PM Speaker Meeting. They will be speaking on how it can help  lessen the stresses of living with mental illness in the family and the benefits they have received in their own lives. They will review what mindfulness is and will guide us in a few simple exercises.

Mindfulness has been practiced for over two thousand years and has become increasingly used in working with persons with a a mental illness and persons dealing with the stresses of caregiving. This presentation will provide you with information on a very valuable tool in dealing with the challenges of mental illness.

The Caring and Sharing support group for family members will start at 6 PM in the Fireside Room and the Speaker Meeting will follow at 7:30 PM in the Fellowship Hall at the First Lutheran Church 2900 Carson in Torrance.


A Hug a Day

Social support through physical touch helps us cope with stress

HugFrom Friends of the Semel Institute: Scientific American reported on a recent study that found that hugs make us feel connected and may also help prevent illness. The magazine also cited research by Dr. Naomi Eisenberger, a Professor in UCLA’s Social Psychology Program and Director of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory. She found that when people held the hand of a romantic partner undergoing stress, both partners felt better. Read the Scientific American story here.

Photo Credit: DPC | olly