Posts Tagged ‘research’

Supporting BRAIN: Research for Cures

A promising start In April 2013, President Obama announced the BRAIN Initiative, an effort intended to take brain research to the next level and advance understanding of perhaps the most important and least understood object in biomedical science today—the human brain. The initial announcement was made with great fanfare, though relatively little funding was promised at that point to support the initiative. Since then, however, many government agencies and private foundations and institutions have dedicated funding and resources to this important effort to understand the brain and its disorders better. Hundreds of funded grants have already begun to produce results, for example, improved ways of turning neurons on and off in experimental animals and a design for a brain-scanning helmet, allowing PET scans of people while they are active. The need to push forward So far, the BRAIN Initiative has had strong bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Each year since its inception, […]

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Research Focus: Bipolar Disorder in a Dish

A research study has used a new cellular model to see “inside” the brains of people with bipolar disorder. We can’t always see what we want to see inside the bodies of living people, despite all the technology we have for looking—from X-ray to MRI to endoscopy.  In particular, our methods for looking at living people’s brains are pretty limited. One of the common ways around this, especially when we want to learn about a disorder affecting humans is to study a model of the illness. Animal models are the most common—say, a mouse or rat that has been subjected to stress or trauma and shows signs of anxiety or depression. Such models are somewhat limited since we can’t ask the animal how it is feeling, and because rodent behavior is much less complicated than human behavior. A cellular model is another option—a cell that can be grown in the […]

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Suicide Research: Let’s Fund The Agenda To Reduce Suicide

What can suicide research tell us? Ultimately, we want research to tell us how to reduce suicide and suicide attempts. A lot of approaches exist for preventing suicide—some we’ve tried and some are just proposals or ideas. But which ones work best? Better guardrails on bridges? Better training for emergency room personnel? What other places in the healthcare system are the best intervention sites? What about the purported wonder drug ketamine, which still carries a lot of question marks? There actually exists a strategic plan for answering these and other questions. A national strategy and a research agenda The U.S. Surgeon General and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (a public-private organization) developed a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, including goals and objectives that dictate actions. The first national strategy document was created in 2001 and the second (most recent) one came out in 2012. One of the goals of […]

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Can we prevent suicide?

It’s fair to say that in the U.S., our attempts to prevent suicide thus far have failed—the rate of deaths by suicide has been constant for decades. In 2013, over 41,000 people died by suicide in the U.S. For Americans, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death (homicide is 16th). It is the second leading cause of death for 15 – 24 year olds in the U.S. and the third leading cause of death in that age group worldwide. September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Are we learning anything that could help us prevent suicide?   So what is research telling us? Research has given us a pretty good picture of risk factors for suicide, and not much more at this point. We still know very little about why people attempt suicide under conditions where others do not. Nor do we have a very good sense of which interventions work […]

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How Close Are We to Cures?

A good question We recently received the following email: hi there, i was wondering how close we are to cures for mental illnesses like ocd, depression and schizophrenia. I wish there were a simple answer to this question – something like “Really close!” or “We’ll have cures next year.” But the truth is more complex, and probably comes in several parts. We are closer to cures than we were before In part one of the answer, we could compare our search for cures to where we were in 1887, when Emil Kraepelin identified schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as separate and distinct disorders (though he gave them different names than the ones we use today), and in a sense founded the modern study of mental illnesses. Kraepelin believed that there was a biological brain basis to mental illnesses, though he couldn’t possibly know what it was, given that the field of neuroscience […]

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Research Focus: Cognitive Impairment in Schizophrenia

The hidden symptoms of schizophrenia Cognitive deficits are the less dramatic and less known, but equally disabling symptoms that accompany psychosis for many people living with schizophrenia. Most people with schizophrenia experience problems with basic cognition—the mental functions that help us perform even simple tasks of everyday life. These symptoms can make it hard to live independently, have a job or go to school, or socialize with others. For most, the auditory hallucinations or delusions of psychosis can be treated with varying degrees of success and side effects, using medications. But there is virtually no treatment available to address the cognitive impairments of schizophrenia. (The exception may be the drug clozapine, which some researchers are convinced can improve cognition, even if it is only relatively small boost.) And unlike psychosis, cognitive impairment does not come and go, or get better over time, but seems to remain pretty constant. (Cognitive impairment […]

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Be the Hope for Cures!

Green is the color of spring and of mental health—and May is Mental Health Month. It’s the time of year when we join with other voices to make some noise about the last frontier in health. Cure Alliance is marking Mental Health Month by kicking off our campaign “Hope for Cures.” The part you can play is to be a spokesperson for hope—see below for how you can help. Why do we hope for cures? Cure Alliance for Mental illness was founded on the conviction that our society should put more resources into finding cures for mental illnesses. Today’s treatments for these brain disorders are not adequate, since they don’t work for many people, and even when they do work, they carry undesirable side-effects. This means that too many people living with mental illness have to settle for partial recovery. We should not accept this current reality as forever given […]

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Depression Breakthrough? The Many Faces of “Special K”

Recently, a 45-year-old anesthetic drug has been getting press as a remarkably effective antidepressant. Ketamine is used for anesthesia in children as well as adults and animals, and sometimes for relief of chronic pain. It’s considered very safe. But it’s also known as Special K among people who use it as a hallucinogenic club drug. What makes ketamine special in mental illness is that it is the first truly new drug developed in more than 50 years. Exploratory studies going back 13 years have suggested that ketamine has some pretty unique effects in people with depression, both unipolar major depressive disorder and bipolar depression. So, what’s the big deal? First, ketamine acts fast. Unlike most current antidepressants on the market, which can take 6-8 weeks to work, ketamine shows antidepressant effects within 24 hours, sometimes in just a couple of hours. Second, ketamine works in people with treatment-resistant depression. A […]

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At the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting

Cure Alliance Debuts to the Neuroscience Community Every year, Cure Alliance co-founder Hakon Heimer goes to the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in his capacity as editor of the online Schizophrenia Research Forum. SfN is the organization linking neuroscientists from all over the world—at the annual meeting, you can mingle with over 30,000 other people, most of them brain researchers. For the past couple of years, our other founder Robin Cunningham has joined him for an exhilarating and exhausting few days. This year, Cure Alliance had an added presence—we joined 711 other exhibitors at the meeting, to introduce our organization to brain researchers and learn from them. We joined Autism Speaks as the only mental illness organization there (there were also 3 Alzheimer’s groups). In the small section reserved for nonprofit organizations, we collected signatures for our petition for more mental illness research funding, and talked with researchers and others about how […]

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Too Good To Be True? Debate about the Latest Schizophrenia Research

Treating mental illnesses like schizophrenia or autism, where symptoms range widely, would be much easier if doctors had diagnostic tests—tests that could tell them if two people who have overlapping but also different symptoms have the same disorder, or tests that could tell them which medications will work best for which person. Recently, a study claiming that schizophrenia can be subdivided into at least eight genetic subtypes has garnered a lot of media attention. It’s easy to see why: if schizophrenia can be distilled into subtypes, each underpinned by different genetics, we might be closer to understanding the disorder and developing more personalized treatments. However, the study, published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry on September 15, has been roundly criticized by others in the psychiatric genetics community, who fault the researchers for publically promoting results that others view as preliminary and in need of scrutiny and more study. If […]

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