Reading Our Minds: New book issues strong call to action to modernize psychiatry

The Rise of Big Data Psychiatry (The Wall Street Journal):

As a physician, I need to figure out three things when a new patient walks into my office: what their life is typically like, what has changed that made them seek treatment and what I can do to help them. It’s a complex problem, and most fields of medicine approach it by taking measurements. If I were a cardiologist evaluating a patient’s chest pain, for instance, I would speak with the patient, but then I would listen to their heart and measure their pulse and blood pressure. I might order an electrocardiogram or a cardiac stress test, tools that weren’t available a century ago.

Because I’m a psychiatrist, however, I evaluate patients in precisely the same way that my predecessors did in 1920: I ask them to tell me what’s wrong, and while they’re talking I carefully observe their speech

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On centenarians, memory, Mars, tDCS, ADHD, digital health, beautiful brains, and more

Hendrikje van Andel Schipper (1890–2005)

Welcome to a new edition of SharpBrains’ e‑newsletter, featuring ten timely resources and research findings for lifelong brain and mental fitness.

#1. Let’s start with a fascinating story and study 🙂

Study with 330 centenarians finds that cognitive decline is not inevitable … (Henne Holstege, PhD, assistant professor at Amsterdam University Medical Center) said her interest in researching aging and cognitive health was inspired by the “fascinating” story of Hendrikje van Andel Schipper, who died at age 115 in 2005 “completely cognitively healthy.”

#2. Neuroscientist Lisa Genova, author of the beautiful novel Still Alice, releases non-fiction book on Memory: “It is sobering to realize that three out of four prisoners who are later exonerated through DNA evidence were initially convicted on the basis of eyewitness testimony. “You can be 100 percent confident in your vivid memory,” Genova writes, “and still be 100 percent wrong” … Genova … Read the rest

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Let’s welcome Mental Health Month (May) by appreciating our beautiful brains

Self Reflected was created over two years by a team that included neuroscientists, engineers, physicists, and students, and is a hyperdetailed representation of 500,000 neurons in a sagittal slice. Credit: Greg Dunn and Brian Edwards.

Between Thought and Expression (Cerebrum):

Greg Dunn was on his way to a Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania when he realized that bringing the brain’s beauty to life was a more suitable role for him than lab work. He started in ink, inspired by Chinese, Japanese, and Korean paintings and the similarities he found in the microscopic world of neurons and the macroscopic world of trees, flowers, and other landscape images.

Brainbow Hippocampus, by Greg Dunn and Brian Edwards

From there, he branched out to microetchings, gold leaf, scrolls, and murals. Microetching, which consists of creating animated images by precisely controlling light’s reflection off of surfaces, was invented by Dunn and

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Ohio joins Indiana and Kentucky in funding Pear Therapeutics’ digital addiction treatments

Ohio is third state to fund Pear’s digital therapeutics to tackle addiction (pharmaforum):

The company has been pushing for more reimbursement of its three marketed DTx products in the US following a first FDA approval in 2017.

Pear said that the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and RecoveryOhio are providing access to Pear’s FDA-approved DTx reSET and reSET‑O, for treatment of substance use disorder and opioid use disorders, respectively.

Funding is provided by the State Opioid Response (SOR) 2.0 grant, administered by OhioMHAS, and part of the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) SOR grant programme for people in need of prevention, treatment and recovery support for opioid use disorder.

The Announcement:

Pear Announces Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will Provide Access to Prescription Digital Therapeutics to Help Local Communities Continue Fight Against Opioid … Read the rest

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Shape your environment, shape your mind

One of the biggest contributors to our happiness is something we barely pay attention to: the voice inside our own heads.

As psychologist Ethan Kross describes in his new book Chatter, that voice is constantly analyzing the situations we’re in, reflecting on the past and future, and telling us who we are. While sometimes friendly and optimistic—it’s OK, everything’s going to work out!—it can also be critical and downbeat. Our inner voice can berate us for mistakes or decide our life is ruined. It can ruminate on negative emotions and experiences, dredging them up without any kind of constructive resolution.

According to Kross, there are three main ways we can turn down the chatter in our heads: shifting our perspective so we’re not so immersed in our problems, talking with others to get support, and changing the environment around us.

The first two approaches work in the moment of distress: … Read the rest

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Next in NASA’s path to Mars: Overcoming astronauts’ cognitive and mental health challenges

– Illustration by Zoë Van Dijk

Space Between the Ears (Cerebrum):

A few short months ago, news programs around the globe showed NASA engineers and scientists celebrating as a robot named Perseverance successfully landed on the surface of Mars. The mission: capture and share images and audio that have never been seen or heard before. As impressed as most observers were of this major milestone, many couldn’t help but wonder when we might be ready to someday send humans. While it seems the stuff of science fiction and almost inconceivable, the answer—according to recent NASA planning—is before the end of the 2030s, less than two decades away.

There are still many obstacles to accomplishing such a feat, many of which have to do with overcoming cognitive and mental health challenges that would impact a crew: long-term isolation, eyesight impairment, and psychological effects from the stress of danger and what could

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Study: Depression affects visual perception … making it more accurate

The brightness of Figures A and B is exactly the same, but they are perceived differently due to a difference in the background. This illusion was perceived similarly by the patients and healthy control subjects. The contrast of Figures C and D is exactly the same as well, but the perception of this illusion was weaker among the depressed patients than the control subjects. (Salmela et al, J. Psychiatry Neurosci, 2021)

Depression affects visual perception (press release by University of Helsinki):

Researchers specialised in psychiatry and psychology at the University of Helsinki investigated the effects of depression on visual perception. The study confirmed that the processing of visual information is altered in depressed people, a phenomenon most likely linked with the processing of information in the cerebral cortex.

In the study, the processing of visual information by patients with depression was compared to that of a control group by utilising

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Emerging applications of transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS): e‑sports skills training, cognitive enhancement in older adults

10 Minutes of Electrical Stimulation During Gaming Helps Improve e‑Sports Skills (Technology Networks):

Researchers at Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software and University of Limerick (UL), have found video gamers can significantly improve their esport skills by training for just 10 minutes a day.

The research team at Lero’s Esports Science Research Lab (ESRL) at UL also found novice gamers benefited most when they wore a custom headset delivering transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) for 20 minutes before training sessions.

Participants wore a custom headset (HALO Neuroscience™) designed to deliver transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS). However, some received no stimulation, others just a ‘sham’ treatment, while the remainder received a 20-minute exposure.

“Our study found that novice gamers who received tDCS over their motor cortex before training improved their performance on the specific task over five days, significantly more than novices who trained following no such stimulus,”

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Does ADHD treatment enable long-term academic success? (Yes, especially when pharmacological and non-pharma treatments are combined)

Academic difficulties are one of the most important adverse consequences of ADHD, and they frequently contribute to parents’ decision to seek treatment for their child. Whether treatment consistently yields a positive impact on long-term academic success is thus an important issue; however, the answer to this question has been somewhat controversial.

A study published recently in the Journal of Attention Disorders, Long-term outcomes of ADHD: Academic achievement and academic performance, represents the most comprehensive effort to date to identify and synthesize research related to this important question.

The Study:

The authors began by identifying all studies published between 1980 and 2012 that reported long-term academic outcomes for youth with ADHD; this was defined as at least 2 years beyond an initial baseline assessment. All studies included a comparison group — either a normative comparison sample or youth with ADHD who were not treated — or a comparison measure, e.g., a … Read the rest

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Study with 330 centenarians finds that cognitive decline is not inevitable

Hendrikje van Andel Schipper (1890–2005)

Age-Related Cognitive Decline May Not Be Inevitable (WebMD):

It is often assumed that a decrease in memory and brain function are inevitable parts of aging, but a new study of centenarians suggests otherwise.

Investigators found that despite the presence of neurological issues generally associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), many centenarians maintained high levels of cognitive performance.

(Henne Holstege, PhD, assistant professor at Amsterdam University Medical Center) said her interest in researching aging and cognitive health was inspired by the “fascinating” story of Hendrikje van Andel Schipper, who died at age 115 in 2005 “completely cognitively healthy.” Her mother, who died at age 100, was also cognitively intact at the end of her life.

“I wanted to know how it is possible that some people can completely escape all aspects of cognitive decline while reaching extreme ages,” Holstege said…

Despite findings of neuropathologic “hallmarks” of Alzheimer’s

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