BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Mental Health

How Mice and Mental Health Led to This COVID-19 Treatment Breakthrough

Ever since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, scientists have worked tirelessly to innovate and find the antidote to the virus which has infected millions and tragically killed hundreds of thousands. Such unprecedented times have led researchers to reconsider everything they already know and take intellectual risks.

One innovator whose experimental hypothesis may save many is Angela Reiersen, a child psychiatrist from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. When she fell ill with COVID-19 in March 2020, Reiersen thought back to a study she had read about the effects of the lack of the sigma-1 receptor in mice and how the lack of this receptor protein led to massive inflammation and overproduction of cytokines. Cytokines are a part of the inflammatory response that occurs when pathogens sneak past the barrier defenses of the innate immune system and permeate cells. Upon entry of a pathogen, mast cells secrete histamines and macrophages secrete these cytokines. These cytokines attract neutrophils which then digest and kill the pathogens and other cell debris. Although cytokines are crucial to a functioning immune system, overproduction of cytokines can be extremely dangerous as it can lead to septic shock, in which the immune system becomes extremely overactive. This has become the cause of death for many COVID-19 patients.

As a psychiatrist, Reiersen worked regularly with SSRIS, or selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, in the treatment of conditions like depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. SSRIs help the human brain by increasing the level of serotonin available between nerve cells, but they also activate the S1R in the Endoplasmic Reticulum. Reiersen wondered, if the lack of the S1R causes fatal levels of inflammation, can we prevent extreme inflammation from COVID-19 through the use of SSRIs?

There have been multiple studies performed to test this line of reasoning, both including and independent of Reiersen. The most notable study was performed as part of TOGETHER, an international organization seeking to test possible unorthodox treatments for COVID-19. The trial was a collaboration between researchers from McMaster University of Canada and Cardresearch, a research clinic located in Brazil. The team in Brazil located 1,497 unvaccinated adults who were deemed “high risk” for COVID complications in their first week of showing symptoms of COVID. Conducted at 11 different research sites in Brazil from January to August, the study provided participants with a 10 days supply of either 100 milligrams of fluvoxamine, an SSRI, or a placebo pill. The researchers monitored the participants for 28 days after, as well.

In the end, 15.7% of participants who were given a placebo pill ended up having major complications from COVID-19, compared to 10.1% of participants who were given fluvoxamine. The gap may seem slight, but this is because not all patients took their full dosage due to gastrointestinal complaints. However, out of patients who completed their course of medication, 66% were safe from any complications and the mortality rate was cut by 91%!

Thanks to the research of Reiersen and many others, fluvoxamine is now considered a solid treatment plan for COVID-19 infections, especially in high risk individuals. As COVID-19 continues to infect millions around the world, who knows what new scientific breakthroughs will be made?

Yoga is Scientifically Good for You! Who Would have Known?

Yoga. A mindfulness practice first instilled by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. To this day, yoga is practiced as a regular fitness activity by many but the real question lies in, is it actually good for you? Why? How? 

Kailash Integral Yoga

As a yogi myself, I am passionate, and maybe even slightly biased, to the enormous amounts of positives that come with the practice of yoga. On the surface, yoga is said to improve flexibility, muscle tone, and core strength. But, there are many benefits to yoga that lie beneath the surface of our bodies. Let’s start off with mental health. The concept of parasympathetic nervous system activation, is the activation of our ‘rest and digest’ state in our bodies. This activation is due to yoga’s practice of breathing and “single-pointed focus”. It puts our bodies into this rest and digest state and pulls us out of our agitated ‘fight or flight’ state, also known as the sympathetic state. Anxiety, a stress inducing mental health disorder, increases the secretion of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, in the body. This elevated secretion causes an unbalanced nervous system. Yoga’s inherent goal, as stated in Is Yoga Good For You?, is to bring our bodies out of chronic sympathetic activation, this reverses the negative effects of anxiety in the body, reduces the secretion of stress hormones, and rebalances the body’s nervous system. As we learned in AP Biology this year, steroid hormones are a type of lipid. Cortisol, a stress hormone Cortisolthat increases production when anxiety levels rise, is a type of steroid hormone. We know that lipids work as insulators, store energy, and form the plasma membrane. Anxiety, as I mentioned, increases the secretion of our stress hormones. Anxiety causes the cortisol levels to remain elevated in a stressful situation, this can lead to several health problems linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. Considering all of this, yoga’s breathing tactics to calm the body actually lessen our symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress and can be a very beneficial practice for someone who has anxiety. 

If the effects on mental health haven’t urged you to buy a yoga mat on Amazon just yet, keep reading. If they have, I recommend the link below 🙂 

Yoga is not only a beneficial tool for someone looking to improve their mental health, but it is a capable practice for all ages. Myths surrounding yoga say that it is only for the young, but studies have shown that yoga does improve the physical function and mental wellbeing of adults over sixty yeaYoga Barnstarrs old! It is a great tool for the elderly due to its ability to lower blood pressure levels and aid in our cardiovascular health. For young kids, though, yoga can be beneficial to calm down the overactive ones and/or ones with behavioral issues. Yoga is actually being implemented into many schools in the form of mandatory classes due to all of its positive benefits on young kids’ minds. As kids, the frontal cortexes of their brains are not fully developed yet so they are literally able to take in ideas, essentially more open minded and creative. This allows kids who take up yoga to appreciate it in a much different way, their innate curiosity can even lead them to creating coping mechanisms and life skills that would have otherwise not been developed says Pearce. 

So, is yoga beneficial for you? Though yoga can improve mental health, stress, and even help the elerdly, you don’t have to fall into any of these categories to participate in the practice. Yoga acts as a mood booster, stress reliever, strengthens flexibility, and provides you with an outlet of relaxation that you may not get in this busy world. Yoga is for everyone and the inclusivity of the yoga community will embrace you as you are; you don’t have to be “good” at yoga to participate either! Now, here is a link to buy a yoga mat… Come join me for hot yoga classes at Bikram Yoga in Roslyn, Namaste! 

If I wasn’t able to convince you to buy a yoga mat by now, please comment below and tell me why not!

 

Is Air Pollution Exposure In Childhood Linked To Schizophrenia?

Research has shown that pollution affects physical health, but does air pollution also affect our psychological health? A study, which combines genetic data from iPSYCH with air pollution data from the Department of Environmental Science, reveals that children who are exposed to a high level of air pollution while growing up have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.

“The study shows that the higher the level of air pollution, the higher the risk of schizophrenia. For each 10 ?g/m3 (concentration of air pollution per cubic metre) increase in the daily average, the risk of schizophrenia increases by approximately twenty per cent. Children who are exposed to an average daily level above 25 ?g/m3 have an approx. sixty per cent greater risk of developing schizophrenia compared to those who are exposed to less than 10 ?g/m3,” explains Senior Researcher Henriette Thisted Horsdal, who is behind the study.

To put this research into perspective, the lifetime risk of developing schizophrenia is approximately two percent, which is equal to two out of a hundred people developing schizophrenia in one’s life. For people exposed to the lowest level of air pollution, the lifetime risk is just under two percent. The lifetime risk for people exposed to the highest level of air pollution is approximately three percent.

“The risk of developing schizophrenia is also higher if you have a higher genetic liability for the disease. Our data shows that these associations are independent of each other. The association between air pollution and schizophrenia cannot be explained by a higher genetic liability in people who grow up in areas with high levels of air pollution,” says Henriette Thisted Horsdal about the study, which is the first of its kind to combine air pollution and genetics in relation to the risk of developing schizophrenia.

The study included 23,355 people in total. Out of those people, 3,531 developed schizophrenia. Through the results of this research one can see that there is an increased risk of schizophrenia when the level of air pollution during childhood increases; however, the researches cannot comment on the cause. Instead, the researched emphasize that further studies are needed before they can identify the cause of this association.

Schizophrenia is thought to mainly be a result of genetics, brain chemistry, substance use, and exposure to viruses or malnutrition before birth. So, I think it is very interesting that exposure to air pollution during childhood may be a cause as well. Additionally, I hope that these findings and further studies become very useful to schizophrenia research and prevention, as schizophrenia is a very serious mental illness and there is no cure.

 

Your Gut Microbiota Could be Influencing Mental Health Disorders: Could Psychiatric Medications Change This?

Mental Health and Gut Bacteria 

Newly published research in rodents and continuing research in humans explores the effects of psychiatric drugs, including antidepressants, on the composition of gut bacteria. They have examined how the effects on gut microbiota, typically caused by naturally occurring metabolic changes in the gut, may influence connection with the nervous system rendering some negative effects on mental health. The most common mental health conditions connected to changing composition of the gut microbiome are anxiety and depression. 

This comes from a recent study that Medical News Today has released, reporting on different bacteria that play a part in synthesizing neuroactive compounds in the gut. These neuroactive substances interact with the nervous system, influencing the likelihood of developing depression or anxiety. This research has been proved more extensively and directly in rodents, but the research in humans provides similar conclusions, allowing scientists to partially conclude the effects in humans–research on this topic in humans is likely to expand greatly in the near future. 

How can gut microbiota be affected by different psychotropics? 

The Study and Results:  

Provided this link between changing gut bacteria and mental health, researchers from University College Cork, in Ireland, set out to investigate this in rodents. First, the team “investigated the antimicrobial activity of psychotropics against two bacterial strain residents in the human gut, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Escherichia coli.“The psychotropics that the researchers conducted this study with included fluoxetine, escitalopram, venlafaxine, lithium, valproate, and aripiprazole.

Then, the scientists studied “the impact of chronic treatment with these drugs” on the rats’ microbiota. The scientists gave the rodents psychiatric drugs for a period of 4 weeks, ending the study by inspecting the effects of the drugs on the rodents gut bacteria. They found that lithium and valproate, mood stabilizers that can treat conditions including bipolar disorder, raised the numbers of certain types of bacteria. These included Clostridium, Peptoclostridium. On the other hand, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), fluoxetine and escitalopram (both antidepressants), ceased the growth of bacterial strains such as Escherichia coli.

“We found that certain drugs, including the mood stabilizer lithium and the antidepressant fluoxetine, influenced the composition and richness of the gut microbiota,” says head researcher Sofia Cussotto. 

Conclusions from the Study, and what the Future Holds 

Dr. Serguei Fetissov, a professor of physiology at Rouen University, in France commented on the study, saying: “At the moment, it would be premature to ascribe a direct role of gut bacteria in the action of antidepressant drugs until this work can be reproduced in humans, which is what the authors now hope to do.”

However, the implications and further goals and hopes of this research is to directly prove that “psychotropic drugs might work on intestinal microbes as part of their mechanisms of action,” says Cussotto

Do you think it is too early to assume a direct connection between gut bacteria and mental health in humans? Comment about this below.

Further Research

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/amp/326299 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319117.php#1 

 

 

 

How The gut affects mental health

 

Image result for the gut microbiome

The article, Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis, touches upon the way in which the gut microbiome is connected to your central nervous system and how they affect each other. It explains how the vagus nerve and afferent fibers connect your gut to your brain and helps control your mood by indirectly affecting the amount of Serotonin in your brain. An unhealthy microbiome or dysbiosis is correlated with a large number mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It also mentions that the gut microbiome may also be able to affect your immune and endocrine system as well the central nervous system. The article concludes that the improvement of peoples gut microbiota may serve as an effective treatment for those with a number of mental disorders through the means of probiotics. The article Feeling Meh? This is How Your Gut Affects Your Mood(Plus, Exactly How to Fix It)  goes through an example of a man who dealt with serious depression and had tried antidepressants and felt only more unhappy while on them. He decided to change his diet instead to one high in vegetables and fiber as well as healthy amounts of protein and fat. The man felt he had more energy, he felt much less anxious and depressed and even felt he gained a much stronger sense of empathy which improved his relationships only furthering his happiness. Do you want to be Happier? Healthier?  Have a stronger immune system? Well then you better eat your probiotics and prebiotics. If you want to do some more research yourself check out this article: Article 2

Brain Scans Suggesting Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that usually starts between ages of 16 and 30. The symptoms vary from individual to individual, but common symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and distorted perception. It is suspected usually in teens that have anxiety, depression, or sleep problems. However those symptoms do not always mean this teen has or will develop schizophrenia, usually only about ⅓ of these teens actually develop schizophrenia.

Researches now may have found a special “fingerprint” for the brain to determine if schizophrenia is likely before symptoms emerge. This “fingerprint” is really folds found within the brain. The method looks at MRI scans of the brain and the correlation between the amounts of folds in certain areas, reflecting the strength of connections in these areas. Researches composed an experiment to see how effective this method was at determining one’s likelihood of developing schizophrenia.

Photo Credit: Jurgitta (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schizophrenia_brain_large.gif)

The research team collected MRI scans from a group of people in Switzerland, averaging the age of 24. The participants in this study included 79 people with suggestive symptoms of developing schizophrenia and 44 healthy control individuals. The researchers followed all of the participants for four years and found that 16 people in the high-risk group developed schizophrenia. After looking back through the brain scans, the researchers found that 80% of the time, the relationship between the folding patterns of the brain and the individuals who developed schizophrenia correlated. The individuals that developed schizophrenia brain scans seemed to have a “disorganized brain network”, meaning the folds of their cortical regions didn’t go hand in hand as much as the folds in the controls and the high-risk people who didn’t develop the illness. (The cortical regions of the brain refer to the cerebral cortex).

Although not yet perfected, this technique could be very useful in determining out of the individuals who have schizophrenia symptoms, their likelihood of actually developing this disorder.

Eat Healthy! Your Food Can Cause Depression!

Think of it this way, the bacteria from your food intake remains in your gut for some time. This micro-gut biome is what produces an array of neurochemicals that the brain registers. At this point, the brain regulates some cognitive process with those neurochemicals. The processes include, memory, mood, and learning. Actually, a majority of the supply of serotonin in your body is produced and released by the bacteria in your body. Serotonin is a neurochemical that regulates mood. Thus, a deficiency in serotonin levels can cause depression.  Because of this, the gut is starting to be examined more closely to hopefully help find an easier, less invasive form for depression medication.  

Sander van der Wel, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Genericlicense.

Current depression medication has harsh side effects on the body. As Professor Julio Licinio of Flinders University states, “Antidepressant drugs not only have side-effects which cause other health problems, but they also might not be the best solution for the mental health conditions they’re prescribed to treat,” it becomes evident that there is a void in the medical field. Professor Licinio and his team has high hopes that their gut biome research will serve as a way to fill that void and help millions of with their depression. Because there are 350 million people in the world that suffer from major depressive disorder, MDD, they believe that a simple test can improve the stand of living for the masses.  

Julio Licinio, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Professor Licinio is also the head of the Mind and Brain Theme at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, also known as SAHMRI. In conjunction with Ma-Li Wong–Head of Pharmacogenomics Research Program within the SAHMRI’s Mind and Brain Theme–, Geraint Rogers–Director of Microbiome Research within SAHMRI’s Infection and Immunity Theme–, and Steve Wesselingh–SAHMRI’s Executive Director, and the Infection and Immunity Theme Leader–, Julio Licinio are facing tribulations to inform the international community of the correlations between Obesity and Depression because, as Professor Wong states it, “we are in the midst of an obesity and depression epidemic.”

Herbal Essences

An exciting new study at the St. Louis University Medical School, has gave way to a new theory regarding the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. The geriatric researcher, Dr. Susan Farr Ph.D, disclosed at Neuroscience 2013, that extracts of spearmint and rosemary can “reduce deficits caused by mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease,”.

The research was conducted on an animal model, so there is no conclusive human evidence yet. But Dr. Farr’s results seem promising in that her tests using an “antioxidant-based ingredient” made from spearmint extract and two different concentrations of a similar antioxidant made from rosemary extract on mice that have age-related cognitive decline.

Farr found that the higher dose rosemary extract compound had the most impact in increasing memory and learning in three tested behaviors. The lower concentration rosemary extract improved memory in two of the behavioral tests, as did the compound made from spearmint extract.

Her research also found that the introduction of these extracts to the subjects’ systems decreased oxidative stress, a “hallmark of age-related decline” in the cerebrum, the learning and memory center of the brain.

As Dr. Farr continues her promising research, are you going to find yourself chewing more spearmint gum?

The Elderly, Video Games, and Mental Health

In our culture video games generally get a bad rap. Many people associate them the younger generations, as well as violence and time wasting. However, all of this focus on the negative has kept many people from seeing their potential benefits. According to new research by North Carolina State University, video games can improve the mental well-being of the elderly. The study consisted of 140 adults with an average age of about 77.5 years old grouped into three categories, non-gamers, occasional gamers, and frequent gamers (played at least once per week). These adults were then tested across six categories of mental health: Well-Being, Positive Effect, Negative Effect, Depression, Social Functioning and Self-Reported Health. In every category except for Negative Effect and Depression, both occasional gamers and frequent gamers scored considerably higher. Both forms of gamers experienced less Depression and Negative Effects than did the non-gamers. According to Dr. Jason Allaire, one of the main researchers behind the study, these games can be things like Solitaire or Bejeweled, and not fully fledged Xbox, PS3 or Wii games. This means that a large number of people can have access to these benefits, at a relatively low cost. In addition, video games have been found to have other positive effects on people, such as speeding up decision making and increasing awareness of surroundings. These studies are only the beginning of larger effort to examine the potential benefits of video games on people. Maybe video games aren’t that bad after all?

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar