Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category
At least NFL prospects now know their odds: 76 of 79 deceased NFL players’ brains had evidence of degenerative disease
New data from the United States’ largest repository of human brain samples has shown that an overwhelming majority of NFL players who submitted their brains for analysis after their death suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The Department of Veterans Affairs’ brain repository, based in Massachusetts, found that 76 of 79 former pro players had evidence of the condition, which can be caused by repeated head trauma.
The findings came as part of a wider study in which the department examined the brains of 128 deceased football players who had played the game at professional, semi-professional, college, or high school level. It found that even in the brains of those that had played at lower standards, the rate of CTE was high — of the 128 players, 101 tested positive for the disease. The brain condition is caused when blows to the head cause the production of tau, a protein that manifests as dense tangles around the brain’s normal cells and blood vessels. The degenerative condition can cause depression and fits of rage among its sufferers, and confusion, memory loss, and dementia later in life. . .
I very much like DietDoctor.com, a blog run by a Swedish physician who seems quite sensible about diet (low-carb, high fat, normal protein) and who sends out a little newsletter. Today’s discusses the lunch given to the participants at a medical conference on diabetes:
Extremely interesting article in the New Yorker by James Surowiecki. From the article:
. . . Handing mentally ill substance abusers the keys to a new place may sound like an example of wasteful government spending. But it turned out to be the opposite: over time, Housing First has saved the government money. Homeless people are not cheap to take care of. The cost of shelters, emergency-room visits, ambulances, police, and so on quickly piles up. Lloyd Pendleton, the director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force, told me of one individual whose care one year cost nearly a million dollars, and said that, with the traditional approach, the average chronically homeless person used to cost Salt Lake City more than twenty thousand dollars a year. Putting someone into permanent housing costs the state just eight thousand dollars, and that’s after you include the cost of the case managers who work with the formerly homeless to help them adjust. The same is true elsewhere. A Colorado study found that the average homeless person cost the state forty-three thousand dollars a year, while housing that person would cost just seventeen thousand dollars.
Housing First isn’t just cost-effective. It’s more effective, period. The old model assumed that before you could put people into permanent homes you had to deal with their underlying issues—get them to stop drinking, take their medication, and so on. Otherwise, it was thought, they’d end up back on the streets. But it’s ridiculously hard to get people to make such changes while they’re living in a shelter or on the street. “If you move people into permanent supportive housing first, and then give them help, it seems to work better,” Nan Roman, the president and C.E.O. of the National Alliance for Homelessness, told me. “It’s intuitive, in a way. People do better when they have stability.” Utah’s first pilot program placed seventeen people in homes scattered around Salt Lake City, and after twenty-two months not one of them was back on the streets. In the years since, the number of Utah’s chronically homeless has fallen by seventy-four per cent. . .
It’s too late for you, unfortunately. Via Kevin Drum, this article by Melissa Dahl at New York magazine explains how to do it. From the article:
. . . To understand this apparent gender divide in recalling memories, it helps to start with early childhood — specifically, ages 2 to 6. Whether you knew it or not, during these years, you learned how to form memories, and researchers believe this happens mostly through conversations with others, primarily our parents. These conversations teach us how to tell our own stories, essentially; when a mother asks her child for more details about something that happened that day in school, for example, she is implicitly communicating that these extra details are essential parts to the story.
And these early experiments in storytelling assist in memory-making, research shows. One recent studytracked preschool-age kids whose mothers often asked them to elaborate when telling stories; later in their lives, these kids were able to recall earlier memories than their peers whose mothers hadn’t asked for those extra details.
But the way parents tend to talk to their sons is different from the way they talk to their daughters. Mothers tend to introduce more snippets of new information in conversations with their young daughters than they do with their young sons, research has shown. And moms tend to ask more questions about girls’ emotions; with boys, on the other hand, they spend more time talking about what they should dowith those feelings.
This is at least partially a product of parents acting on gender expectations they may not even realize they have, and the results are potentially long-lasting, explained Azriel Grysman, a psychologist at Hamilton College who studies gender differences and memory. “The message that girls are getting is that talking about your feelings is part of describing an event,” Grysman said. “And for boys, emotions are something to be concerned with when they are part of a larger issue, but otherwise not. And it’s quite possible, over time, that those tendencies will help women establish more connections in their brains of different pieces of an event, which will lead to better memory long-term.”
Because a memory doesn’t exist the way we tend to imagine it; it’s not a singular, fully formed thing buried in some small corner of the mind. Instead, it’s “a pattern of mental activity, and the more entry points we have to what that pattern might be, the more chances we have to retrieve it,” Grysman said. Researchers call those entry points “retrieval cues,” and they can be as seemingly mundane as what you were feeling, what you were eating, or what you were wearing.
The more entry points you’ve got about an event, the more likely you are to remember it. It’s how Grysman advises his students to study for tests. “I tell them to try to make links between the material they’re studying and other parts of their lives, and those other parts of their lives serve as entry points,” he said.
So Grysman’s theory, which he explored in an extensive review of the literature published last year, is that those early conversations with your parents implicitly told you which details are important to remember about the things that happen to you, and which are not. And because parents’ conversations with girls include references to both more information and more emotion, they’re setting their daughters up to have stronger memories over their lives. . .
UPDATE: The more I thought about this—and I did think about it, given that I have 3 grandsons 2 and under—the more it seemed that it would be easy to provide an environment for young children that will strengthen their memory. For example, in asking “What happened to you today?”, you can ask follow-up questions to provide more points of access while also helping the children know what details to notice. For example:
Who was involved? What did they say? What were their emotions/feelings? (E.g., happy, sad, laughing, crying) What did you hear? (Was there any music?) What colors? and so on.
By asking about smells, tastes, sounds, sights, and so on, children get to pay attention to their senses. By asking about emotions and feelings, they learn to pay attention not only to their own feelings (something that must be learned), but also learn to think about (analyze, to some degree) the feelings of others and what causes those feelings. And so on.
Now I want a do-over: to have my children very young once more and to listen better to their stories and ask them more about what they notice.
UPDATE: Good complementary reading: Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, by Antonio Damasio.
A massive amount of money is spent promoting (uncontrolled) impulsive actions—specifically, the action of buying something. Advertisers everywhere encourage you to act on the impulse to buy this or that, and money is spent in studies to learn how to augment the impulse—for example, those menus that show appealing photographs of the food (and I’m sure scratch-and-sniff menus are just around the corner). And yet we now know that impulse control contributes to a happy, prosperous, and productive life. David Desteno discusses in Pacific Standard on efforts to instill impulse control and suggests an alternative strategy that enlists rather than combats our emotions:
The children’s television show Sesame Street has always had a way of reflecting the zeitgeist in shades of Muppet fur. Consider, for instance, the evolution of Cookie Monster. For his first few decades on air, he was a simple character: blue, ravenous, cookie-fixated; a lovably unleashed id. A 1990 White House report dubbed him “the quintessential consumer.” But in the mid-2000s, as concern mounted over childhood obesity, Cookie Monster’s tastes became a problem. So he went from devouring cookies to guzzling bowls of fruit. Then, last year, he changed yet again, as the show’s curriculum designers saw in his voracious appetite a different kind of teaching opportunity.
For the show’s 44th season on the air, Cookie Monster was essentially repurposed into a full-time, walking, talking, googly-eyed vehicle for a set of intensely fashionable ideas about psychology and success. The blue Muppet was now, as an official Sesame Street website put it, a “poster child for someone needing to master self-regulation skills.”
Very interesting article pointed out by The Younger Daughter. Anna Fels points out that the drinking water for some communities contains trace amounts of naturally occurring lithium, and it seems to do a power of good. From the article:
. . . Lithium is a naturally occurring element, not a molecule like most medications, and it is present in the United States, depending on the geographic area, at concentrations that can range widely, from undetectable to around .170 milligrams per liter. This amount is less than a thousandth of the minimum daily dose given for bipolar disorders and for depression that doesn’t respond to antidepressants. Although it seems strange that the microscopic amounts of lithium found in groundwater could have any substantial medical impact, the more scientists look for such effects, the more they seem to discover. Evidence is slowly accumulating that relatively tiny doses of lithium can have beneficial effects. They appear to decrease suicide rates significantly and may even promote brain health and improve mood.
Yet despite the studies demonstrating the benefits of relatively high natural lithium levels present in the drinking water of certain communities, few seem to be aware of its potential. Intermittently, stories appear in the scientific journals and media, but they seem to have little traction in the medical community or with the general public.
When I recently attended a psychopharmacology course in which these lithium studies were reviewed, virtually none of the psychiatrists present had been aware of them.
The scientific story of lithium’s role in normal development and health began unfolding in the 1970s. Studies at that time found that animals that consumed diets with minimal lithium had higher mortality rates, as well as abnormalities of reproduction and behavior.
Researchers began to ask whether low levels of lithium might correlate with poor behavioral outcomes in humans. In 1990, a study was published looking at 27 Texas counties with a variety of lithium levels in their water. The authors discovered that people whose water had the least amount of lithium had significantly greater levels of suicide, homicide and rape than the people whose water had the higher levels of lithium. The group whose water had the highest lithium level had nearly 40 percent fewer suicides than that with the lowest lithium level.
Almost 20 years later, a Japanese study that looked at 18 municipalities with more than a million inhabitants over a five-year period confirmed the earlier study’s finding: Suicide rates were inversely correlated with the lithium content in the local water supply.
More recently, there have been corroborating studies in Greece and Austria.
Not all the research has come to the same conclusion. . .
The article’s conclusion:
Some scientists have, in fact, proposed that lithium be recognized as an essential trace element nutrient. Who knows what the impact on our society would be if micro-dose lithium were again part of our standard nutritional fare? What if it were added back to soft drinks or popular vitamin brands or even put into the water supply? The research to date strongly suggests that suicide levels would be reduced, and even perhaps other violent acts. And maybe the dementia rate would decline. We don’t know because the research hasn’t been done.
For the public health issue of suicide prevention alone, it seems imperative that such studies be conducted. In 2011, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Research on a simple element like lithium that has been around as a medication for over half a century and as a drink for millenniums may not seem like a high priority, but it should be.
Patricia Fitzgerald has a heart-warming story in Huffington Post:
August 9, 2014, was one of the most memorable days of my life. On that day I entered a maximum-security prison in Lancaster, Calif. to witness an extraordinary event connecting the lives of some of its inmates with a pack of rescued shelter dogs. Just a few months ago, five lucky dogs — Shelby, Oreo, Rendell, Chuey and Eddie — beat the odds and were pulled from a high-kill shelter in Los Angeles and entered this Level 4 prison for a chance at a better life.
Earlier this year, Karma Rescue, a nonprofit that saves at-risk dogs from high-kill shelters across Southern California, partnered with the California State Prison Los Angeles County in Lancaster to create “Paws for Life,” a program that matches rescued dogs with inmates who train them to boost their odds of adoption. Programs that pair inmates with shelter dogs exist across the nation, but this is the first program in California to take place at a high-security prison with inmates serving life sentences.
Karma Rescue has saved the lives of over 2,000 dogs since their inception in 2003, placing them in loving “forever” homes. Education and outreach has always been part of their mission statement, so when officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation approached Karma with this unique opportunity, it seemed like a perfect match.
The inmates eligible for the program were part of the prison’s Progressive Programming Facility, a voluntary program through which prisoners commit to rehabilitation by upholding an environment free of violence, disruption and illegal drug use.
Inmates applied for the limited slots for Paws for Life by participating in interviews and writing essays, often laden with extraordinary reflections on their lives. Here are some excerpts:
It’s a pleasure to simply observe dogs and to be observed by them. Caring for them is an opportunity and a privilege to openly display caring and compassion, and at times let my inner child out when playing with the dogs; being mindful of the overall goal of training for adoption. I know that the best of me that I give will be the ensured success of the puppy/dog. It feels good to nurture and care!
I have no inhibitions about availing myself to any aspect of caring for the dogs …If I’ve learned nothing else in my life, it’s tolerance, patience, and caring for myself and others. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that the dogs might teach me something about myself. — Jack————
I’ve been in prisons and jails … since the age of 12 and now I am 40. … One of a multitude of things I lost out on was raising my dog Tippy…He had an abundance of character and I loved him as one of my family members …he was my best friend.
If I were chosen to be part of this program, I hope I can help make a dog available for adoption so another family can have as much love and joy in their lives with their adopted dog as my family and I had.
I know some people in society may think that we as prisoners don’t have anything good left in ourselves or have redeemable qualities, or be allowed any goodness in our lives; however contrary to that thinking I know in my heart this to be the opposite. Having someone to even suggest that we as prisoners would be good candidates for the Karma Rescue (Paws for Life program) demonstrates my beliefs that we have much left yet to offer society even if we potentially will never again be a part of that society.
Once again, thank you so very much for this program and opportunity. And, hey, who could better identify with a locked up pound dog than us? :) :) — Christopher————
My reason for wanting to be a part of Paws for Life is simple. For most of my life I lived a very selfish lifestyle which led me to prison. I see Paws for Life as a chance to save a dog’s life. I understand what it’s like to be caged up. Also I know this could be a life saving program for these dogs. Plus Paws for Life gives me the chance to give back, to do something for someone else, to give back to a society that I cheated … I do understand that a dog trained is a dog that’s ready to be adopted, and a dog adopted is a life saved, and changed! — Travielle———–
I have been locked up for over twenty two years…The biggest reason why I want to help care for, feed, train and love the dogs; I want to be a part of giving someone something that will always love them and be there for them always. A person can give as much money the he or she has to charity or person, but no amount of money can love a person or go fetch a child’s favorite toy or teddy bear. Please allow me to give a person more than words or money. — Oliver
Fourteen inmates were then selected to train five shelter dogs who stayed at the prison this summer for a 12-week program. From the very beginning, the program struck a chord with everyone involved. Karma Rescue’s founder Rande Levine wrote, “Men who had not seen an animal in decades were openly emotional at the sight of the beautiful creatures before them. Just petting our dogs brought many to happy tears. It was a day I will never, ever forget.”
Continue reading. Lots of photos. Worth clicking. I’m just saying…