Tag Archive for 'Schizophrenia'

Nature: De novo mutations, autism, and schizophrenia, redux

In Nature a group of researchers from Denmark and Iceland report the results of their studies of mutation rates of Icelandic parent-child groups. They found that the level of new mutations, called a “de novo mutations,” in their samples when father’s average age was 29.7 was 1.20?X?10?8 per nucleotide per generation, but that number increases by two every year. In round numbers one might estimate that at about 20 years of age a father’s single sperm cell could carry 25 new spontaneous mutations, but at 40 years of age it might carry more than 65.
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Teaching about mental health

Teachers who are concerned about helping students understand mental health issues have at least one sensible places where they can go for teaching resources: Breaking the Silence, a Web resource offered by a local National Alliance on Mental Illness group. BTS, as it calls itself, provides a combination of neighborhood (NY, US) and widely available services (including a downloadable teacher’s “toolkit” with lesson plans, posters, and more).
The BTS folks make the case for teaching about mental health in this way:
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Brain features associated with neonatal risk for schizophrenia

Differences in neonate brains

Writing in the American Journal of Psychiatry, John Gilmore and colleages reported that the size and structure of the brains of newborn boys—but not girls—who are at risk for developing schizophrenia differ from those of their peers. Using multiple scanning methods at different times during gestation and infancy, the researchers compared the brains of offspring of mothers who have schizophrenia to the offspring of mothers who do not have schizophrenia; they found that high-risk boys had larger brains and larger lateral ventricles than baby boys whose mothers did not have psychiatric illness.

Because the risk of developing schizophrenia is much greater for close relatives of schizophrenics, the differences between the groups provides a strong indicator of later potential development of disease. Professor Gilmore wondered “Could it be that enlargement is an early marker of a brain that’s going to be different?”
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Jani’s story updated

In “Hushing the intruders in her brain,” Shari Roan continued her account of childhood-onset schizophrenia as experieinced by January (‘Jani’) Schofield. In the current story, Ms. Roan provided an update about Jani’s and her family’s life and progress. The coverage includes content about changes in Jani’s therapy and medications, the family’s living situation, and other aspects of life with childhood schizophrenia. As previously, there are accompanying multimedia features to the story, including this video by Don Kelsen.


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Virginia Campaign for Children’s Mental Health

Twelve key children’s services for community services boards
  1. specialized children’s emergency services;
  2. crisis stabilization;
  3. evaluations for Comprehensive Services Act services;
  4. psychiatric/medication;
  5. office-based mental health therapy;
  6. office-based substance abuse therapy;
  7. mental health case management;
  8. intellectual disabilities case management;
  9. substance abuse case management;
  10. home-based behavioral treatment and support for families;
  11. school-based day treatment; and
  12. local residential services.

Right here in my home commonwealth of Virginia last week, Mira Signe, Vicki Hardy-Murrell, John Morgan, and Margaret Nimmo Crowe explained why it is important that government and private organizations attend to and address issues in children’s mental health. By explaining that Virginia has inadequate services and that one in every five children or youths experience mental health problems at some time during their lives, they made the point that that there is a tremendous need for public focus on these issues. This was the kick-off event for the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health.

The Campaign for Children’s Mental Health is a 3-year sustained effort to make mental health services more available and accessible to Virginia children in need. It will strongly endorse Governor-elect McDonnell’s call for system improvements; urge the General Assembly and state and local government to work collaboratively with the administration to address system deficiencies; and conduct a high-profile three-year advocacy and education drive to build public and political support for improved mental health services for children.

Only about one in 20 of Virginia’s children have access to the key services listed in the accompanying box. So, four out of five children who need these services do not have access to them.

No, Virginia, this is not an acceptable way to treat our children. Let’s do better.

Meds cause weight gains

Children and youths who were treated with “atypical antipsychotic medications” (aripiprazole, olanzapine, quetiapine, or risperidone) gained substantial weight and had changes in their metabolism in a study reported by Christoph Correll and colleagues in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The drugs, which are used to treat childhood schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and (sometimes) Autism, also caused changes in blood lipids.

Drug Brand Name
clozapine Clozaril
risperidone Risperdal
quetiapine Seroquel
olanzapine Zyprexa

The medications, which are also known as second generation antipsychotics, are marketed under the names shown in the table at the right.

On average, the children’s weight gains differed across the different medications, ranging from 8.5 kg with olanzapine to 4.4 kg with aripiprazole. For better than half of the children, the gains amounted to more than 7% of their body weight. Changes in the children’s metabolism varied by drug, too; olanzapine caused the largest problems and aripiprazole caused no changes in metabolism (e.g., cholesterol).

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Following Danny Watt’s story

Tom Jackman’s article about Danny Watt to which I referred a few days ago (see this post) is generating a lot of discussion on the Post’s Web site. The comments on Mr. Jackman’s story are informative. For example, at least a half dozen mention having a family member with mental illness. Link to the comments.

Media matters

The recent posts about news coverage of mental illness (e.g., “Danny Watt’s Story” and “Jani Illustrates Troubles“) has had me thinking about how popular media portray these problems. Over on Psych Central, Margarita Tartakovsky has an article entitled “Media’s Damaging Depictions of Mental Illness” that I recommend to readers of EBD Blog. In addition to discussing myths that are too commonly perpetuated by media such as television and film, she recommends ways to help distinguish between accurate and inaccurate portrayals of mental illness.

Link to Ms. Tartakovsky’s article.