Live Longer With Biotechnology – If You Can Afford To Pay For It

With the recent news that scientists in the United States have used CRISPR gene editing technology to remove a disease-causing mutation from the DNA of a human embryo for the first time, many life-saving biotechnology breakthroughs seem closer than ever before.

But with those advances come the potential for much harm, if we don’t tread carefully, says Michael Bess, the Chancellor’s Professor of History at Vanderbilt University and author of the book “Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Life in the Bioengineered Society of the Near Future.”

“The most blatant risk to me is exacerbating the gap between the rich and the poor,” Bess says. “With the emergence of a biologically-based caste system, where some people have the ability to amplify themselves up to higher levels and the poor get left behind, we’d be taking the inequality that exists in our society and writing it into our very biology.”

 

Bess will discuss the potential benefits and pitfalls of recent breakthroughs in biotechnology during Dawn or Doom ’17, a conference on the risks and rewards of emerging technology. Dawn or Doom will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 26 and 27, on Purdue University’s West Lafayette, Indiana, campus and is free and open to the public.

Dawn or Doom, which includes a track called Designing Humans: Bioengineering and Human Design, also will include featured talks by Robb Fraley, chief technology officer at Monsanto and a World Food Prize winner; Nicolas Thompson, WIRED editor-in-chief; Quentin Hardy, Google’s head editor; and Tom Bradicich, vice president and general manager of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Other tracks at the conference include Designing Food, Designing Cities, Designing Information and Designing the Workforce.

The potential “dawn” Bess foresees from biotechnological enhancements in such areas as pharmaceuticals, bioelectronics and epigenetics sounds great: the ability to live “healthful, vigorous, mentally clear lives for decades longer than we do now.” But that dawn is not without a great deal of potential doom.

Inequality is not the only risk that worries Bess. He also fears these technologies could erode our sense of human individuality, leading us to treat people like commodities whose self-worth is determined only by their capabilities.

“You can slip rather easily into a mentality that becomes coldly comparative and forgets to respect people in basic ways,” he says.

Star Trek motivated Bess to research these topics. The character Data, a human-like android on the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” captivated him and he initially set out to write about artificial intelligence and the possibility of machines achieving human-like personality traits. As he began researching the subject, he realized that the possibility of humans modifying our own biology presented an even more pressing issue.

Even in the field of biotechnology, however, machines are ever present, Bess notes. In his book, he discusses some of the ways they may intersect with us, including through research that’s demonstrated that we have the ability to control robotic limbs with our minds.

“I think people underestimate just how profoundly we’re going to be merging with our machines over the coming years,” he says.

Gut Microbes May Influence Multiple Sclerosis Progression

Researchers at UC San Francisco have identified specific gut microbes associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) in human patients, and show that these microbes take part in regulating immune responses in mouse models of the disease.

The new findings – to be published during the week of Sept. 11, 2017, in the Online Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) – suggest that gut microbes may play a role in the neurodegeneration that characterizes MS. The authors hope the finding will help scientists understand the origins of MS and potentially lead to treatments, such as dietary changes or drugs based on microbial byproducts, that could improve the course of the disease.

MS is an autoimmune neurodegenerative disorder that affects approximately 2.5 million people worldwide with progressive loss of vision, weakness and tremors, and problems with coordination and balance. It is caused when the immune system attacks the layers of insulation that surround nerve cells. Researchers have learned a great deal about MS over the past decades, but continue to puzzle over why the immune system turns against the nervous system’s insulation, known as myelin, in the first place.

“The field has been very successful in identifying genes associated with susceptibility to MS, but I’ve never been satisfied with amount of risk that we’ll be able to explain with just genetics,” said Sergio Baranzini, PhD, a professor of neurology at UCSF and the senior author on the new study. “Even identical twins, who share the same genetic inheritance, only share an MS diagnosis about 35 percent of the time. It’s clear the genome is important, but environmental factors must also play a major role.”

Many suspected environmental contributors to MS, such as history of smoking, diet, and environmental exposures, are very hard to pin down and associate with a biological impact on patients, Baranzini said.

But a growing number of studies demonstrating that gut microbes can directly influence the function of the human immune system suggested a new possibility to Baranzini: Since “the intestine is actually the most intimate connection between the outside world and the immune system,” he explained, the human gut microbiome could play a role in the onset or progression of MS.

Mining for Microbes

When Egle Cekanaviciute, PhD, arrived in the Baranzini lab as a postdoctoral researcher in 2014, she was eager to take on the challenge of studying whether features of the gut microbiome might influence the immune system’s predisposition to trigger MS.

“This was such a novel question, especially at that time,” Cekanaviciute said. “No one had looked at the microbiome in MS – almost no one had looked at the role of gut microbes beyond digestive diseases.”

In the new study, Cekanaviciute and collaborators analyzed the gut microbiome composition of 71 MS patients as well as 71 healthy control subjects, and identified specific species of bacteria that were either more or less common in people with multiple sclerosis than the general population. Then they turned to the much more difficult task of investigating how these differences in gut bacteria might influence the immune system’s attack on myelin in MS.

“A lot of microbiome studies say, ‘These bacteria are increased in patients with a disease, and those bacteria are reduced.’ And then they stop,” Cekanaviciute said. “We wanted to know more: should we care about the ones that are increased because they are harmful or the ones that are decreased because perhaps they are helpful? What do these microbes actually do that could have an impact on people’s health?”

At the time, there were no standard techniques for answering these questions, so Cekanaviciute developed an array of new approaches for testing the functional role of the bacterial species they had identified as altered in patients with MS.

Mother’s Psychiatric Diagnosis No Threat To Baby’s Health

Depression, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder represent no threat to the health of pregnant women or their babies, although there may be slight risks associated with medications used to treat those conditions, according to new Yale study appearing Sept. 13 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

“I think a major take-home message is that women are not harming their babies if they have one of these psychiatric conditions,” said lead author Kimberly Yonkers, professor of psychiatry, epidemiology, and obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences, as well as director of the Center for Wellbeing of Women and Mothers.

The Yale team followed 2,654 women at 137 clinical practices in Connecticut and Massachusetts to assess the impact of psychiatric disorders on pregnancy outcomes.

They did not find that maternal or neonatal outcomes were worse in the women who had panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder compared to women without these conditions. They found that maternal use of benzodiazepine, commonly prescribed for panic and general anxiety disorder, led to slightly lower birthweight, and their babies needed additional ventilator support in 61 of 1,000 cases. Use of a common class of antidepressants known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors also shortened gestation by 1.8 days. Antidepressants were linked to hypertensive diseases in 53 out of 1000 pregnancies and led to more cases of minor respiratory interventions after birth.

“Many women require treatment with these medications during pregnancy, and these findings do not suggest they should discontinue treatment,” Yonkers said. “Instead, women should work together with their doctors to find the lowest possible dosages and adhere to good health habits like healthy diet and exercise and avoidance of cigarettes and alcohol.”

Heather S. Lipkind of Yale was senior author of the study, which was funded by National Institutes of Health. Yale’s Kathryn Gilstad-Hayden and Ariadna Forray are co-authors of the study.

Time Perception And Age: Longevity’s Influence On ‘Mind Time’

Time perception is a construction of the brain. How fast we perceive time to be passing – or “mind time” – can be manipulated or distorted. Evaluations of time differ based on our state of being at the time of judgment. If you’re bored or suffering, every second counts, and time seems to expand or slow down. When you’re ecstatic, moments glitter right through your fingers.

Mind time also depends on your projected future state of being. If you’re counting down to a root canal, time speeds up as you wait. But if you’re tallying days until the birth of your first child, time seems immeasurably slow.

What would happen to our sense of time if we knew we could to live to be 150? Or even 500?

Proponents of “radical longevity” believe that the first person to live beyond 150 years is already born. Billionaire futurists like Peter Diamandis are helping to develop gene sequencing techniques to make 100 the new 60. Other pioneers like Aubrey de Grey believe longevity research will enable “longevity escape velocity,” a point when our technological ability to add years to our lives catches up to passing time until we not only break even but defeat aging altogether.

Having more time sounds divine. But critics fear that longer lifespans will rob us of the urgency that lends life meaning and value and will motivate us to procrastinate more.

Is this true?

Scientists, including Dr. Joseph Ferrari, distinguish between regular procrastinators and chronic procrastinators whose problems relate to emotional regulation, not just time management. Most of us are merely situational procrastinators, depending on the perceived nature of the task (e.g. its “utility”) combined with mood (e.g. pessimism/optimism) and personality attributes like self-discipline and impulsivity.

Given how many factors must align to impact the average person’s propensity to manage one’s time, it seems unlikely that living longer will change our existing habits on a wider scale.

Still, will living longer feel like longer?

One theory contends that time speeds up as we get older if we consider the proportionality of time perception related to age. The older you get, the smaller one year is, as a percentage of your total life. So the years go by faster and faster. By the time you’re 98, a year is little more than one percent of your whole life and feels fleeting.

But if you add more years, it won’t fly as fast. As lifespans extend, one year of life at age 50 will feel longer for someone with a lifespan of 150 than 100. Time will slow down.

From a mathematical angle, this makes sense. However, critics argue that proportionality theory ignores the role of attention, emotion, and novelty, and that it doesn’t matter how long our lives are, but instead what we fill our lives with.

Cognitive psychologists like Martin Conway say that we are most likely to vividly remember experiences from between the ages of 15 and 25 – a time of firsts: Our first sexual relationships, first jobs, first travel without parents, first time living away from home.

The salience – or memorability – of these experiences is heightened by their novelty, forming a “reminiscence bump.” As we enter our 30s and novelty subsides, fewer memories stick with us over time.

This is important, because the fewer memories we have within a time period, the faster that time period seems to fly, according to cognitive psychologists. With fewer salient memories in our older years, time speeds up incrementally.

That is, unless we fill those years with rich, new experiences. That’s precisely what longevity research aims to do: to increase not only the number of years lived but to enhance our health and functionality so we live more fully for longer.

Longer lives will conceivably allow us to have two or three careers, two or three serial marriages or family lives, and so on. Though this scenario now seems improbable – even off-putting – it may eventually become the norm.

From infancy to old age, we accomplish psychosocial goals (e.g. formulating a sense of identity in adolescence; maintaining psychological and biological integrity, as well as legacy, in old age). Memory theorists say our specific memories are clustered around these “goal posts.” The more we have, the more we experience and remember, and the more time passes slowly, abundantly.

Maybe the sense of “urgency” isn’t what gives life meaning. Maybe a life with more time to create rich experiences and memories will be meaningful on its own, without the need to live in high-speed.

Ask The Doctor: My New Doctor Doesn’t Know I Have Bipolar

Being completely honest and finding the right psychiatric fit for you is crucial for your recovery

Is it true that my psychiatric diagnosis is important to my physical health?

Yes, because your psychiatric diagnosis affects your physical health—and vice versa.

It’s great that you’re taking care of your body. Sometimes we get so focused on dealing with bipolar illness that we don’t pay enough attention to our physical wellbeing. Primary care doctors—family physicians, internists, gynecologists—are trained to consider your health as a whole, not just your physical health. It’s hard for your doctor to give you the best care if you withhold information.

It is not uncommon for people with bipolar disorder to wonder if they should share their diagnosis with a primary care provider. If you are worried about privacy or confidentiality issues, talk with your doctor about your concerns and ask how office policies and federal privacy laws ensure that your situation will be handled with discretion and respect.

Whether or not you choose to disclose that you have bipolar illness, your doctor needs to know what medications or supplements you are taking, in order to manage any physical health issues you may have and to consider potential medication interactions. Also, some commonly prescribed medications—such as decongestants for colds and allergies, and prednisone for asthma or allergies—can trigger bipolar symptoms. Your primary care doctor will want to avoid prescribing these, if possible. If a medication can’t be avoided, your doctor may modify the prescription and monitor results more closely. Consulting with your psychiatrist will help your doctor take steps to help more quickly if you do experience mood changes.

Knowing which psych meds you are on will also help your doctor decide what lab tests to order and how to interpret the results. For example, many psychiatric medications are processed by the liver or kidneys, so your doctor will want to monitor the function of these organs.

Are there any special concerns that I need to discuss with my primary care doctor?

Yes. Here are some specific issues your primary care doctor needs to know about:

THYROID HORMONE LEVELS: People with bipolar disorder often have low thyroid hormone levels and need to take a thyroid supplement to help with mood stabilization. It is important for your primary care doctor to check your thyroid hormone levels, usually by drawing a blood test called a TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) or other thyroid tests. To avoid confusion among different members of your healthcare team, be sure to share—or ask your primary care doctor to share—all of your lab results with your psychiatrist.
PREGNANCY: If you want to have children, it is important to discuss your plans with both your primary care physician and your psychiatrist several months before you stop using birth control. Your primary care doctor may want to consult closely with your psychiatrist in helping you choose the best timing for a pregnancy and how to manage psych medications. Your doctors will want to talk with you about the risks well before you embark on your plan.
POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION: If you have had a baby recently, your doctor will want to be alert for signs of postpartum depression, which can happen with bipolar disorder. Postpartum depression needs to be treated as soon as possible to protect both your and your baby’s health.
WEIGHT GAIN, DIABETES & HEART DISEASE: Some medications used for bipolar increase the risk of weight gain, which is a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. Your primary care doctor can monitor these risks and help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Physical health and mental health go hand in hand. Taking good care of both will help you avoid future problems and keep progressing toward your wellness goals.

Ask The Doctor: Advances In Psychiatry

Ideas about recovery & treatment have greatly changed since our first issue. We asked psychiatrists from our advisory board to reflect on the biggest advances over the past decade—and what the future might hold.

Joseph R. Calabrese, MD, is a professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and director of the Bipolar Disorders Research Center at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. He is also director of the Mood Disorders Program, which he started in 1989.

Out in the open: There’s been a huge change in awareness. The general population, and consumers that have psychiatric illnesses, are much more informed. Ten to 15 years ago, these diagnoses were a really tough sell to patients. That’s not the case anymore because people know these are real illnesses.

Patients are more educated when we talk about the illness because they’ve usually gone to the Internet and read about bipolar. And their parents and significant others are more accepting. That wasn’t the case as recently as 10 years ago.

Tackling depression: Probably the biggest change in the past 10 to 12 years is that we now have treatments for bipolar depression. That’s important because that’s where our patients spend the majority of their lives. … and depression is where our patients most commonly attempt suicide.

When it comes to mania, we’re pretty well covered. We’ve got lots of [prescribing] options.

There’s greater recognition that many people have a psychiatric disorder and co-occurring substance dependency, but there’s more to be done to improve diagnosis.

Dual diagnosis: There’s greater recognition that many people have a psychiatric disorder and co-occurring substance dependency, but there’s more to be done to improve diagnosis. The field needs to do a better job of having clinicians meet with the family and find out what the person was like prior to the onset of alcohol or drug abuse.

Almost always, if somebody is drug-dependent, there was a pre-existing undiagnosed, untreated psychiatric illness. Too often from a diagnostic perspective, the approach is to dry the patient out and see what’s left, so to speak. With bipolar disorder in particular, you can’t do that. The person will be okay for three to six weeks, then cycle right back to it if the bipolar is not being treated.

Family affair: I would like to see a system where family members routinely come to appointments along with the primary patient. For one thing, family members can help the patient recall symptoms and also make more accurate observations about behaviors like pressured speech, for example. So the likelihood of getting the diagnosis right is improved.

For another thing, the heritability of bipolar disorder is 60 to 80 percent. That is, it’s very likely to run in families. So not only would assessment of the patient be more accurate, but family members would learn more about symptoms and other siblings or relatives might get treatment sooner.

……………

Roger S. McIntyre, MD, FRCPC, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto, heads the University Health Network’s Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit. He is a contributor to the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT) guidelines for the management of bipolar disorder.

Better on basics: What I was taught as a medical student is that bipolar disorder is mania and mania is bipolar disorder and they’re one and the same thing. We’ve come to see that there’s much more depression than mania in people with bipolar.

The other advance worth mentioning is that we know a lot more about what pediatric bipolar disorder looks like, what it doesn’t look like, how to differentiate it from other conditions. That’s been a very big change.

Body wise: Ten years ago, we didn’t know how big a problem metabolic conditions like diabetesand cardiac disease are among people with bipolar. Now it would be a routine standard of care to discuss risk factors for general physical health, such as smoking and poor diet, and engage patients about healthy lifestyle habits, sleep hygiene, and exercise.

It’s important for patients to be aware that physical health influences mental health, and vice versa. They do seem to be more aware of physical health problems today, perhaps partly because the medications we prescribe can cause weight gain.

Medications have always been an essential part of treating bipolar illness, but people now also recognize that there is a role for some type of psychotherapy, of education, added to medication.

The field needs to give as much attention to “below the neck” as it does to “above the neck.” This issue has been heavily promoted by experts, but also by patients who want better treatments and treatments that don’t have an adverse effect on their health.

Treatment options: We’ve seen more medications developed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the past 10 or 15 years than we have in the past 50 years.

Medications have always been an essential part of treating bipolar illness, but people now also recognize that there is a role for some type of psychotherapy, of education, added to medication. That’s been a big change.

The ideal is to have different disciplines—psychiatrists, medical practitioners, psychotherapists, social workers—come together and work as a team. That seems to provide the greatest chance of success for the patient.

……………

S. Nassir Ghaemi, MD, MPH, is a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and director of the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center. His books include On Depression and A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness.

New model of recovery: I think there’s been a change all across medicine in terms of patient-centered or holistic recovery models and it has seeped into psychiatry, but change in clinical practice has been slow. Many clinicians still seem to focus on medications and removal of symptoms exclusively

If you take an exclusively symptom-oriented approach, you’ll need to spend a lot of time talking about symptoms and the medications you’re taking to treat them. There’s not enough time and attention left in an appointment for non-symptom discussions, meaning talking about a patient’s life and how they’re doing. This recovery-oriented approach is not necessarily psychotherapy, but it goes beyond the traditional approach to psychopharmacology.

Knowledge is power: People are much better prepared than they used to be. That is a big difference from 10 years ago. The Internet has been a major positive factor here because patients can investigate on their own, to some extent. They can go online and find out what I think and what another practitioner thinks, and make a decision about who to see based on that information.

People are much better prepared than they used to be. … The Internet has been a major positive factor here because patients can investigate on their own, to some extent.

That makes the initial conversation about a treatment plan a lot easier because we can move forward on a shared background of knowledge, as opposed to trying to explain it all in a one-hour session.

A new generation: After two decades of research and discussion, I find that antidepressants are still prescribed far too often despite multiple studies showing that their use in bipolar illness is ineffective at best and harmful at worst. Again, thanks to the Internet, patients can look into this and have a serious discussion with their doctors about treatment choices.

Scientific evidence has to accumulate for a long time before clinicians change their practices. There’s research that shows that when there’s clear scientific evidence that changes a previous medical belief, it takes on average 15 to 20 years for widespread change to occur. That’s equivalent to a generation.

There is hope for the future, because there’s a new generation of psychiatrists trained in the 2000s who are coming into practice, and they’re not beholden to older ideas about drug efficacy. Wider recognition that we should be using antidepressants less frequently is essential for progress in treatment of bipolar illness.

Bipolar Disorder Recovery Is A Team Sport

Recovery is absolutely a team sport. Not only do you need to recruit the best players, but you need to train them.

I suck at sports. I’m neither proud nor ashamed to admit it. It is simply a fact: I am not the athletic type. I am, however, the organized type. I recognize the power and enjoy the process of creating and perfecting a plan, sticking to it, and recruiting qualified individuals to assist in implementing that plan.

In short, while I’ve never worn a jersey with my name on the back, I do recognize the power of teamwork. That said, I haven’t always been the best at it. Given the option of doing a group or solo homework assignment in school, I nearly always chose the latter.

I prefer to work alone and, as a writer, most of the time I do. But I’ve never worked entirely alone, because I can’t. None of us can—at least not if we expect to be successful. I’ve worked with many people throughout my career—agents, editors, publishers, producers, and others—and were it not for them, I wouldn’t have a career.

In many ways, recovery is its own profession, and it requires just as much diligence, resilience, and teamwork as any worthwhile career path. At certain times in my life, recovery has had to become my full-time job. Some people label such stints with terms like “unemployment” and “disability,” but for those of us living with serious psychiatric conditions like bipolar disorder, we know that recovery can be the toughest job in the world. And despite the fact that no one is handing us degrees or stacks of cash, we deserve some credit for it.

I have worked harder at my recovery than I ever did in law school and graduate school combined. Over the years, I’ve worked as a restaurant server, jewelry store clerk, barista, fudge confectioner, gift shop attendant, estate lawyer, and now, writer. While each of these positions has presented its own unique challenges, not one of them has been half as challenging as my recovery.

And the single factor most responsible for helping me evolve from full-time recovery to full-time writing to full-time living again hasn’t been my personal perseverance or my personal anything—it has been my team.

While I’ve never worn a jersey with my name on the back, I do recognize the power of teamwork.

Soon after being diagnosed with bipolar I, I learned that recovery is absolutely a team sport. Not only do you need to recruit the best players, but you need to train them.

The only exception to that rule for me was my number-one overall draft pick, Who was already in the know about everything—Omniscient, in fact—and fully trained on all matters. Most Gracious and Most Merciful, the Creator is the glue that holds my team together. And thank God for good psychiatrists, because I finally found one of those as well.

After years of scouting in two separate states, I recruited a top-notch psychiatrist I trust, who does—and prefers to do—psychotherapy in conjunction with medication management. While he was exquisitely trained when it came to psychiatry, he had no training when it came to me. That took time. But working together, we’ve formed a partnership, and it works. He is my star offensive player.

Unlike my psychiatrist, my husband had already been recruited to my team long before I was finally diagnosed with bp. While he was exquisitely trained when it came to me, he had no training when it came to psychiatry. Thankfully, he is an avid reader and an attentive partner, and as a result, he has become and remains my first line of defense with respect to spotting the initial signs of mania or depression. He is my star defensive player.

The rest of my team is made up of my parents, my sister, about a dozen tried-and-true friends, and two cats. They all play different roles in my recovery, but they are all part of my team, and they know it (with the exception of the cats, of course, though I suspect they know more than they let on).

Recognizing that I have this treasured team ready to step into action whenever necessary—and that I don’t need to train or educate any of them mid-game—gives me an enormous sense of relief and a newfound appreciation for teamwork.

I would walk through fire for my team, but thanks to them, I don’t have to.

6 Things to Do After a Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder

After settling in with the news you will be dealing with a life-long brain disorder, there are ways you can help yourself right away:

#1 Find the right therapist for you

This is an important first step; but don’t feel badly if it takes a few times to find the right therapist for you. It’s critical that you can build a trusted relationship with this person and you feel completely comfortable. After learning about the different treatment orientations and their experience, it’s time to interview potential therapists. Ultimately, trust your gut and the connection you feel good about.

#2 Find the right treatment plan for you

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to emotional, behavioral and psychological protocols. All treatment—pharmalogical, therapy, lifestyle—needs to be designed specifically for you. Perhaps for you, focusing on therapy for the mind, as much as you do on medication for the brain, will help or maybe it’s something you haven’t yet considered. This is where a trusted therapist relationship is important.

#3 Seek support from others

Depending on your situation, talk to your family and close friends about your diagnosis to explain what you have been struggling with and what it could mean going forward. Seek the support from someone you trust to help in the event you can’t help yourself. Many have found it constructive to join a support group, whether online or in person to have like-minded people to share this emotional time.

#4 Become self-aware

Discover your red flags. What incites euphoria: poor sleep, excessive stress? What brings you down: negative thinking, bad relationships? Being aware of what triggers your mood swings can help minimize mania and decrease depression. It will be an ongoing learning experience.

#5 Eat, move and sleep

Eat brain-nutrient and heart-healthy foods (think Mediterranean diet) and remove toxic items like simple sugar (dextrose, fructose and glucose) from your diet. Next, get exercise each and every day; it’s good for both your heart and your brain. Finally, since sleep is so important to moods, and can trigger either a manic or depressive episode, carefully regulating your sleep is vital. Experts recommend a strict routine where you go to bed and rise the same time every day.

#6 Never stop learning

Being knowledgeable is key to getting well. These days, the Internet makes it easier than ever to gain insight. Learn common triggers, coping mechanisms, medications and possible side effects. If you’re educated there is less chance you’ll settle short and instead will set your sights for full recovery high.

Protein Map Holds Promise In Future Treatment Development For Complex Brain Disorders

Researchers have mapped the brain’s network of protein associations, breaking ground for new and innovative future treatment avenues for complex brain disorders.

Just as parents are not the root of all their children’s problems, a single gene mutation can’t be blamed for complex brain disorders like autism, according to a Keck School of Medicine of USC neuroscientist.

To help researchers see the big picture, Marcelo P. Coba created the first map that highlights the brain’s network of protein associations. It’s a first step to developing treatment drugs that operate more like rifles than shotguns.

“The drugs we have now are not working for these brain disorders,” said Coba, senior author of a new study and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine.

“Scientists have not developed a new drug target for complex brain diseases in nearly 60 years. The protein map software my colleagues and I created can help researchers create new therapies that hone in on problem pathways.”

The study was published in late June in Nature Neuroscience. Coba and his colleagues isolated 2,876 protein interactions and figured out where in the brain the protein networks lived, how they communicated and at what age in development those pathways became activated.

Researchers stuffed all that information into a software platform that enables users to visualize disease risk factors throughout the brain’s protein networks.

Taking off the blinders

Many current studies scan patients’ genetics to identify problem genes they label as “risk factors” for developing a disorder.

“The problem is that there is a collection of risk factors contributing to brain disorders,” Coba said. “A single risk factor might explain a very low percentage of the population — perhaps 2 percent of those who have the disease.”

Coba used an analogy. If all flights at a Texas airport were grounded, flight schedules and airports across the country would be affected. A disruption in one location cannot be sustained in that region because the flights are connected in a network of airports, he said.

Similarly, genes produce proteins that interact in a protein network. If a gene is mutated, the protein’s connections may experience delays or disruptions. The disorganized protein-to-protein connections from point A to B to C might be the bedrock of brain disorders such as autism, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, Coba said.

Talking to Yourself in the Third Person Can Help You Control Emotions

Trailblazing research suggests that silent third person self-talk during stressful times may help you control emotional reactions.

Newswise — EAST LANSING, Mich. – The simple act of silently talking to yourself in the third person during stressful times may help you control emotions without any additional mental effort than what you would use for first-person self-talk – the way people normally talk to themselves.

A first-of-its-kind study led by psychology researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan indicates that such third-person self-talk may constitute a relatively effortless form of self-control. The findings are published online in Scientific Reports, a Nature journal.

Say a man named John is upset about recently being dumped. By simply reflecting on his feelings in the third person (“Why is John upset?”), John is less emotionally reactive than when he addresses himself in the first person (“Why am I upset?”).
“Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain,” said Jason Moser, MSU associate professor of psychology. “That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions.”

The study, partially funded by the National Institutes of Health and the John Temple Foundation, involved two experiments that both significantly reinforced this main conclusion.

The simple act of silently talking to yourself in the third person during stressful times may help you control emotions without any additional mental effort than what you would use for first-person self-talk

In one experiment, at Moser’s Clinical Psychophysiology Lab, participants viewed neutral and disturbing images and reacted to the images in both the first and third person while their brain activity was monitored by an electroencephalograph. When reacting to the disturbing photos (such as a man holding a gun to their heads), participants’ emotional brain activity decreased very quickly (within 1 second) when they referred to themselves in the third person.

The MSU researchers also measured participants’ effort-related brain activity and found that using the third person was no more effortful than using first person self-talk. This bodes well for using third-person self-talk as an on-the-spot strategy for regulating one’s emotions, Moser said, as many other forms of emotion regulation require considerable thought and effort.

In the other experiment, led by U-M psychology professor Ethan Kross, who directs the Emotion and Self-Control Lab, participants reflected on painful experiences from their past using first and third person language while their brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or FMRI. Similar to the MSU study, participants’ displayed less activity in a brain region that is commonly implicated in reflecting on painful emotional experiences when using third person self-talk, suggesting better emotional regulation. Further, third person self-talk required no more effort-related brain activity than using first person.

“What’s really exciting here,” Kross said, “is that the brain data from these two complimentary experiments suggest that third-person self-talk may constitute a relatively effortless form of emotion regulation.

“If this ends up being true – we won’t know until more research is done – there are lots of important implications these findings have for our basic understanding of how self-control works, and for how to help people control their emotions in daily life.”

Moser and Kross said their teams are continuing to collaborate to explore how third-person self-talk compares to other emotion-regulation strategies.