Gut-Brain Health – What Neuroscientists Are Calling “A Paradigm Shift”

4 months, 10 days ago

 

paradigm shiftThe trillions of microbes that inhabit your body are collectively called the microbiome.

They outnumber your own cells ten to one and weigh up to twice weight of the average human brain. Most of them live in your gut and intestines, where they help to digest food, synthesise vitamins and ward off infection.

The microbiome has shown that its influence extends far beyond the gut, all the way to the brain.

I’ve written about this in the blog before: One billions reasons probiotics protect your brain, and it looks like the gut-brain topic is hotting up with David Perlmutter author of Grain Brain set to publish a book in April: ‘Brain Maker – the power of gut microbes to heal and protect your brain – for life’. In Brain Maker, Dr. Perlmutter will explain

the potent interplay between intestinal microbes and the brain, describing how the microbiome develops from birth and evolves based on lifestyle choices, how it can become ‘sick’ and how nurturing gut health through a few easy strategies can alter your brain’s destiny for the better.

Not to be outdone, last November members of the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) held a symposium titled Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience. A summary paper of emerging topics covered in the symposium has been published that claims that

“…the discovery and the explosive progress in the characterisation of the gut microbiome have initiated a paradigm shift in medicine and neuroscience.”

Here is a summary of the symposium discussions:

Gut-Brain signalling

A growing body of preclinical literature has demonstrated there is a complex signaling system between the mind, brain, gut, and its microbiome.

These findings have resulted in speculation that alterations in the gut microbiome may play a pathophysiological role in human brain diseases, including:

autism spectrum disorder
anxiety
depression
chronic pain.

John Cryan, the irish neuroscientist you met in my previous article, likens communication to Downton Abbey-like upstairs/downstairs communication,

“The upstairs and the downstairs need each other to survive. From a distance, it looks like they are living completely separate and they don’t have much to do with one another. But when things start going wrong downstairs that filters on upstairs. It’s the same with the gut and the brain. If there is something wrong with your microbiome, it’s going to filter on upstairs in the brain, too.”

The microbiome is impacted by stress

Psychological and physical stressors alter the composition and metabolism of the gut microbiota. And experimental changes to the gut microbiome can affect emotional behaviour and related brain systems.

For example, when mice are given antibiotics researchers see a decrease in BDNF (a key protein involved in neuronal plasticity and cognition) in the hippocampus (a region involved in emotion, learning and memory).

Tracy Bale, Professor of Neuroscience at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and her team have found that stress-induced changes to a mother’s microbiome can be passed to the offspring which in turn might alter the way her baby’s brain develops.

In a recent interview with the Kavli Foundation Bale notes,

“There are key developmental windows when the brain is more vulnerable because it’s setting itself up to respond to the world around it.  So, if mom’s microbial ecosystem changes — due to infection, stress or diet, for example — her newborn’s gut microbiome will change too, and that can have a lifetime effect.”

A role for probiotics

A growing body of evidence from rodent studies further supports a role for probiotics. Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus probiotic treatment shows beneficial effects on anxiety- and depression-like behaviour in rats and mice.

In one human study of chronic fatigue syndrome (another disorder of brain–body interaction) a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a Lactobacillus-containing probiotic decreased anxiety, but not depression symptoms, in the active treatment group. This study, published as a brief report, lacked detail in terms of the reported result and should be interpreted with caution according the SFN symposium attendees.

Probiotics being used widely (and represent a 20 billion dollar industry). Overall, human studies suggest a potential for positive effects on mood, but human work is preliminary and the SFN symposium called for larger, well-designed clinical trials to be conducted.

What’s next for gut-brain research?

Crowd-sourcing fecal samples (yep, The American Gut Project is crowd-sourcing poo!), fecal transplants, mRNA sequencing or proteomics, fMRI … the symposim concluded that it is difficult to predict the trajectory of the next exciting period of discovery.

Will the gut microbiome add paradigm-transforming insights to our existing understanding of human brain function in health and disease, resulting in novel therapies?

Or will it represent an incremental step in understanding the inner workings of our brains?

Certainly, the next few years of research hold the potential of  uncovering intriguing connections between gut bacteria and neurological conditions that may possibly impact human health.

Tim Cryan is very enthusiastic,

“We’re right at the dawn of a whole new way of thinking about brain development and brain heath. And the neuroscientific evidence for the role of the microbiome is just getting stronger and stronger at the basic level.”

 

 

References

Kavli Foundation. (2015, January 8). Could gut microbes help treat brain disorders? Mounting research tightens their connection with the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 8, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150108125953.htm
The Brain–Gut Axis and Neuropsychiatric Disease: A Paradigm Shift, by Kayt Sukel, December 16, 2014.
Mayer et al Gut microbes and the brain: paradigm shift in neuroscience. J Neurosci. 2014 Nov 12;34(46):15490-6. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3299-14.2014.

Image source: Wikicommons

 

 

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Your Gut Microbiome and Anxiety: What’s the Connection?

5 months, 21 days ago

A disrupted gut microbiome can cause anxiety, like this woman is experiencing.

Did you know that your gut bacteria can influence your mood? Read on to learn about how the gut and brain communicate with each other, the evidence that connects the gut microbiome and anxiety, and how to fix gut dysbiosis.

Is Anxiety in Your Brain or in Your Gut?

Approximately 18 percent of U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, characterized by apprehension and fear that can negatively affect productivity, personal relationships, and overall quality of life. (1) Pharmaceutical treatments, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines, manipulate the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Although these medications provide relief for some, they are often ineffective and can have serious side effects. (2)

Even if chemical imbalances were present in most people with anxiety (they aren’t), antianxiety meds fail to address a lesser-known contributor to depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders: gut dysbiosis and dysfunction.

The brain and the gut communicate via a gut–microbiome–brain axis, and a growing body of literature indicates that a disrupted gut microbiome may contribute to a variety of cognitive and mood disorders, including: (3, 4, 5, 6)

Anxiety
Parkinson’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease
ADHD
Sensory processing disorder
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
Schizophrenia
Psychosis
Autism

The bacteria in your gut hold immense power over you—they can even influence how you respond to stress. Check out this article to learn about the link between the gut microbiome and anxiety, and get tips on how to correct gut dysbiosis. #chriskresser #unconventionalmedicine 

How Your Brain and Your Gut Communicate

The brain and the gut can interact directly through the vagus nerve, which connects the central nervous system to the heart, lung, and digestive tract. The vagus nerve can be activated by many neuroactive molecules found in the gut. (7)

Neurotransmitters

Some gut bacteria species synthesize neurotransmitters, including GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, and neurotransmitter modulators, like brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. In fact, more than 90 percent of the body’s total serotonin and more than 50 percent of the body’s total dopamine are synthesized in the gut, not in the brain. (8, 9)

Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs)

Dietary fiber is broken down by gut bacteria into anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs stimulate the sympathetic and autonomic nervous systems with neurological benefits. One example is butyric acid, which has been shown to slow the progression of Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases in animal models. (10, 11)

Thyroid and Sex Hormones

Gut microbiota are involved in the release and degradation of hormones such as insulin, glucagon, leptin, as well as estrogen. (12, 13, 14)

Other Signaling Molecules

Neuroendocrine cells comprise about 1 percent of the cells along the protective gut lining, called the epithelium. These cells release over 20 neuroactive signaling molecules, including neuropeptide Y, oxytocin, ghrelin, and calcitonin gene-related peptide. (15)

The gut microbiome influences the brain across a lifetime. In the earliest stages of life, bacterial colonization of the gut is crucial for proper brain development.

Germ-free mice, which have no microorganisms in their guts, experience abnormal mental development and develop brain structure defects. (16, 17, 18, 19) Altering the gut microbiota with antibiotics or probiotics can either damage or improve memory, further supporting the role of the gut in brain function. (202122) We also have evidence that microbiota regulate pain perception, impact the protective nerve sheath covers called myelin, and influence neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to reorganize and rewire from good and bad inputs. (23, 24, 25)

Because of the active gut–microbiome–brain axis, anxiety and other mood disorders can be influenced by the stability and diversity of the gut microbiome. Let’s look at some of the evidence that supports the gut microbiome and anxiety connection.

Your Gut Bacteria Determine How Your Body Responds to Stress

A healthy gut promotes a normal stress response through the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. Gut microbiota are essential to the development and function of the HPA axis, and there is a critical developmental window when colonization must occur for the HPA axis to function normally. (26, 27) Germ-free mice exhibit an exaggerated HPA stress response, a hallmark characteristic of anxiety, indicated by excessive corticosterone and adrenocorticotropic hormone secretion. (28). The exaggerated response can be reversed by administering probiotics, but only in young mice. On the other hand, pathogenic E. coli worsened the condition.

As the gut microbiota mediate the stress response, stress can, in return, alter the gut microbiota. (29, 30) It’s a two-way street.

In mice, stressors like maternal separation early in life or prolonged restraint induce significant changes in the gut bacterial profile. (313233) In humans, gut changes with stress have been reported, although the specific bacterial changes aren’t always consistent across studies (34, 35). Most likely a person’s individual response will depend on his or her gut microbial diversity, gut wall integrity, diet composition, and overall health.

Happy Gut, Happy You

Differences in gut microbiome compositions have been found in both animals and humans with mood disorders. In mice, depression and anxiety are accompanied by altered gut profiles. (36) Similarly, several human studies have found microbiota differences between patients with anxiety and/or depression compared to healthy control groups. (37, 38, 39) In one small study, lower levels of a particular bacterial genus, Faecalibacterium, correlated with more severe depression. (40)

Gut dysbiosis can lead to anxiety, and re-establishing the gut microbiota can mitigate anxiety-like behavior. After pathogenic infection with Campylobacter jejuni or Citrobacter amalonaticus bacteria, mice developed anxious and abnormal behaviors, possibly through activation of the amygdala, a brain region that’s often implicated in anxiety. (41, 42, 43). Similarly, germ-free mice exhibit anxiety-like behaviors. (44) Probiotic supplementation has been shown to decrease anxious behavior in several mouse studies. (45, 46, 47, 48)

Interestingly, in another study, mice given oral antibiotics showed altered fecal microbiota, increased anxious behavior, and increased BDNF expression in the hippocampus region of the brain, all of which were resolved within a few weeks after stopping the antibiotics. When antibiotics were given to germ-free mice, no changes in behavior or BDNF expression were seen, indicating that the gut microbiome was indispensable for these alterations. (49)

In this same study, the researchers performed fecal microbiota transplants between two strains of mice with known behavioral differences. When the more timid and anxious type of mice were colonized with microbiota from the less anxious type, the mice increased their exploratory behavior and showed decreased anxiety. In reverse, when the less anxious mice were colonized with microbiota from the more anxious type, the mice decreased their exploratory behavior. Of note, these behavioral changes were not accompanied by changes in neurotransmitter levels in the brain, further demonstrating that anxiety and other mood disorders have influences beyond the brain.

How to Fix Gut Dysbiosis

A healthy gut should have a diverse, stable, and robust microbiome with high gut lining integrity. Unfortunately, many factors present in our modern society contribute to gut damage:

Antibiotic overuse
Inflammatory foods like refined sugars, refined carbohydrates, and industrial seed oils
Inadequate fiber
Chronic stress
High alcohol consumption
C-section birth and formula feeding

Our 21st-century microbiomes are significantly less diverse than those of our ancestors, as well as the microbiomes of modern-day hunter–gatherers who largely adhere to their traditional diets. (50) We have a lot to learn about the ideal human microbiome composition, and just as there isn’t one ideal diet, there probably isn’t one ideal microbiome.

At this time, it’s difficult to noninvasively obtain snapshots of your microbiome along the entire GI tract. Fecal analyses are common, but what’s in fecal matter isn’t representative of the entire tract. Gut bacteria populations change and become denser further along the digestive tract, with the distal colon (the last sections) being the most densely populated.

Nevertheless, if you suffer from mood disorders like anxiety, or a host of other conditions like eczema, obesity, and GI disturbances, healing your gut might provide some relief. Start with these steps:

Treat any pathogens that might be present. The following recommendations (consuming fiber, bone broth, and fermented foods) will only go so far if you have an untreated, underlying infection.
Eat more fiber. Fiber feeds the microbiome, and low-fiber diets reduce microbial diversity. (47) Consider a prebiotic supplement.
Drink bone broth. Bone broth and other sources of collagen and glycine can repair gut integrity.
Consume naturally fermented foods, like natto, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, raw milk, and kim chi.

Will Probiotics Help Your Gut Microbiome and Anxiety?

Researchers coined the term “psychobiotics” to describe probiotic strains with the potential to impact psychological health. Several human clinical trials have shown that probiotic administration can reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and improve memory. (51, 52, 53) Specifically, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Bifidobacterium longum have all improved scores of anxiety and/or depression in human clinical trials. (54, 55, 56, 57, 58) However, not all probiotic clinical trials have been effective for mood disorders. (59, 60)

If you’ve tried the above tips and still have gut issues, probiotic supplements could make a difference. A dizzying number of probiotic supplements are on the market, but Mark Ruscio categorizes them into five main varieties:

Lactobacillus
Bifidobacterium
Saccharomyces boulardii (healthy fungus)
Soil-based or spore-forming probiotics
E. coli Nissle 1917 (healthy form of E. coli)

As it will take a few weeks to notice a difference, finding the most beneficial probiotic supplement could be a process of trial and error.

Now I’d like to hear from you. Did you know your gut health could impact your mood? If you suffer from anxiety, what alternative therapies have worked for you? Let me know in the comments.

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How a Child’s Brain Becomes Depressed and Changes

7 months, 20 days ago

How a Child's Brain Becomes and Changes When Depressed

Some people are born with a genetic makeup that makes them more prone to depression, but that doesn’t mean they will automatically become depressed. The converse is also true. Somebody born with different genes is not necessarily immune to developing the condition.

How Does A Child’s Brain Get Depressed?
Just as in adults, there’s no single known cause of adolescent depression. People develop depression due to a myriad of factors, including genetics, childhood experiences, learned behavior and thinking patterns, stress, and social support. Most often, it’s a combination of several of these things coming together in just the right – or wrong – way. Depression often starts developing in early childhood and can be diagnosed in children as young as three. According to the Mayo Clinic, factors which could lead to depression in a child include :

Differences in the Brain

Research has shown that the brains of adolescents are structurally different than the brains of adults. Teens with depression can also have hormone differences and different levels of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are key chemicals in the brain that affect how brain cells communicate with one another and play an important role in regulating moods and behavior.

Traumatic Early Life Events

Most children don’t have well-developed coping mechanisms. A traumatic event can leave a lasting impression. Loss of a parent or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse can leave lasting effects on a child’s brain that could contribute to depression.

Inherited Traits

Research shows that depression has a biological component. It can be passed down from parents to their children. Children who have one or more close relatives with depression, especially a parent, are more likely to have depression themselves.

Learned Patterns of Negative Thinking

Teens regularly exposed to pessimistic thinking, especially from their parents, and who learn to feel helpless instead of how to overcome challenges, can also develop depression.

Depression Is a Brain Pattern

In the book, The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, Alex Korb explains how a brain becomes depressed like this:

The flow of traffic through a city is complex and dynamic – sometimes jamming up inexplicably and other times flowing smoothly, even at rush hour. The stock market and larger economy follow similar patterns as does the weather and even pop culture. Mathematically, these types of complex dynamic systems share many similarities, including the way the whole system — whether a traffic jam, a tornado, a recession or recovery, a viral tweet, or the next fad — can get caught in a runaway pattern: either an upward or downward spiral.

So why do tornadoes happen in Oklahoma but not in New York? Because conditions are just right — the flatness of the land, temperature changes, humidity, and wind direction and speed. But there’s nothing wrong with Oklahoma.

The same is true of your brain. In depression, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the brain. It’s simply that the particular tuning of neural circuits creates the tendency toward a pattern of depression. It has to do with the way the brain deals with stress, planning, habits, decision making, and a dozen other things — the dynamic interaction of those circuits. And once the pattern starts to form, it causes dozens of tiny changes throughout the brain that create a downward spiral.”

Trauma Changes a Child’s Brain Putting It at Risk for Depression
We know that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) lead to changes in the adolescent brain which put it at greater risk for depression.  Sadly, common life experiences and treatment that wouldn’t be considered reportable abuse can be traumatic to a developing brain. Death, divorce, poverty, lack of nurturing, bullying, illness, and much more can detrimentally alter a child’s brain. That’s why it’s so important for parents, teachers, and community leaders to recognize that even lower levels of trauma may put kids at risk for developing anxiety and depression. According to one study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences :

Childhood maltreatment experiences may lead to poorer communication between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex in girls and boys, but poorer communication between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex in girls only,” explains Herringa. “These brain changes, in turn, are associated with the development of anxiety and depression symptoms by late adolescence (age 18).”

Research has discovered that depressed children have brain patterns similar to those seen in adults diagnosed with the disorder. According to research, preschoolers show clinical symptoms synonymous with adult depression. In fMRI scans., they also showed amygdala reactivity and brain activity which correlated with the severity of their symptoms. 

Depression in the Adolescent Brain

Every child experiences sadness and goes through emotional stages as they develop. Just because a child is sad doesn’t mean they are depressed. If the sadness becomes persistent or interferes with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork, or family life, it may mean they are depressed. According to Mental Health America 2017 statistics,  11.01% of youth (age 12-17) reported suffering from at least one major depressive episode during the past year and 7.4% of youth (or 1.8 million youth) experienced severe depression.

Trauma changes a child’s brain putting it at greater risk for depression.Click To Tweet

Childhood depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated because the symptoms are viewed as typical emotional and psychological changes that occur during growth. Depression symptoms in children will often cause problems within the family unit. Many parents will become frustrated with and focus on their child’s’ behaviors rather than looking at what their child is experiencing — possibly depression. Parents often discipline their child’s behaviors, in an effort to decrease them. Unfortunately, this may cause the child to feel more depressed and reinforce a downward spiral. 
How a Child's Brain Becomes and Changes When Depressed
Symptoms of Depression in an Adolescent or Teenager

Estimates from a study published in American Family Physician state that up to 15 percent of children and adolescents have some symptoms of depression. Symptoms of depression in children can often be difficult for parents to spot because they look like the normal behaviors of going through puberty and being a teenager. If you’ve ever raised a teen, you know that appetite changes and moodiness are often normal.

Depression is going to be a more extreme, persistent version of those. It is going to be more than just passing boredom or a lack of interest in school. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP),  signs of adolescent depression include:

changes in appetite or weight
appearing sad, irritable, or tearful
a decreased interest in activities your child once found pleasurable
a decrease in energy
difficulty concentrating
feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
major changes in sleeping habits
regular complaints of boredom
talk of suicide
withdrawal from friends or after-school activities
worsening school performance

1. Physiological symptoms

Many teenagers with depressive symptoms experience real physical symptoms such as headaches, upset stomach, fatigue, or pain in other areas of their body. 

2. Lack of interest in activities

Many teenagers decrease or stop participating in their favorite activities. Computer games that were once obsessed over, athletic teams or participating in sports, clubs, social activities or hobbies may no longer interest them. 

3. Difficulty concentrating

A common depression symptom among all genders and ages is difficulty concentrating. Many teenagers report that they have trouble focusing in school, at jobs, or while completing tasks as simple as browsing the computer. 

4. Excessive guilt

Excessive guilt reported by teenagers with depression symptoms can present as the teen “beating themselves up” for small mistakes or decisions. It can also appear as being afraid to make future decisions for fear they will be “wrong.” Self-harming might be present.

5. Irresponsible behavior

Many teenagers with depression participate in irresponsible behavior that can appear out of character for them. Some teenagers will present rebellious behaviors, such as running away from home, refusing to do schoolwork, engaging in risky sexual behaviors, and/or smoking or partaking in drug use. 

6. Changing Eating Habits

Like adults with depression, teenagers can experience changes in their eating habits. For example, teenagers will often lose weight due to a decrease in appetite or overeat as a way to cope with their depression. 

7. Prolonged Sadness

Teenagers will often display a persistent, pervasive sadness when depressed. Frequent crying episodes, feeling of hopelessness, and a decrease in laughter can be indicators that your teenager is depressed. 

8. Anxiety

Anxiety is a common companion of depression in teens and adults. Panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed, and a preoccupation with worry can be symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety can also present physically as a pounding heart, sweating, stomach aches, breathy problems, and headaches. 

9. Social isolation

A big indicator that a teenager is struggling with difficult emotions and feelings is how they treat their friends. Teens will often withdraw and isolate themselves from their peers, family members, and others when they are depressed. 

10. Conduct problems

Depression symptoms often co-occur with conduct problems during adolescent and teenage years.

Helping a Depressed Teen 

 A good starting point when helping and supporting a teenager deal with depression can be creating a safe space for them to talk. There is no need for you to “say the right thing” and try to fix problems during the conversation. Let them talk. Your job is to listen. Responses tend to make teenagers feel judged and shut down.

Ask them what they need or believe would be helpful to continue a beneficial dialogue. Next, go with your gut. If your intuition is telling to seek further help, do so. As a parent, you are the expert on your child but securing professional assistance with depression can be crucial for your teen. 

 

For more help dealing with teen depression, please visit this helpful depression worksheet.

Depression Symptoms in Young Children

Many of the symptoms listed above will also be present in depressed younger children. In addition to those, you may also see some of the following: 

1. Self-blame and negative self-evaluation

Depression in children will often be displayed as them expressing disappointment in themselves or things that they have achieved. They may also view themselves in a negative light. You may hear them say things like, “I’m not a good person” or “God is not happy with me.” 

2. Disinterest in playing with toys or friends

A strong indicator that a child is depressed is their lack of interest in playing with friends or toys. Most children will engage in play without being prompted. If a child isn’t interested in having fun, something is wrong.

 3. Verbal outbursts and crying

Many children are brought to therapy due to verbal outbursts, tantrums, and crying spells. Children often display these behaviors due to their inability to express why they are upset. 

4. Bullying others

Depending on the age and gender of the child, they may display a variety of bullying behaviors. For example, females tend to engage in more relational bullying, such as attempting to isolate peers, whereas males might physically bully their peers.
Helping a Depressed Child

Depression symptoms in younger children need to be addressed promptly because, as stated earlier, it can alter their brains and have life-long consequences.  Dr. Brie Turns offers the following advice for dealing with depression in children:

One of the biggest recommendations that I have for parents raising a child with depression symptoms is to be incredibly careful about the messages that you say to your child. We all say things that we regret, but parents are advised to speak very carefully when reacting to a child who is depressed. Make sure that you aren’t emotionally reacting to bad behaviors with more negative behaviors. Children develop self-perceptions based on feedback from others . If their parents are yelling or saying hurtful things, this can spiral the child down into a deeper hole.

Additionally, parents can start to monitor and adjust their chil’d diet. Research has shown that an unhealthy diet is linked to depression. I am not saying that depression is caused by a poor diet, but when a child has a poor diet, they are more likely to also have depression symptoms. 

Parents can also monitor their children’s peer relationships. If parents notice certain children are being hurtful or mean, they should set up play dates with friends that are more kind and cooperative.”

For more help with overcoming your child’s depression, check out Dr. Turns’ depression worksheet.

Contributing Author

How a Child's Brain Becomes and Changes When DepressedDr. Brie Turns is an assistant professor of Marriage and Family Therapy and a licensed associate of marriage and family therapy. She has previously taught at Purdue University-Northwest, Texas Tech University, and Lubbock Christian University. She currently teaches at Fuller Theological Seminary-Arizona.

Dr. Turns has spoken at local, state, national, and international conferences regarding families raising a child with an autism spectrum disorder. She has published numerous articles, book chapters, and magazine articles on various topics within the field of family therapy. Dr. Turns has been invited to speak at various universities including Yale, Brigham Young University, the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

In order to provide research-based information to help others solve everyday problems, Dr. Turns has recently launched the site www.TheFamilyTherapist.org.

 

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Intensive CBT: How fast can I get better?

8 months, 19 days ago

A highly effective psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on how our thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes can affect our feelings and behavior. Traditional CBT treatment usually requires weekly 30- to 60-minute sessions over 12 to 20 weeks. A faster option now emerging is intensive CBT (I-CBT), which employs much longer sessions concentrated into a month, week, or weekend — or sometimes a single eight-hour session.

CBT helps people learn tools to reframe different types of thinking, such as black-and-white thinking (I can’t do anything right) and emotional reasoning (I feel you dislike me, so it must be true) and other potentially harmful thought patterns that fuel mental health problems and undermine relationships, work, and daily life. Once learned, the coping strategies taught during CBT or I-CBT sessions can help people deal with a variety of problems throughout life.

Can intensive CBT help people with anxiety, depression, and other issues?

I-CBT has been used to treat many people suffering from mood and anxiety disorders, trauma-related disorders, and other issues. Some programs treat children or teens who have mild autism spectrum disorder (mild ASD), selective mutism, or prenatal alcohol exposure, or who are struggling with school refusal.

There are I-CBT programs that focus in specific areas, such as:

attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
anxiety disorders, including agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, specific phobias, panic attacks and panic disorder, and separation anxiety
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sexual trauma, and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Is intensive CBT effective?

Research on effectiveness — or whether or not I-CBT works — is relatively new. Studies suggest it is effective for treating OCD. Children and adults who have this condition make similar, long-lasting gains with traditional or intensive CBT. It’s also effective for treating panic disorder in teens, anxiety symptoms in children with mild autism spectrum disorder, and severe mood disorders.

Additionally, fewer people drop out of treatment with I-CBT compared with traditional CBT.

Who might benefit from the short time span?

People with full-time jobs who find it difficult to take time off during the work week for weekly appointments might be able to commit to a weekend of intensive treatment. Teenagers busy with academics and activities during the school year may benefit from intensive sessions for a week during the summer. Families juggling multiple schedules can benefit from I-CBT because it allows them to focus on treatment without feeling their time is split among several other commitments. And people who live in areas without easy access to mental health services or specialists may be able to travel for a weekend for intensive treatment.

I-CBT may also help people who have tried traditional CBT, but have not found it feasible or successful. Alternatively, I-CBT sessions may introduce people to this form of psychotherapy, and its benefits, thus serving as a catalyst for traditional CBT treatment.

What are the drawbacks?

Most importantly, the effectiveness of I-CBT is still being evaluated. Intensive treatment requires specialized therapists who are trained to deliver I-CBT. It may not be possible to find a well-qualified program or therapist nearby, which would add to the cost and time commitment of treatment. Most insurance companies do not cover intensive treatments such as I-CBT, so it can be expensive.

Resources

Programs specializing in I-CBT for children and teens include the following:

Boston University Child and Adolescent Fear and Anxiety Treatment Program, Boston, MA.
Boston University Brave Bunch Program, Boston, MA.
Child Mind Institute Intensive Treatment, New York, NY.
McLean Anxiety Mastery Program, Belmont, MA.
UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior Child OCD Intensive Treatment Program, Los Angeles, CA.
UCLA Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital ABC Intensive Outpatient Program, Los Angeles, CA.
University of South Florida Rothman Center for Pediatric Neuropsychiatry Intensive CBT for OCD, Tampa, FL.
Weill Cornell Medicine Intensive Treatment Program (ITP) for Children and Adolescents, New York, NY.

Programs specializing in I-CBT for adults include the following:

Emory Wesley Woods Hospital Adult Intensive Outpatient Counseling Program (IOCP), Atlanta, GA.
Emory University Veterans Program, Atlanta, GA.
Home Base Veteran and Family Care, Boston, MA.

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Study: Depression Among Women May Be Inherited From Their Mother

11 months, 5 days ago

In what could be considered a ground-breaking study for mental illness, scientists have discovered a link between mothers and their daughters’ depression.

Science Daily reported that in a study done by Fumiko Hoef, a psychiatric researcher in the US among 35 families, it was revealed that the brain’s corticolimbic system, which regulates a person’s emotion and mood disorders, can be passed down from mothers to their daughters. But it is more unlikely to be inherited by their sons, while fathers do not generally pass it on to either their daughters or sons.

It is the first clinical research study of its kind to link depression with mothers and daughters, although it does not mean that mothers are necessarily responsible for their daughters’ depression.

“Many factors play a role in depression — genes that are not inherited from the mother, social environment, and life experiences, to name only three. Mother-daughter transmission is just one piece of it,” Hoef said.

via sciencedaily.com

Using an MRI, Hoef and her research team were able to measure the “grey matter volume” in the corticolimbic systems of parents and their children in the study.

Results showed that no family member was diagnosed with depression, but the association between the corticolimbic grey matter volume of the mothers and daughters corticolimbic was “significantly greater” compared to mothers and sons, fathers and sons, and fathers and daughters.

Hoef said that using an MRI to study the pattern of brain structures in both parents and children is a first.

“This gives us a potential new tool to better understand depression and other neuropsychiatric conditions, as most conditions seem to show intergenerational transmission patterns,” she said.

“Anxiety, autism, addition, schizophrenia, dyslexia, you name it —brain patterns inherited from both mothers and fathers have an impact on just about all of them.”

via showandtellonline.com.au

Considering the success in using MRI to study brain patterns, Hoef and her team will now use MRI as well to study brain structures of families who have children conceived and delivered through various types of in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

They will then study through imaging the brains of parents and children among families with the following characteristics: those whose birth mother was implanted with a donor egg; those where a surrogate was implanted with the biological mother’s egg; and those whose mother was implanted with her own fertilised egg in a homologous IVF procedure.

“With donor eggs, there is no maternal genetic input, but there is maternal prenatal and postnatal influence,” Hoeft explained.

“In gestational surrogacy, there is genetic and postnatal input from the biological mother, but no prenatal input. With homologous IVF, there are maternal genetic, prenatal and postnatal influences. Comparison of these three groups allows us to control for potential effects of the IVF procedure itself.”

Hoef is hopeful that through these studies, they will be able to examine and distinguish “the effects of genetics, prenatal environment and postnatal enviroment on brain function, structure, and cognitive function.”

Read more: stayathomemum.com.au

Gut-Brain Health – What Neuroscientists Are Calling “A Paradigm Shift”

11 months, 28 days ago

 

paradigm shiftThe trillions of microbes that inhabit your body are collectively called the microbiome.

They outnumber your own cells ten to one and weigh up to twice weight of the average human brain. Most of them live in your gut and intestines, where they help to digest food, synthesise vitamins and ward off infection.

The microbiome has shown that its influence extends far beyond the gut, all the way to the brain.

I’ve written about this in the blog before: One billions reasons probiotics protect your brain, and it looks like the gut-brain topic is hotting up with David Perlmutter author of Grain Brain set to publish a book in April: ‘Brain Maker – the power of gut microbes to heal and protect your brain – for life’. In Brain Maker, Dr. Perlmutter will explain

the potent interplay between intestinal microbes and the brain, describing how the microbiome develops from birth and evolves based on lifestyle choices, how it can become ‘sick’ and how nurturing gut health through a few easy strategies can alter your brain’s destiny for the better.

Not to be outdone, last November members of the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) held a symposium titled Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience. A summary paper of emerging topics covered in the symposium has been published that claims that

“…the discovery and the explosive progress in the characterisation of the gut microbiome have initiated a paradigm shift in medicine and neuroscience.”

Here is a summary of the symposium discussions:

Gut-Brain signalling

A growing body of preclinical literature has demonstrated there is a complex signaling system between the mind, brain, gut, and its microbiome.

These findings have resulted in speculation that alterations in the gut microbiome may play a pathophysiological role in human brain diseases, including:

autism spectrum disorder
anxiety
depression
chronic pain.

John Cryan, the irish neuroscientist you met in my previous article, likens communication to Downton Abbey-like upstairs/downstairs communication,

“The upstairs and the downstairs need each other to survive. From a distance, it looks like they are living completely separate and they don’t have much to do with one another. But when things start going wrong downstairs that filters on upstairs. It’s the same with the gut and the brain. If there is something wrong with your microbiome, it’s going to filter on upstairs in the brain, too.”

The microbiome is impacted by stress

Psychological and physical stressors alter the composition and metabolism of the gut microbiota. And experimental changes to the gut microbiome can affect emotional behaviour and related brain systems.

For example, when mice are given antibiotics researchers see a decrease in BDNF (a key protein involved in neuronal plasticity and cognition) in the hippocampus (a region involved in emotion, learning and memory).

Tracy Bale, Professor of Neuroscience at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and her team have found that stress-induced changes to a mother’s microbiome can be passed to the offspring which in turn might alter the way her baby’s brain develops.

In a recent interview with the Kavli Foundation Bale notes,

“There are key developmental windows when the brain is more vulnerable because it’s setting itself up to respond to the world around it.  So, if mom’s microbial ecosystem changes — due to infection, stress or diet, for example — her newborn’s gut microbiome will change too, and that can have a lifetime effect.”

A role for probiotics

A growing body of evidence from rodent studies further supports a role for probiotics. Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus probiotic treatment shows beneficial effects on anxiety- and depression-like behaviour in rats and mice.

In one human study of chronic fatigue syndrome (another disorder of brain–body interaction) a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a Lactobacillus-containing probiotic decreased anxiety, but not depression symptoms, in the active treatment group. This study, published as a brief report, lacked detail in terms of the reported result and should be interpreted with caution according the SFN symposium attendees.

Probiotics being used widely (and represent a 20 billion dollar industry). Overall, human studies suggest a potential for positive effects on mood, but human work is preliminary and the SFN symposium called for larger, well-designed clinical trials to be conducted.

What’s next for gut-brain research?

Crowd-sourcing fecal samples (yep, The American Gut Project is crowd-sourcing poo!), fecal transplants, mRNA sequencing or proteomics, fMRI … the symposim concluded that it is difficult to predict the trajectory of the next exciting period of discovery.

Will the gut microbiome add paradigm-transforming insights to our existing understanding of human brain function in health and disease, resulting in novel therapies?

Or will it represent an incremental step in understanding the inner workings of our brains?

Certainly, the next few years of research hold the potential of  uncovering intriguing connections between gut bacteria and neurological conditions that may possibly impact human health.

Tim Cryan is very enthusiastic,

“We’re right at the dawn of a whole new way of thinking about brain development and brain heath. And the neuroscientific evidence for the role of the microbiome is just getting stronger and stronger at the basic level.”

 

 

References

Kavli Foundation. (2015, January 8). Could gut microbes help treat brain disorders? Mounting research tightens their connection with the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 8, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150108125953.htm
The Brain–Gut Axis and Neuropsychiatric Disease: A Paradigm Shift, by Kayt Sukel, December 16, 2014.
Mayer et al Gut microbes and the brain: paradigm shift in neuroscience. J Neurosci. 2014 Nov 12;34(46):15490-6. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3299-14.2014.

Image source: Wikicommons

 

 

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Read more: yourbrainhealth.com.au