Neuroscientists unite for ‘Moon shot’

Effort aims to bring together philanthropies with common interest in brain diseases.

Fifty years after US President John F. Kennedy pledged to send a man to the Moon, his nephew Patrick has brought together leading lights of neuroscience to tackle the “inner space” of the human brain.

At a meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, this week, the former Democratic congressman from Rhode Island helped to launch an initiative called ‘One Mind for Research’, which aims to boost support for neuroscience. Kennedy and his collaborators hope to convince funders to relax their focus on individual diseases in favour of supporting basic research on the fundamental workings of the brain……

By Heidi Ledford
Nature News

Brain research the new ‘moon shot’

(CNN) — A recession loomed large in the nation’s rear-view mirror. The economic recovery, still fragile, was marred by chronic unemployment, especially for workers whose jobs had been erased by technological innovation.
Meanwhile, an ongoing battle against foreign enemies consumed a large share of public resources. It was, in short, hardly the moment one would expect for a political leader to lay down a public challenge whose goal — and costs — staggered the imagination.
But 50 years ago on May 25, my uncle, John F. Kennedy, ascended the rostrum in the House of Representatives’ chamber to do precisely that. His goal — “to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth,” and to do so within a decade — was not merely appropriate to a moment of national uncertainty. It helped to resolve it.
It’s time to do so again.
This time the destination is closer to home, but the technical challenges may exceed even a moon landing. So will the benefits. All we need is to be of one mind as to the goal.
Hence the name of a collaborative initiative that aims to undertake the moon race of our time — a dramatic acceleration of the national commitment to neuroscience: The “One Mind” campaign……

By Patrick Kennedy, Special to CNN

SZ Magazine Website

SZ magazine was launched in 1994 by Bill MacPhee, who envisioned a magazine that could reach out and help those affected by schizophrenia.

After being diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 24 and struggling with his diagnosis, Bill wanted to create a publication for those in the same situation that would act as an informative guide and inspiration. He has first-hand knowledge of the isolation and suffering felt by those with the disorder and wanted to offer a resource that was not available to him when he was diagnosed.

Bill created Magpie Media in March 1994 and printed the first issue of SZ Magazine in June of the same year. SZ magazine is a mental wellness publication for the 1% of people worldwide diagnosed with schizophrenia. It provides up to date news, research, and information from around the world. The magazine includes professional content as well as personal stories and interviews from those affected both directly and indirectly by schizophrenia. The magazine is an informative resource for both those living with the illness as well as caregivers and professionals.

Watching the magazine grow to a professional, quarterly publication, Bill launched a U.S. edition in 2003 to address the needs of the large American community impacted by schizophrenia: 3+ million individuals living with schizophrenia, their caregivers, and medical professionals.

SZ Magazine continued to grow, launching website to provide even more resources for those impacted by schizophrenia. This website has many features, including copies of past magazines, feature articles, Bill’s blog and much more.

Today, SZ Magazine has a combined Canadian and American readership of 90,000 people and has been the recipient of numerous media and mental health awards. The magazine not only reaches those living with schizophrenia and their families, but is a resource for doctors, government representatives, and mental health professionals as well.

Neuroscience and Psychiatry Module 1 Translating Neural Circuits into Novel Therapeutics (VIDEO)

Cognitive deficits are a core feature of schizophrenia. They are the single best predictor of functional outcomes in this disorder. Few treatments are currently available but translational neuroscience provides clues for the development of novel therapeutics.

Switching to Aripiprazole May Reduce Metabolic Risk

Switching from the atypical antipsychotics olanzapine, quetiapine, or risperidone to the atypical antipsychotic aripiprazole may reduce metabolic risk in patients with schizophrenia, new research suggests.

In findings from the Comparison of Antipsychotics for Metabolic Problems (CAMP) study, presented here at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2011 Annual Meeting, more than 200 schizophrenic patients who were already taking olanzapine, quetiapine, or risperidone were randomly assigned to continue receiving their current medication or switch to aripiprazole.

Results showed that switching led to improvements in several metabolic measures, including larger reductions in weight gain, non-high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and serum triglycerides.

However, although rates of efficacy failure were similar between the switchers and nonswitchers, aripiprazole was associated with a higher rate of stopping the assigned treatment, report the investigators.

“The primary result showed that switching to aripiprazole was effective, especially in lowering the non-HDL cholesterol, albeit modestly. That was a significant finding,” Scott Stroup, MD, MPH, director of the Program for Intervention Effectiveness Research at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, told Medscape Medical News.

“I would tell clinicians that for some patients, perhaps many patients, switching medication is an effective strategy. But it’s important to monitor them carefully. For those who can’t switch successfully, it’s okay to put them back on their previous medication and then look for other strategies, such as behavioral interventions,” said Dr. Stroup…..

Reported by Deborah Brauser
Medscape Medical News

Mentally ill have reduced life expectancy, study finds

People suffering from serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can have a life expectancy 10 to 15 years lower than the UK average.

Researchers tracked the lives of more than 30,000 patients through the use of electronic medical records.

They found that many were dying early from heart attack, stroke and cancer rather than suicide or violence.

Mental health groups say vulnerable people need to be offered better care to prevent premature deaths.

The research was carried out at the Biomedical Research Centre for mental health at the Maudsley Hospital in London and published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

The study examined life expectancy for people suffering from specific mental illnesses like schizophrenia, serious depression and bipolar disorder, or those being treated for substance misuse.

Life expectancy across all the illnesses studied was well below the UK average of 77.4 years for men and 81.6 years for women.

Those most affected were women with schizoaffective disorder – problems with mood or sometimes abnormal thoughts – whose average life expectancy was reduced by 17.5 years, and men with schizophrenia whose lives were shortened by about 14.6 years.

The researchers believe a combination of factors – higher-risk lifestyles, long-term anti-psychotic drug use and social disadvantage – could be to blame…..

By Dominic Hughes
BBC News

Why People With Schizophrenia May Have Trouble Reading Social Cues

Understanding the actions of other people can be difficult for those with schizophrenia. Vanderbilt University researchers have discovered that impairments in a brain area involved in perception of social stimuli may be partly responsible for this difficulty.

“Misunderstanding social situations and interactions are core deficits in schizophrenia,” said Sohee Park, Gertrude Conaway Professor of Psychology and one of the co-authors on this study. “Our findings may help explain the origins of some of the delusions involving perception and thoughts experienced by those with schizophrenia.”

In findings published in the journal PLoS ONE, the researchers found that a particular brain area, the posterior superior temporal sulcus or STS, appears to be implicated in this deficit.

“Using brain imaging together with perceptual testing, we found that a brain area in a neural network involved in perception of social stimuli responds abnormally in individuals with schizophrenia,” said Randolph Blake, Centennial Professor of Psychology and co-author. “We found this brain area fails to distinguish genuine biological motion from highly distorted versions of that motion.”…..

Vanderbilt University (2011, May 25). Why people with schizophrenia may have trouble reading social cues. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 4, 2011

A ‘Brain Wave’ Test for Schizophrenia Risk?

There is a significant need for objective tests that could improve clinical prediction of future psychosis.

In this new study, the researchers followed a group of people clinically at high risk for developing psychosis. They found that the individuals who went on to develop schizophrenia had smaller MMN than the subgroup who did not. This finding suggests that MMN might be useful in predicting the later development of schizophrenia.

One strategy has been to determine whether physiologic measures that are abnormal in people diagnosed with schizophrenia might also be useful in estimating the risk for developing this illness. This is the strategy taken by German and Swiss researchers in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.

They used electroencephalography (EEG), which measures the brain’s electrical activity or “brain waves,” to study the brain’s response to commonly and rarely presented tones that differed in length.

When these rare “deviant” tones are presented to healthy people, the brain automatically generates a particular electrical wave called mismatch negativity, or MMN. People diagnosed with schizophrenia have reduced MMN…..

Elsevier (2011, May 17). A ‘brain wave’ test for schizophrenia risk?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 4

Brain Development Goes Off Track as Vulnerable Individuals Develop Schizophrenia

Two new research studies published in Biological Psychiatry point to progressive abnormalities in brain development that emerge as vulnerable individuals develop schizophrenia.

The first of these papers studied individuals with a deletion of a small section of chromosome 22. This genetic deletion often results in the development of abnormalities in the structure of the heart and of the face, a condition called velocardiofacial syndrome (VCFS; also known as 22q11.2 deletion syndrome). Up to 32% of people with VCFS develop psychotic disorders including schizophrenia, which occurs in 1% of the general population.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Dr. Wendy Kates and her colleagues showed that during adolescence, progressive deficits in the volume of the temporal cortex gray matter were predictive of developing psychosis.

“Our findings suggest that in VCFS, brain changes during mid-adolescence, particularly in the temporal lobe, predict early signs of psychosis,” said Dr. Kates. “This suggests that it may be possible, eventually, to develop a screening tool that would identify those VCFS-affected youth who are at the highest risk for schizophrenia.”

In another paper, Dr. Andrew McIntosh and colleagues report a similar pattern among adolescents and young adults who were followed over a 10 year period. All of the young people were well at the beginning of the study, but some were at high genetic risk of developing schizophrenia due to having family members with schizophrenia.

“The participants were examined repeatedly by a psychiatrist and with structural brain scans to see if there were changes in brain structure in people who later became unwell,” explained Dr. McIntosh. “At the end of the study, we found that there were accelerated reductions in the volume of particular brain structures in the people at high risk, and additional reductions in the volume of the frontal lobes in those people who later developed schizophrenia.”……

Elsevier (2011, May 11). Brain development goes off track as vulnerable individuals develop schizophrenia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 4, 2011


This study is testing the effectiveness of riluzole versus placebo for decreasing anxiety in children with pediatric bipolar disorder. Children and youth with bipolar disorder display episodic elevated mood and associated symptoms of decreased need for sleep, increased goal-directed behavior, and increased self-esteem/grandiosity. Children ages 9 to 17 with bipolar disorder may be eligible to participate in this 12- to 15-week inpatient or outpatient study. This study has four phases. During Phase I, participants are gradually withdrawn from all current psychotropic medications. Phase II is a one-week medication-free period. During Phase III, which lasts two weeks, participants are randomly assigned to receive either riluzole or placebo (a sugar pill). Phase IV lasts for 6 weeks. During this phase, participants continue riluzole or placebo. At the end of the study, those who received placebo have the opportunity to receive riluzole. All procedures and medications associated with the research are provided at no cost to participants, and assistance with transportation and lodging expenses is available. Schooling will be provided while on the inpatient unit or in day treatment. To find out more information, call (301) 496-8381 or email

For more information on research conducted by the NIMH in Bethesda, MD, visit: