Researchers Show Genetic Overlap in Schizophrenia, Cognitive Ability

Investigators at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have discovered for the first time, direct evidence of a genetic overlap between schizophrenia and general cognitive ability. The findings are published online in Molecular Psychiatry.

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder that affects approximately 2.2 million Americans each year. It is characterized by a significant reduction in general cognitive abilities, so that many patients struggle with completing school, holding jobs and achieving their full potential. Previous studies have indicated subtle cognitive abnormalities in undiagnosed and unmedicated relatives of patients who live with schizophrenia, which suggests the possibility of genetic overlap between risk for schizophrenia and cognitive traits. These previous studies, however, did not test this overlap on the molecular level.


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Mental Disorders as Brain Disorders: Thomas Insel at TEDxCaltech


A rethink is needed in terms of how we view mental illness, stated National Institute of Mental Health Director Thomas Insel, M.D., in a recent TEDx talk at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena.

Deaths from medical causes such as leukemia and heart disease have decreased over the past 30 years. The same cannot be said of the suicide rate, which has remained the same. A vast majority of suicides—90 percent—are related to mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia.

Insel believes part of the problem is that mental illness is referred to either as a mental or behavioral disorder. “We need to think of these as brain disorders,” he said, adding that for these brain disorders, behavior is the last thing to change.

–National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

5 Things To Know About Relaxation Techniques for Stress

When you’re under stress, your body reacts by releasing hormones that produce the “fight-or-flight” response. Your heart rate and breathing rate go up and blood vessels narrow (restricting the flow of blood). Occasional stress is a normal coping mechanism. But over the long-term, stress may contribute to or worsen a range of health problems including digestive disorders, headaches, sleep disorders, and other symptoms.

In contrast to the stress response, the relaxation response slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and decreases oxygen consumption and levels of stress hormones. In theory, voluntarily creating the relaxation response through regular use of relaxation techniques could counteract the negative effects of stress.

    1. Relaxation techniques are generally safe, but there is limited evidence of usefulness for specific health conditions. Research is under way to find out more about relaxation and health outcomes.
    2. Relaxation techniques include a number of practices such as progressive relaxation, guided imagery, biofeedback, self-hypnosis, and deep breathing exercises. The goal is similar in all: to consciously produce the body’s natural relaxation response, characterized by slower breathing, lower blood pressure, and a feeling of calm and well-being.
    3. Relaxation techniques often combine breathing and focused attention to calm the mind and the body. These techniques may be most effective when practiced regularly and combined with good nutrition, regular exercise, and a strong social support system.
    4. Most relaxation techniques can be self-taught and self-administered. Most methods require only brief instruction from a book or experienced practitioner before they can be done without assistance.
    5. Do not use relaxation techniques as a replacement for conventional care or to postpone seeing a doctor about a medical problem. Talk to your health care providers if you are considering using a relaxation technique for a particular health condition. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

–NIH, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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University of Pittsburgh: Recruiting for Research Study on Schizophrenia

Do you or does someone you know suffer from schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder?  A research-based treatment is available.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have begun a research study to develop new psychological treatments for people in the early course of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

  • Are between the ages of 18 and 65
  • Have a diagnosis of Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective or Schizophreniform disorder
  • Were diagnosed within the past 8 years
  • Are taking prescribed antipsychotic medication
  • Are not abusing drugs or alcohol

There is no charge for receiving the research-based treatments, and individuals will be compensated for their participation.

Interested persons should call the University of Pittsburgh ESSENCE Program at 412-586-9000.

Schizophrenia Sufferers’ ‘Job Fears’

Nearly two-thirds of adults in the UK would keep schizophrenia hidden from their employer if they were diagnosed, a survey suggests.

The research, published by the charity Rethink Mental Illness, claims only 35% of people would be open with their boss if they had the illness.

The online YouGov poll of more than 2,000 adults also says one in four (26%) of people wouldn’t tell a friend.

More than three-quarters (77%) would not tell a neighbour, the charity says.

Business group, the CBI, admits more needs to be done by employers to improve conditions for staff with mental health problems.

Jazmin Chatelier started to suffer from schizophrenia when she was aged 22.

“I started hearing voices and first they were indistinct like chatter in the distance, and then they started talking directly to me,” she said.

Jazmin says initially she felt unable to tell anyone about what she was going through. When she finally did, their reactions were often difficult to take.

“A lot of people just called me an attention-seeker, they did not understand what I was going through, and they thought I was making it up,” she said.

“There was a point when I started wearing a hands-free kit so it looked like I wasn’t crazy. So I would be talking to these voices like I was on the phone.”

by Anthony Baxter, BBC

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