TBI/PTSD2

Positive personality traits may protect police at high risk for PTSD

January 6, 2015

Science Daily/University at Buffalo

A new study looked at police officers in the New Orleans area during and after Hurricane Katrina. The results suggested that they were shielded from PTSD by the protective qualities not only in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but years later as well.

 

Personal traits such as resilience, satisfaction with life and a grateful disposition may help shield police officers from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

 

This is the case even though repeated exposure to traumatic events has been found to provoke PTSD and police officers are exposed repeatedly to traumatic events. These are the conclusions of a new study that looked at police officers in the New Orleans area during and in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The results suggested that they were shielded from PTSD by the protective qualities not only in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but years later as well.

 

"We found that symptoms of PTSD significantly decreased among subjects as resilience, satisfaction with life and gratitude increased," says researcher John Violanti, PhD, professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University at Buffalo and an internationally known expert on police stress. "This also was true among officers -- excluded from the study -- who did not work during the hurricane.

 

"This study extends our understanding of how positive factors are associated with reduced PTSD symptoms, and can inform and guide treatment modalities for PTSD," Violanti says.

 

"In this sample, unlike in studies of civilian populations, an experience of posttraumatic personal growth did not appear to mitigate PTSD symptoms in police officers, though the other three protective characteristics we studied did," Violanti says.

 

He elaborates on the study's results: "As in previous research, resilience scores decreased as the level of alcohol intake increased in the officers. "Gratitude scores were highest among African American officers, followed closely by Caucasians, with the lowest scores reported by Hispanic, Native American and Japanese officers. Officers with high and very high life satisfaction reported fewer PTSD symptoms, although given the cross-sectional nature of the study, it is difficult to say whether experiencing PTSD symptoms results in dissatisfaction with life or vice versa.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150106104136.htm

officers in the New Orleans area during and after Hurricane Katrina. The results suggested that they were shielded from PTSD by the protective qualities not only in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but years later as well.

 

Personal traits such as resilience, satisfaction with life and a grateful disposition may help shield police officers from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

 

This is the case even though repeated exposure to traumatic events has been found to provoke PTSD and police officers are exposed repeatedly to traumatic events. These are the conclusions of a new study that looked at police officers in the New Orleans area during and in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The results suggested that they were shielded from PTSD by the protective qualities not only in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but years later as well.

 

"We found that symptoms of PTSD significantly decreased among subjects as resilience, satisfaction with life and gratitude increased," says researcher John Violanti, PhD, professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University at Buffalo and an internationally known expert on police stress. "This also was true among officers -- excluded from the study -- who did not work during the hurricane.

 

"This study extends our understanding of how positive factors are associated with reduced PTSD symptoms, and can inform and guide treatment modalities for PTSD," Violanti says.

 

"In this sample, unlike in studies of civilian populations, an experience of posttraumatic personal growth did not appear to mitigate PTSD symptoms in police officers, though the other three protective characteristics we studied did," Violanti says.

 

He elaborates on the study's results: "As in previous research, resilience scores decreased as the level of alcohol intake increased in the officers. "Gratitude scores were highest among African American officers, followed closely by Caucasians, with the lowest scores reported by Hispanic, Native American and Japanese officers. Officers with high and very high life satisfaction reported fewer PTSD symptoms, although given the cross-sectional nature of the study, it is difficult to say whether experiencing PTSD symptoms results in dissatisfaction with life or vice versa.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150106104136.htm

War veterans: impact of combined brain injury, PTSD

December 22, 2014

Science Daily/University of Kentucky

Researchers have exposed new information about the combined cognitive effects of mild traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder in war veterans. Results of a study suggest that veterans suffering from both conditions have poorer cognitive and psychological outcomes than veterans diagnosed with only one of the conditions. The research also raises the possibility that mTBI results in persistent but mild cognitive challenges for some veterans.

 

The U.S. Department of Defense identifies mild traumatic brain injury, or mTBI, as one of the signature injuries impacting veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

Often associated with the blast of an improvised explosive device (IED) in the field, an mTBI is commonly diagnosed in concurrence with posttraumatic stress disorder, a separate condition triggered by the traumatic event. A recent study suggests that 12 to 16 percent of all veterans involved in the Iraqi conflict have a history of mTBI and an estimated 13 to 17 percent of veterans return with a diagnosis of PTSD resulting from an injury. One-third of all veterans with a TBI also suffer from PTSD.

 

Since the time both conflicts began, medical researchers have studied the short- and long-term psychological and neuropsychological effects of PTSD and mild TBI as independent conditions. Recently, researchers at the University of Kentucky published findings from a collaborative, multi-site study considering the collective, as well as individual, effects of mTBI and PTSD on psychological and cognitive functioning.

 

"Most previous studies have not adequately separated out the cognitive effects due to mTBI from the cognitive effects due to PTSD," High said. Our study is relatively unique because it includes a comparison group of veterans with PTSD only. This is extremely important because the effects of mTBI and PTSD can be very similar. The inclusion of a group of veterans with both mTBI and PTSD also allowed us to look at the interactive effects of these conditions."

 

While research has suggested that infrequent isolated concussions (mTBI) have minimal long-term effects, PTSD has been linked to long-term impairment of psychological functioning and memory loss. The set of data was distinctive from other research trials on long-term effects of mTBI in that the researchers were able to rule out confounding variables influencing cognitive processing.

 

Through an analysis of the data, High and UK doctoral student Hannah Combs, who published the paper as her master's degree thesis, found small decrements in information processing efficiency, attention and memory that could be attributed to the mTBI. David Berry, Ph.D, professor in the Department of Psychology, was a key collaborator in the study helping to characterize the validity of veteran performances and chairing Combs' master's committee.

 

"We feel we know this phenomenon, but this shows there is more to it than we originally expected," Combs said of the effects of mTBI. "If a veteran is complaining about these issues, there's a good chance they are true."

 

High said the decrements attributable to mTBI are small and not disabling. Veterans can overcome the mild cognitive impairment caused by mTBI with proper education about mTBI and therapies. The study will help guide psychologists implement proper cognitive therapies for injured veterans suffering from these mild effects.

 

"The take-home message is that we need to validate to the veteran that the problems they are experiencing are real, but to reassure them that their cognitive abilities are within normal limits and they can still be successful," High said. "There are strategies to rehabilitate and exercise their memory."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141222170406.htm

Brain injury researchers find retrieval practice improves memory in youth with TBI

December 3, 2014

Science Daily/Kessler Foundation

Brain injury researchers have identified retrieval practice as a useful strategy for improving memory among children and adolescents with traumatic brain injury, researchers have found. Difficulties with memory and learning are common after TBI in childhood. To improve academic achievement and long-term outcomes such as employment, effective neurorehabilitative strategies need to be identified, they note.

 

Difficulties with memory and learning are common after TBI in childhood. To improve academic achievement and long-term outcomes such as employment, effective neurorehabilitative strategies need to be identified.

 

The researchers studied 15 patients with TBI and impaired memory, aged 8 to 16 years. They compared results of three memory strategies: massed restudy (cramming), spaced restudy (restudying of material at timed intervals), and retrieval practice (quizzing during the learning stage). Participants were tested on verbal-paired associates and face-name pairs.

 

"We found that retrieval practice resulted in better recall," said Dr. Coyne. "Overall, retrieval practice was the best learning strategy for each of the participants, indicating that this method can improve learning and memory in this age group with TBI. There's a need for randomized controlled trials to confirm this finding, and look at the impact of retrieval practice on academic achievement."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141203161136.htm

Sleep disorders found to be highly prevalent in firefighters

November 13, 2014

Science Daily/Brigham and Women's Hospital

In a national sample of almost 7,000 firefighters, researchers examined the prevalence of common sleep disorders and their association with adverse health and safety outcomes and found that sleep disorders are highly prevalent, and associated with substantially increased risk of motor vehicle crashes and cardio-metabolic diseases among firefighters.

 

"Our findings demonstrate the impact of common sleep disorders on firefighter health and safety, and their connection to the two leading causes of death among firefighters," said Barger. "Unfortunately, more than 80 percent of firefighters who screened positive for a common sleep disorder were undiagnosed and untreated."

 

Researchers found that a total of 37.2 percent of firefighters screened positive for sleep disorders including obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, shift work disorder and restless leg syndrome. Firefighters with a sleep disorder were more likely to report a motor vehicle crash and were more likely to report falling asleep while driving than those who did not screen positive. Additionally, firefighters with sleep disorders were more likely to report having cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety, and to report poorer health status, compared with those who did not screen positive.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141113085220.htm

 

Predicting U.S. Army suicides after hospital discharge

November 12, 2014

Science Daily/Harvard Medical School

Some Army suicides can be predicted with enough accuracy to justify implementing preventive interventions in patients at high risk, experts say. The study looked at 53,769 regular Army soldiers during the 12-month period following their discharge from a psychiatric facility during 2004 to 2009. Hundreds of potential predictors of post-hospital suicide were abstracted from the extensive Army and Department of Defense administrative files that contain data on all soldiers.

 

"The high concentration of suicide risk in the 5 percent of highest-risk hospitalizations is striking," said lead author Ronald Kessler, McNeil Family Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. "The fact that nearly half of all highest-risk hospitalizations were followed by at least one adverse outcome -- either suicide, unintentional injury death, suicide attempt or rehospitalization -- argues strongly for developing expanded post-hospital preventive intervention services for these highest-risk soldiers."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141112203216.htm

 

Soldiers at increased risk for suicide within a year of psychiatric in-patient treatment

November 12, 2014

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU)

Soldiers hospitalized with a psychiatric disorder have a significantly elevated risk for suicide in the year following hospital discharge, according to research. Although this has long been known in the civilian sector, it has never before been studied in the military population.

 

The study used data from the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service members (Army STARRS), the largest study of mental health risk and resilience ever conducted among U.S. Army personnel. Robert J. Ursano, MD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University, Murray B. Stein, MD, MPH, professor of Psychiatry and Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, both co-principal investigators for Army STARRS, and a team of Army STARRS researchers looked at data from the 12 months following a hospital discharge for more than 40,000 regular Army soldiers (excluding National Guard and Reserve) who served on active duty from 2004 through 2009.

 

The Army's suicide rate began increasing in 2004, exceeded the rate among U.S. civilians (adjusted to match the sex and age distribution of the Army), in 2009, and has remained high through 2014. This study of administrative data shows that 40,820 soldiers (0.8% of all regular Army soldiers who served from 2004-2009) were hospitalized with a psychiatric disorder. Suicides occurring in this group during the year after a hospital discharge accounted for 12% of all Army suicides during this period.

 

Researchers also found that it was possible to identify smaller, higher-risk groups within this at-risk population. Analyzing soldiers' characteristics and experiences prior to and during hospitalization, researchers identified the 5% of soldiers with the highest predicted risk of suicide after leaving the hospital. This top 5% accounted for 52.9% of the post-hospital suicides. Soldiers in this top 5% also accounted for a greater proportion of accident deaths, suicide attempts, and re-hospitalizations, compared to other previously hospitalized soldiers.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141112161040.htm

Mental health providers not well prepared to care for military veterans

November 12, 2014

Science Daily/RAND Corporation

Policymakers have expanded military veterans' access to community-based health providers as a way to meet demands, given capacity constraints in the VA health system. But a new study finds that most community-based mental health providers are not well prepared to take care of the special needs of military veterans and their families.

 

"Our findings suggest that community-based mental health providers are not as well prepared as they need to be to address the needs of veterans and their families," said Terri Tanielian, the study's lead author and a senior social research analyst at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "There is a need for increased training among community-based providers in high quality treatment techniques for PTSD and other disorders that are more common among veterans."

 

"Veterans and their family members face unique challenges, and addressing their needs requires understanding military culture as well as their mental health challenges," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, president of the Military Officers Association of America. "It's crucial that our civilian mental health providers acquire the training and perspective they need to guide their practice in the care of our military and veteran population."

 

The study recommends that organizations that maintain registries or provider networks include information about mental health practitioners' ability to properly treat the special needs of military and veteran populations.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141112102638.htm

 

Federal legislation ignores PTSD toll on civilians

November 11, 2014

Science Daily/Drexel University

Federal laws explicitly addressing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have overwhelmingly focused on the needs of military personnel and veterans, according to a new analysis. The study is the first to examine how public policy has been used to address psychological trauma and PTSD in the US, providing a glimpse of how lawmakers think about these issues.

 

"Although trauma and PTSD are serious issues affecting military populations, the raw number of people affected by PTSD includes substantially more civilians simply because the civilian population is so much larger," said Purtle.

 

"It's almost as if lawmakers didn't want to suggest that PTSD was also a disorder among civilians," Purtle said. "This gives a sense of how elected officials at the federal level might think about the dimensions of this problem, and shows that it doesn't match up with what's known about who gets PTSD."

 

The emphasis on military personnel in legislation addressing PTSD may reflect the history of the disorder, which first became known through cases in military members and veterans following combat experiences. The federal government's role in providing medical care for veterans could also contribute to the legislation's heightened emphasis on military PTSD in contrast to civilian PTSD.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141111124053.htm

 

Pregnant women with PTSD more likely to give birth prematurely

- November 6, 2014

Science Daily/Stanford University Medical Center

Pregnant women with post-traumatic stress disorder are at increased risk of giving birth prematurely, a new study has found. The study, which examined more than 16,000 births to female veterans, is the largest ever to evaluate connections between PTSD and preterm birth.

 

Having PTSD in the year before delivery increased a woman's risk of spontaneous premature delivery by 35 percent, the research showed. The results will be published online Nov. 6 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

 

"This study gives us a convincing epidemiological basis to say that, yes, PTSD is a risk factor for preterm delivery," said the study's senior author, Ciaran Phibbs, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics and an investigator at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University. "Mothers with PTSD should be treated as having high-risk pregnancies."

 

Spontaneous preterm births, in which the mother goes into labor and delivers more than three weeks early, account for about six deliveries per 100 in the general population. This means that the risk imposed by PTSD translates into a total of about two additional premature babies for every 100 births. In total, about 12 babies per 100 arrive prematurely; some are born early because of medical problems for the mother or baby, rather than because of spontaneous labor.

 

The effect of stress

 In other words, although pregnant women with PTSD may have other health problems or behave in risky ways, it's the PTSD that counts for triggering labor early.

 

"The mechanism is biologic," Phibbs said. "Stress is setting off biologic pathways that are inducing preterm labor. It's not the other psychiatric conditions or risky behaviors that are driving it."

 

However, if a woman had been diagnosed with PTSD in the past but had not experienced the disorder in the year before giving birth, her risk of delivering early was no higher than it was for women without PTSD. "This makes us hopeful that if you treat a mom who has active PTSD early in her pregnancy, her stress level could be reduced, and the risk of giving birth prematurely might go down," said Phibbs, adding that the idea needs to be tested.

 

Although PTSD is more common in military veterans than the general population, a fairly substantial number of civilian women also experience PTSD, Phibbs noted. "It's not unique to the VA or to combat," he said, noting that half of the women in the study who had PTSD had never been deployed to a combat zone. "This is relevant to all of obstetrics."

 

The VA has already incorporated the study's findings into care for pregnant women by instructing each VA medical center to treat pregnancies among women with recent PTSD as high-risk. And Phibbs' team is now investigating whether PTSD may also contribute to the risk of the mother or baby being diagnosed with a condition that causes doctors to recommend early delivery for health reasons.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141106173639.htm

Early Childhood Trauma Takes Visible Toll On Brain

October 16, 2012

Science Daily/Society for Neuroscience

Trauma in infancy and childhood shapes the brain, learning, and behavior, and fuels changes that can last a lifetime, according to new human and animal research released today. The studies delve into the effects of early physical abuse, socioeconomic status (SES), and maternal treatment. Documenting the impact of early trauma on brain circuitry and volume, the activation of genes, and working memory, researchers suggest it increases the risk of mental disorders, as well as heart disease and stress-related conditions in adulthood.

 

Findings show:

·      Physical abuse in early childhood may realign communication between key "body-control" brain areas, possibly predisposing adults to cardiovascular disease and mental health problems (Layla Banihashemi, PhD, abstract 691.12).

 

·      Rodent studies provide insight into brain changes that allow tolerance of pain within mother-pup attachment (Regina Sullivan, PhD, abstract 399.19).

 

·      Childhood poverty is associated with changes in working memory and attention years later in adults; yet training in childhood is associated with improved cognitive functions (Eric Pakulak, PhD, abstract 908.04).

 

·      Chronic stress experienced by infant primates leads to fearful and aggressive behaviors; these are associated with changes in stress hormone production and in the development of the amygdala (Mar Sanchez, PhD, abstract 691.10).

 

Another recent finding discussed shows that:

·      Parent education and income is associated with children's brain size, including structures important for memory and emotion (Suzanne Houston, MA).

 

"While we are becoming fully aware, in general, of the devastating impact that early life adversity has on the developing brain, today's findings reveal specific changes in targeted brain regions and the long-lasting nature of these alterations," said press conference moderator Bruce McEwen, PhD, from The Rockefeller University, an expert on stress and its effects on early brain development.

 

"In doing so, this research points not only to new directions for the improved detection and treatment of resulting cognitive impairment, mental health disorders, and chronic diseases, but also emphasizes the importance of preventing early life abuse and neglect in the first place."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121016132113.htm

Frequent 'heading' in soccer can lead to brain injury and cognitive impairment

November 29, 2011

Science Daily/Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Using advanced imaging techniques and cognitive tests, researchers have shown that repeatedly heading a soccer ball increases the risk for brain injury.

 

The researchers used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), an advanced MRI-based imaging technique, on 38 amateur soccer players (average age: 30.8 years) who had all played the sport since childhood. They were asked to recall the number of times they headed the ball during the past year. (Heading is when players deliberately hit or field the soccer ball with their head.) Researchers ranked the players based on heading frequency and then compared the brain images of the most frequent headers with those of the remaining players. They found that frequent headers showed brain injury similar to that seen in patients with concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).

 

The findings are especially concerning given that soccer is the world's most popular sport with popularity growing in the U.S., especially among children. Of the 18 million Americans who play soccer, 78 percent are under the age of eighteen. Soccer balls are known to travel at speeds as high as 34 miles per hour during recreational play, and more than twice that during professional play.

 

"These two studies present compelling evidence that brain injury and cognitive impairment can result from heading a soccer ball with high frequency," Dr. Lipton said. "These are findings that should be taken into consideration in planning future research to develop approaches to protect soccer players."

 

As there appears to be a safe range for heading frequency, additional research can help refine this number, which can then be used to establish heading guidelines. As in other sports, the frequency of potentially harmful actions in practice and games could be monitored and restricted based on confirmed unsafe exposure thresholds.

 

"In the past, pitchers in Little League Baseball sustained shoulder injuries at a rate that was alarming," Dr. Lipton noted. "But ongoing research has helped shape various approaches, including limits on the amount of pitching a child performs, which have substantially reduced the incidence of these injuries."

 

"Brain injury due to heading in children, if we confirm that it occurs, may not show up on our radar because the impairment will not be immediate and can easily be attributed to other causes like ADHD or learning disabilities," continued Dr. Lipton. "We, including the agencies that supervise and encourage soccer play, need to do the further research to precisely define the impact of excessive heading on children and adults in order to develop parameters within which soccer play will be safe over the long term."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111129092420.htm

Routine head hits in school sports may cause brain injury

November 14, 2011

Science Daily/University of Rochester Medical Center

The brain scans of high school football and hockey players showed subtle injury -- even if they did not suffer a concussion -- after taking routine hits to the head during the normal course of play, according to a new study.

 

The research, reported online in the journal Magnetic Resonance Imaging, is preliminary, involving a small sample of athletes, but nonetheless raises powerful questions about the consequences of the mildest head injury among youths with developing brains, said lead author Jeffrey Bazarian, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Emergency Medicine at URMC with a special interest in sports concussions.

 

Measurements in the study at hand showed many changes in the brain of the player with the diagnosed concussion; however an intermediate level of changes also occurred among the players who reported anywhere from 26 to 399 total sub-concussive blows. The fewest changes occurred in the control group, as expected.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111114133738.htm

Job Stress in Teachers Linked to Student Achievement

May 25, 2011

Science Daily/University of Houston

After 17 years of researching traumatic stress with war-afflicted populations (veterans and civilians) and job stress in the medical profession, Teresa McIntyre, a research professor in the department of psychology and the Texas Institute for Evaluation, Measurement and Statistics (TIMES), at the University of Houston (UH), decided to study another high risk occupation, middle school teachers in seventh and eighth grade.

 

"Middle school is probably the most difficult level to teach because student-teacher interactions are more difficult during this time, and this kind of difficulty in teacher-student interactions is a major source of stress for teachers at this level," McIntyre said.

 

"For students it's a time of adolescence and many changes developmentally, and that is going to affect the dynamics of learning, as well as the social relationships and climate in the classroom. It's going to affect the teachers as well. Our premise is that if the teacher is stressed, their behavior will be different with students, and they will perform differently with students."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110525181422.htm

Service members diagnosed with chronic insomnia may face increased risk of type II diabetes, high blood pressure

November 4, 2014

Science Daily/Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (AFHSC)

Service members diagnosed with chronic insomnia had a two times higher risk of developing hypertension and type II diabetes than military personnel who had not been diagnosed with the condition, according to a newly released health surveillance report of a study of the associations between these diseases.

 

Insomnia is a common complaint among service members due to career-related stress factors, such as frequent deployments with demanding military operations, varying work shifts, and the challenges of maintaining relationships with their spouses and families.

 

"This type of analysis has military relevance because it supports the notion that adequate sleep among our service members is important not only for accident prevention and work performance, but also for additional long-term health benefits," said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Paul E. Lewis, the author of the study and a preventive medicine resident at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

 

The association of chronic insomnia with hypertension was seen both in service members younger than 30 years of age and in those aged 30 years or older, with adjusted hazard ratios of 2.32 and 1.94, respectively. By gender, chronic insomnia had a stronger association with hypertension in men (adjusted hazard ratio of 2.17) than in women (adjusted hazard ratio of 1.59).

 

The adjusted hazard ratio was also greater for white, non-Hispanics (ratio of 2.26) than for black, non-Hispanics (ratio of 1.72). Both obese subjects and non-obese subjects had significantly increased risks of hypertension related to insomnia, with adjusted hazard ratios of 2.09 and 1.86, respectively.

 

Previous studies on this topic have provided conflicting results, with some demonstrating a strong association and others finding minimal to no association. There are several reasons why the findings of this study may not be directly comparable to studies in civilian populations. Military members are generally younger and have less co-morbidity than their civilian counterparts.

 

This analysis employed a longitudinal study design that allowed for follow-up of individuals over time, whereas many previous study designs did not allow evaluation between an exposure to a risk factor and a subsequent outcome. The average follow-up time was 3.09 years in the insomnia cohort and 3.42 years in the control cohort. These differences in methodology might partially explain the observed increased risks of hypertension and diabetes associated with chronic insomnia in this study but not seen in some other studies.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141104111156.htm

Coenzyme Q10 helps veterans battle Gulf War illness symptoms

November 3, 2014

Science Daily/University of California, San Diego Health Sciences

A high quality brand of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) -- a compound commonly sold as a dietary supplement -- provides health benefits to persons suffering from Gulf War illness symptoms, researchers report.

 

In a study published in the Nov. 1 issue of Neural Computation, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that a high quality brand of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) -- a compound commonly sold as a dietary supplement -- provides health benefits to persons suffering from Gulf War illness symptoms.

 

Forty-six United States Gulf War veterans participated in the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Each veteran had been diagnosed with Gulf War illness.

 

"Gulf War illness is not the same as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, signature illnesses of later deployments, which are caused by psychological and mechanical injury, respectively," said Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and principal investigator on the study. "Evidence instead links Gulf War illness to chemical exposures, such as pesticides or pills given to soldiers to protect them from possible nerve agents. These chemicals can damage mitochondria, which generate the energy our cells need to do their jobs. When these powerhouses of the cells are disrupted, it can produce symptoms compatible with those seen in Gulf War illness."

 

The connection to chemical and toxin exposures is fortified by evidence of mitochondrial problems in affected veterans, said Golomb, as well as evidence showing those veterans who became ill are significantly more likely than others to harbor genetic variants that render their enzymes less effective at detoxifying these chemicals.

 

CoQ10 is a fat-soluble antioxidant made by the body to support basic cell functions, including directly assisting mitochondrial energy production. Over a course of three and a half months, the veterans in the study received a pill form of either CoQ10 or a placebo. Researchers found 80 percent of those who received 100mg of CoQ10 had improvement in physical function. The degree of improvement correlated to the degree in which CoQ10 levels in the blood increased.

 

The researchers reported that Gulf War illness symptoms like headaches, fatigue with exertion, irritability, recall problems and muscle pain also improved.

 

"The statistical significance of these benefits, despite the small sample size, underscores the large magnitude of the effects," Golomb said. "Mounting evidence suggests findings in Gulf War illness are relevant to toxin-induced health problems in the civilian sector, so what we learn by studying health challenges of these veterans, will likely benefit others."

Golomb and colleagues are seeking additional funding to test a more complete "mitochondrial cocktail," which combines CoQ10 with additional nutrients that support cell energy and reduce oxidative damage to cells.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141103121020.htm

Fish intake associated with boost to antidepressant response

Science Daily/European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP)
October 20, 2014
Up to half of patients who suffer from major depression do not respond to treatment with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. Now a group of researchers has carried out a study that shows that increasing fatty fish intake appears to increase the response rate in patients who do not respond to antidepressants.

 

According to lead researcher, Roel Mocking (Amsterdam): "We were looking for biological alterations that could explain depression and antidepressant non-response, so we combined two apparently unrelated measures: metabolism of fatty acids and stress hormone regulation. Interestingly, we saw that depressed patients had an altered metabolism of fatty acids, and that this changed metabolism was regulated in a different way by stress hormones."

 

The researchers were looking at the relationship between depression and fatty acids, and various hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol. They took 70 patients with depression and compared them to 51 healthy controls, by measuring their fatty acid levels and cortisol levels. They then gave the depressed patients 20mg of an SSRI daily for 6 weeks, and in those who did not respond to the SSRIs the dose was gradually increased up to 50mg/day. Fatty acid and cortisol levels were measured during the trial.

 

They found that the MDD patients who didn't respond to the SSRI also tended to have abnormal fatty acid metabolism, so they checked the dietary habits of all those taking part in the trial. Fatty fish is rich in fatty acids, such as the well-known Omega-3 DHA. So the researchers looked at the amount of fatty fish in the diet of all involved in the trial. They categorised the patients into 4 groups, according to their fatty fish intake, and they found that those who took the least fish tended to respond badly to anti-depressants, whereas those who had most fish in the diet responded best to anti-depressants. Those who ate fatty fish at least once a week had a 75% chance of responding to antidepressants, whereas those who never ate fatty fish had only a 23% chance of responding to antidepressants.

 

Roel Mocking continued: "This means that the alterations in fatty acid metabolism (and their relationship with stress hormone regulation) were associated with future antidepressant response. Importantly, this association was associated with eating fatty fish, which is an important dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids. These findings suggest that measures of fatty acid metabolism, and their association with stress hormone regulation, might be of use in the clinic as an early indicator of future antidepressant response. Moreover, fatty acid metabolism could be influenced by eating fish, which may be a way to improve antidepressant response rates."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141020090142.htm

Common anesthetic procedure dramatically improves well being of veterans with PTSD

October 11, 2014

Science Daily/American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)

A single application of a common anesthetic procedure could be the answer to alleviating anxiety, depression and psychological pain in those suffering from chronic, extreme post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

In a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY™ 2014 annual meeting, researchers followed 12 patients with PTSD who had undergone a simple anesthetic procedure called a stellate ganglion block (SGB). This common procedure involves injecting a small amount of local anesthesia into the base of the neck. SGB is traditionally used to treat a variety of conditions, from pain syndromes to sleep disorders.

 

"While it doesn't cure the problem, we found that SGB appears to be a fast-acting and effective long-term treatment for chronic, extreme PTSD in veterans," said Michael T. Alkire, M.D., staff anesthesiologist at the Long Beach VA Healthcare System in California. "These improvements far outlasted what we would expect from SGB, which is usually used as a temporary nerve block and typically lasts three to five hours."

 

In the study, the patients each were given one SGB and followed closely with structured interviews and other psychological tests for six months after treatment. The positive effects of the SGB were evident often within minutes and resulted in significant improvement of scores for the Clinician Administered PTSD Score, or CAPS, the test used to measure the severity of PTSD.

 

Symptoms improved over time, and after one month, CAPS scores registered normal to mild PTSD levels for most of the patients. Positive effects were still seen at three months, but began fading and were generally gone by six months. Overall, 75 percent of the participants reported significant improvement of their PTSD symptoms after the SGB.

 

Data from the study further suggested that SGB might also be an effective initial treatment for depression and anxiety disorders.

 

"Further work is needed to identify which patients might respond best to this treatment as well as understand the mechanisms involved that produce such a rapid, dramatic and long-term change in psychological health for some patients," said Dr. Alkire, who also is a professor of anesthesiology at the University of California-Irvine.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141011172042.htm

 

Marijuana use associated with lower death rates in patients with traumatic brain injuries

October 2, 2014

Science Daily/Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed)

A survey of patients with traumatic brain injuries found those who had used marijuana were more likely to survive than those who had not used the illicit substance. The findings suggest THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, may help protect the brain in cases of traumatic brain injury, the researchers said.

 

The findings, published in the October edition of The American Surgeon, suggest THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, may help protect the brain in cases of traumatic brain injury, the researchers said. The study included 446 patients who suffered traumatic brain injuries and underwent a urine test for the presence of THC in their system. The researchers found 82 of the patients had THC in their system. Of those, only 2.4% died. Of the remaining patients who didn't have THC in their system, 11.5% died.

 

"Previous studies conducted by other researchers had found certain compounds in marijuana helped protect the brain in animals after a trauma," said David Plurad, MD, an LA BioMed researcher and the study's lead author. "This study was one of the first in a clinical setting to specifically associate THC use as an independent predictor of survival after traumatic brain injury."

 

The researchers noted that the timing of their study was "pertinent" because of current efforts to decriminalize marijuana and other research that has shown THC can increase appetite, reduce ocular pressure, decrease muscle spasms, relieve pain and alleviate symptoms associated with irritable bowel disease. But they noted that their study has some significant limitations.

 

"While most -- but not all -- the deaths in the study can be attributed to the traumatic brain injury itself, it appears that both groups were similarly injured," Dr. Plurad said. "The similarities in the injuries between the two groups led to the conclusion that testing positive for THC in the system is associated with a decreased mortality in adult patients who have sustained traumatic brain injuries."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141002123722.htm

'Mini-stroke' may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder

October 2, 2014

Science Daily/American Heart Association

About 30 percent of transient ischemic attack or 'mini-stroke' patients had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) results from a new study show. Those with PTSD had more depression, anxiety and reduced mental and physical quality of life. Patients overestimating their stroke risk and who don't cope with their mini-stroke well are at higher risk to develop PTSD.

 

Transient ischemic attack (TIA), like stroke, is caused by restricted blood supply to the brain. A TIA is temporary and often lasts less than five minutes, without causing permanent brain damage.

 

"We found one in three TIA patients develop PTSD," said Kathrin Utz, Ph.D., a study author and post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Neurology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.

 

"PTSD, which is perhaps better known as a problem found in survivors of war zones and natural disasters, can develop when a person experiences a frightening event that poses a serious threat."

 

The study is the first to analyze whether a TIA and the knowledge of an increased risk for stroke can lead patients to develop psychiatric problems.

 

Patients' fear of having a stroke and poor coping behaviors after a TIA may be partially to blame for them developing PTSD.

 

"While their fear is partly justified, many patients may be overestimating their risk and increasing their chances of developing PTSD," Utz said.

 

"When experienced together, the symptoms from TIA and depression pose a significant psychological burden on the affected patient; therefore, it comes as no surprise that we also found TIA patients with PTSD have a measurably lower sense of quality of life."

Even a brief neurological disorder, which in itself doesn't lead to a chronic disability, can be just as traumatic as an event like a traffic accident or natural disaster, researchers said. The way a patient normally responds to stressful situations may help determine their risk of developing PTSD after a TIA.

 

"Patients who use certain types of coping strategies, such as denying the problem, blaming themselves for any difficulties or turning to drugs for comfort, face a greater risk of developing PTSD after TIA," Utz said.

 

"It is not yet entirely clear why some people develop PTSD following a TIA, but others do not. However, what we do know at this stage is that younger patients and patients who in general find it difficult to cope with stress are more likely to develop psychological problems following a TIA."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141002162750.htm

Yogic breathing shows promise in reducing symptoms of PTSD

September 11, 2014

Science Daily/University of Wisconsin-Madison

New research offers hope for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Researchers there have shown that a breathing-based meditation practice called Sudarshan Kriya Yoga can be an effective treatment for PTSD.

 

One of the greatest casualties of war is its lasting effect on the minds of soldiers. This presents a daunting public health problem: More than 20 percent of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a 2012 report by RAND Corp.

 

Individuals with PTSD suffer from intrusive memories, heightened anxiety, and personality changes. The hallmark of the disorder is hyperarousal, which can be defined as overreacting to innocuous stimuli, and is often described as feeling “jumpy,” or easily startled and constantly on guard.

 

Hyperarousal is one aspect of the autonomic nervous system, the system that controls the beating of the heart and other body functions, and governs one’s ability to respond to his or her environment. Scientists believe hyperarousal is at the core of PTSD and the driving force behind some of its symptoms.

 

Standard treatment interventions for PTSD offer mixed results. Some individuals are prescribed antidepressants and do well while others do not; others are treated with psychotherapy and still experience residual affects of the disorder.

 

Sudarshan Kriya Yoga is a practice of controlled breathing that directly affects the autonomic nervous system. While the practice has proven effective in balancing the autonomic nervous system and reducing symptoms of PTSD in tsunami survivors, it has not been well studied until now.

 

“A clinician could use a ‘tool box’ of psychological assessments to determine the cognitive and emotional style of the patient, and thereby determine a treatment that would be most effective for that individual,” he says. “Right now, a large fraction of individuals who are given any one type of therapy are not improving on that therapy. The only way we can improve that is if we determine which kinds of people will benefit most from different types of treatments.”

 

That assessment is critical. At least 22 veterans take their own lives every day, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Because Sudarshan Kriya Yoga has already been shown to increase optimism in college students, and reduce stress and anxiety in people suffering from depression, it may be an effective way to decrease suffering and, quite possibly, the incidence of suicide among veterans.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140911151651.htm

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