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According to a study published November 22nd in the New England Journal of Medicine by Paul Lichtenstein, Ph.D et al, “The use of medication to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [AD/HD] is linked to a lower likelihood of crime,” “Using Swedish national registers, researchers studied about 16,000 men and 10,000 women ages 15 and older who had been diagnosed with AD/HD.” Next, “court and prison records were used to track convictions from 2006 through 2009 and see whether patients were taking AD/HD drugs when their crimes were committed.”  The results showed that as compared with nonmedication periods, among patients receiving ADHD medication, there was a significant reduction of 32% in the criminality rate for men ) and 41% for women.

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Reuters (10/26, Pittman) reports that according to a meta analysis of 64 studies published in the journal Addiction, the medications naltrexone (Revia) and acamprosate (Campral) may be good initial treatments of alcoholism. Both acamprosate and naltrexone tended to work better when patients had abstained from alcohol for at least a few days before starting the medications, or had been through a detox program.  Acamprosate is known to calm brain activity, so it can stabilize a brain that gets agitated when an alcoholic stops drinking. Naltrexone,  works on the brain’s reward and reinforcement system, so if people were to drink while on the drug, it would block some of the positive feelings produced by alcohol and keep them from overdoing it.

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HealthDay (1/25, Preidt, http://tinyurl.com/minful-change) reported that a mindfulness meditation training program can trigger measurable changes in brain areas associated with awareness, empathy and sense of self within eight weeks according to a new study . Mindfulness  focuses on nonjudgmental awareness of one’s feelings, sensations and state of mind, which often results in greater peacefulness and relaxation, the researchers explained.  They used MRI to assess the brain structure of 16 volunteers two weeks before and after they took the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness.  The program included weekly meetings to practice mindfulness meditation and audio recordings for guided meditation practice.  The researchers also analyzed MRI scans of a control group of people who did not meditate for comparison.  The meditation group participants spent an average of 27 minutes a day doing mindfulness meditation exercises.  The MRI scans taken after the eight-week program revealed increased gray matter density in the hippocampus (important for learning and memory) and in structures associated with compassion and self-awareness.  The investigators also found that participant-reported reductions in stress were associated with decreased gray matter density in the amygdala, which plays a role in anxiety and stress.  None of these brain structure changes were seen in the control group.  The study will be published in the Jan. 30 issue of the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.

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USA Today (10/15, Zoroya TBI) reports the Army says it has discovered a simple blood test that can diagnose mild traumatic brain damage or concussion. “This is huge,” said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army vice chief of staff.Army Col. Dallas Hack, who has oversight of the research, says recent data show the blood test, which looks for unique proteins that spill into the blood stream from damaged brain cells, accurately diagnosing mild traumatic brain injury in 34 patients.  Doctors can miss these injuries because the damage does not show up on imaging scans, and symptoms such as headaches or dizziness are ignored or downplayed by the victims.  If the brain is not allowed time to recover and a second concussion occurs, permanent damage may result.  Brain injuries afflict 1.4 million Americans each year, says the National Brain Injury Association. Seventy percent are mild cases.  About 300,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered concussions, mostly from roadside bombs, according to a RAND Corp. study.  Hack says the new findings could rival the discovery of unique proteins in the 1970s that now help doctors identify heart disease.

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Medscape (6/24, Brauser, http://tinyurl.com/omega3-depression) reported Omega-3 fatty acid supplements significantly reduce symptoms of major depressive episodes (MDEs) for patients without comorbid anxiety disorders (ADs) compared with those taking placebo, according to a new study of more than 400 patients from 8 Canadian clinics.  Despite the availability of several newer antidepressants over the last 20 years, a substantial proportion of patients experiencing a depressive episode do not respond sufficiently to antidepressant treatment, are unable to tolerate antidepressants in order to obtain or maintain a clinical response, or refuse to take antidepressants despite substantial psychological suffering and disability notes the study author Dr. Lespérance.  Almost 54% of people with depression in the United States use some form of complementary treatment. In addition, the omega-3 supplements “seemed to be more efficacious for patients as a stand-alone treatment in comparison to adjuvant treatment,” reported Dr. Lespérance.

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WebMD (2/1, DeNoon http://tinyurl.com/fishy-psychosis) reported that twelve weeks of fish oil pills made teens at high risk of psychosis much less likely to become psychotic for at least one year.   A year after entering the study, 11 of the 40 teens treated only with placebo pills developed a psychotic disorder.  This happened to only two of 41 teens who began the year with 12 weeks of fish oil capsules rich in omega-3 fatty acids.    “The finding that treatment with a natural substance may prevent or at least delay the onset of psychotic disorder gives hope that there may be alternatives to antipsychotics for the prodromal phase”, Amminger and colleagues suggest.    People with schizophrenia tend to have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, suggesting that the mental illness could be linked to a defect in the ability to process fatty acids.  There’s also evidence that fatty acids interact with chemical signaling in the brain and that omega-3 fatty acids protect brain cells from oxidative stress.  The study appears in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

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HealthDay (http://tinyurl.com/aspirin-in-pregnancy 12/22, Thomas) reported the children of women who take low-dose aspirin during pregnancy because they are at high risk for delivering prematurely might have fewer behavioral problems at age 5.  In the study, French researchers used data on 656 children born before 33 weeks of gestation to 584 women from nine regions in France.  About 21 percent of the women took low-dose aspirin during pregnancy.  At age 5, children whose mothers had taken aspirin were slightly less likely to have behavioral difficulties or hyperactivity, though the results were not statistically significant, according to the study.   Still, much remains unknown about the role of aspirin in pregnancy, including exactly how well or why aspirin works.  One theory is that fetal growth restriction might be caused by tiny blood clots in the placenta, and aspirin helps blood flow between the placenta and the fetus. 

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