The Chicago Tribune (10/18, Chan, http://tinyurl.com/SPD-DSM5) reported that the rate of Sensory Processing Disorder is on the rise.  To have sensory processing disorder, experts say there must be a significant effect on daily routine.  The disorder is usually found in children, though adults can have it, too.  “Everything’s coming in and getting messed up for them,” said Heidi Tringali, a Charlotte, N.C., occupational therapist who sees a lot of children with sensory issues.  “It tastes too strong, smells too strong.  They’re just disrupted – and their existence is so much more difficult than just a typical developing child.”

There have been few published studies on the prevalence of SPD.  But one study done in association with the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation estimates that one in six children is affected by sensory issues, which can range from mild to severe.  However, SPD has not yet been officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. It’s important to note the differences between a child with sensory processing disorder and a child who’s just picky or problematic, experts say.  For example, a typical child who steps from an air-conditioned room outside into the heat may whine and complain for a bit.  But for a child with sensory problems, it can be almost unbearable.  Kids can be clumsy, but children with sensory problems may struggle in vain to write with a pencil because the motor skills are just so off. Academic and social problems often ensue.  Sensory processing problems occur when the brain’s neurons can’t correctly interpret incoming signals, said Lucy Jane Miller, executive director of the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation in Colorado.  When the signals are mixed up, that affects the senses of touch, movement and balance, and space, she said.  In the sensory processing world, these are known as the tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive systems.  But there’s no cure for sensory processing disorder. Rather, occupational therapists help patients learn to cope.

The SPD Foundation is trying to get the disorder recognized in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” the official catalog of mental disorders. The next edition, known as the DSM-5, comes out in 2013.  Sensory processing disorder is divided into three categories.  The first comprises sensory over- and under-responders and sensory seekers _ people who may over react or under react to pain or noise, and people who may seek out bear hugs and crave lots of motion. The second includes people with sensory motor disorders, who may seem clumsy and uncoordinated.  The third encompasses people who have trouble discriminating between the different senses.  Recommended therapy includes weekly (if not more frequent) sessions and daily sensory “diets” that involve brushing the limbs with a surgical brush, putting tension on joints, doing exercises and doing heavy work to stimulate muscles and joints.

The Los Angeles Times (9/2, Roan, http://tinyurl.com/face-gaze) reported  that with autism rates soaring over the last decade, researchers are seeking the earliest clues of the disorder.  The quicker a child is diagnosed, the better the long-term outcome.  In the September issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, leading autism researchers say they think infant gaze is among the first clues of social functioning.   Infants who don’t exhibit this fondness for human faces, may be exhibiting one of the first signs of autism, the inability to socialize .  The researchers, from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and the University of Delaware, observed 25 6-month-old infants who were siblings of children with autism.  They were compared with 25 infants from families with no history of autism.   They found that the infants in the low-risk group were more likely to have normal social gazing.  The high-risk siblings, however, spent less time looking at their caregivers and more time focused on the toy. The study provides more evidence for early diagnosis, the lead author of the study, Rebecca Landa, said in a news release.   The lack of interest in people’s faces is “a subtle difference that could be easily overlooked by both parents and some professionals.”


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.

HealthDay (6/29, http://tinyurl.com/generic-eff-xr) reported the first generic version of Effexor extended release  (XR) capsules (venlafaxine hydrochloride) to treat major depressive disorder has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Teva said it will start shipping its version of Effexor, or venlafaxine, on July 1st, 2020. The Israeli company originally sought approval for its generic in 2006, but as part of a patent settlement with Wyeth  it agreed not to sell its version until July 1, 2010. Pfizer acquired Wyeth last year.  As the first company to file an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) containing a paragraph IV certification for this product, Teva has been awarded a 180-day period of marketing exclusivity.  Teva said annual U.S. sales of Effexor XR are around $2.75 billion.

The Houston Chronicle (5/20, Morgan, http://tinyurl.com/ADD-Women) reported that Deborah A. Pearson, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston said there are least 4 million American women with ADD/ADHD, but research focuses heavily on children, so it’s hard to pinpoint how many women are affected.  But at least one-third of children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD will continue to have significant symptoms into adulthood, Pearson said.  On top of that, little girls aren’t always diagnosed at as early an age as boys, since they display different symptoms.  “That little whirling dervish of a boy is being diagnosed in kindergarten or first grade,” Pearson said. “But a little girl, she’s daydreaming. She’s not causing trouble for the teacher, she’s not causing trouble at home. She carries on, until her academic achievement is affected.”  In adulthood, men with ADD/ADHD tend to have more problems related to hyperactivity, whereas women tend to have more problems related to attention deficit — which is why Pearson often diagnoses women of college age.  “Families structure teenagers all the way through high school,” Pearson said. “Then they get to college, they lose the structure their parents provided, and they’re at loose ends.”  “They’re in for an evaluation of their child, and they’re sitting there saying ‘that sounds just like me,’” Pearson said.  “There’s a very strong genetic component in ADHD.  It does run in families.  Dianne W. Appolito, LCSW and director of Stone Creek Psychotherapy and Wellness Center in Katy, said women can be successfully treated for ADD/ADHD with medication and counseling.  Accepting the diagnosis and “reframing the awareness of how their brain works” is the first step, Appolito said. 

HealthDay (5/27, Gardner, http://tinyurl.com/allergies-depression) reported that allergies may increase the risk for depression. “Depression is a very common disorder and allergies are even more common,” said study author Dr. Partam Manalai, in the department of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  “Allergies make one more prone to worsening mood, cognition and quality of life.”  A large peak in pollen particles floating in the air occurs in the spring, with a smaller peak in the fall.  This coincides with a worldwide spike in suicides every spring and a lower peak in the fall.  Manalai and his colleagues recruited 100 volunteers from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., who had major depression, half were allergic and half were not allergic to trees and/or ragweed pollen.  Volunteers were evaluated during both high and low pollen seasons, and also had levels of their IgE antibodies (a measure of sensitivity to allergens) measured.  “Patients with mood disorders who were allergic to an aeroallergen experienced a worsening in mood when they were exposed to the allergen,” Manalai said. “Patients who have both of these disorders might be more vulnerable to depression in peak pollen season,” he suggested.  “Treating those conditions might prevent them from having a depressive episode during high-pollen season,” Manalai added.  The findings might also help determone how much of the depression associated with allergy is psychological and how much is biological.  With that knowledge in hand, researchers may be able to find new therapies.

HealthDay (4/19, Preidt, http://tinyurl.com/Adhd-Cause) reported that an interaction of genetics and environmental factors may be the cause of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.  A study of 304 youths found that ADHD symptoms were more common in children and teens with high or low activity levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin and who blame themselves for conflict between their parents.  “To date, studies have mostly focused on the effects of genetic and environmental influences on ADHD separately,” wrote Molly Nikolas, of Michigan State University, and colleagues.  “Our work examines the interaction between a specific gene variant and a family environmental risk factor in order to determine their roles in the development of ADHD via behavioral and emotional dysregulation in children.”  The genetic region examined by the researchers is 5HTTLPR, which is responsible for regulating the production of a protein that transports serotonin.  Previous studies have linked this area to a number of personality traits and neuropsychiatric disorders.  “Overall, these results complement growing evidence suggesting that 5HTTLPR variants confer a liability for ADHD that is activated in particular environments, rather than conferring risk for ADHD directly,” the researchers concluded.  The study was published April 15 in the journal Behavioral and Brain Functions.

HealthDay (4/8, Dotinga, http://tinyurl.com/MCI-test) reported that  Doug Scharre, MD  has developed a brief memory test to help doctors determine whether someone is suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which can signal the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  In a study in the journal Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders, neurologist Dr. Douglas Scharre of Ohio State University Medical Center reports that the test detected 80 percent of people with mild thinking and memory problems. In a press release, Scharre said the test could help people get earlier care for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.  “It’s a recurring problem,” he said. “People don’t come in early enough for a diagnosis, or families generally resist making the appointment because they don’t want confirmation of their worst fears.  Whatever the reason, it’s unfortunate because the drugs we’re using now work better the earlier they are started.  “The test can be taken by hand, which Scharre said may help people who aren’t comfortable with technology like computers.   He’s making the tests, which take 15 minutes to complete, available free to health workers at www.sagetest.osu.edu

The Wall Street Journal (4/21, Naik, http://tinyurl.com/videogames-memory) reports a  large new study casts doubt on whether videogame based programs can deliver what they promise.  The hallmark of a good brain-training program isn’t whether it simply improves a person’s ability to do the specific mental tasks in the training, but whether it also boosts other cognitive skills.  The latest study, published in the journal Nature, found no evidence for such improvement.  “Our brain-training groups got better at the tests they practiced, and the more they practiced, the better they got.  But there was no translation to any improvements in general cognitive function,” said study co-author Jessica Grahn, a scientist at the Medical and Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, England.   In North America, the market for such programs increased to $265 million in 2009 from $225 million a year earlier, according to SharpBrains, a market-research firm in San Francisco.  Some $95 million of last year’s revenue came from consumers who buy commercially available brain-training programs.  The rest came from professional users, including schools, insurance companies and retirement communities.  The six-week online study involved 11,430 healthy participants, all viewers of a BBC television science program. They were first tested for their existing baseline cognitive abilities, and then randomly assigned to one of three groups, each with a different set of tasks.  One group took part in online games aimed at improving skills linked to general intelligence.   A second test group did exercises to boost short-term memory, attention and mathematical and visual-spatial skills—functions typically targeted by commercial brain-training programs.   A third “control group” was asked to browse the Internet and seek out answers to general knowledge questions.  The conclusion: Those who did the brain-training exercises improved in the specific tasks that they practiced.  However, their improvement was generally no greater than the gains made by the control group surfing the Internet.  And none of the groups showed evidence of improvement in cognitive skills that weren’t specifically used in their tasks.

HealthDay (4/12, Dotinga, http://tinyurl.com/antidepressants-stroke) reported that a new study in rodents suggests that antidepressants and mood stabilizers might help recovery in stroke patients. The drugs have been linked in rodents to a growth of new brain cells which reduced the severity of the strokes the lab mice experienced.  It’s too early to tell if the drugs will have any effect on human stroke patients, but scientists say they’re curious because their study showed that the growth of new brain cells helped mice recover from the effects of stroke.  Researchers at the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, Calif., studied mice that were genetically engineered to either grow new brain cells prior to a stroke or fail to grow them. Those who did develop the fresh neurons tended to have smaller strokes and recover more easily, although it’s not clear why.  The researchers didn’t test drugs on humans that appear to boost the growth of new brain cells, but they believe that notion is worth studying.  The study appears in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.