Pot’s distant relative may be next prozac

Man-made chemicals that are distant relatives of marijuana may eventually become new drugs to combat anxiety and depression, according to a California study. The study is the first to show how anxiety is controlled by the body’s anandamide system, a network of natural compounds known for their roles in governing pain, mood and other psychological functions.

Environmental Enrichment Reverses Learning Impairments from Lead Poisoning

Environmental enrichment that stimulates brain activity can reverse the long-term learning deficits caused by lead poisoning, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It has long been known that lead poisoning in children affects their cognitive and behavioral development. Despite significant efforts to reduce lead contamination in homes, childhood lead poisoning remains a major public health problem with an estimated 34 million housing units in the United States containing lead paint. The Hopkins study is the first to demonstrate that the long-term deficits in cognitive function caused by lead can be reversed and offers a basis for the treatment of childhood lead intoxication.

10 Keys to Recovery From Schizophrenia

UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute researchers have identified 10 key factors to recovery from schizophrenia. The findings open opportunities to develop new treatment and rehabilitation programs and to reshape the negative expectations of many doctors, patients and their families. Based on analyses of the professional literature and the cases of 23 schizophrenia patients who successfully returned to work or school with their symptoms under control, the findings appear in the November 2002 edition of the International Review of Psychiatry.

Depression more deadly for elderly men than women

Depression is more dangerous for elderly men than women, with depression starting in old age representing the greatest risk for men, according to a long-term study. “Depression may be an early sign of impending physical decline,” says study author Kaarin Anstey, Ph.D., of the Center for Mental Health Research at Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. “Or it may incur a physiological response that predisposes individuals to cardiovascular disease or cancer.”

Little Yellow Molecule Comes Up Big

Bilirubin has been a mystery of a molecule, associated with better health if there’s just a little more than normal, but best known for being at the root of the yellow color in jaundice and, at high levels, for causing brain damage in newborns. In the current online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team from Johns Hopkins reports that bilirubin and the enzyme that makes it appear to be the body’s most potent protection against oxidative damage.

Generalized anxiety disorder, peptic ulcers linked

A new finding of a link between an anxiety disorder and peptic ulcer disease lends support to the view that this gastrointestinal disease and anxiety disorder may share a common link. In recent years, attention has focused on a more biological element with the identification of bacteria as a cause of peptic ulcers. “The identification of Helicobacter pylori as an infectious cause of peptic ulcer disease has been considered by many to disprove the possibility that there is an important relationship between anxiety disorders and gastrointestinal disease,” says study author Renee D. Goodwin, Ph.D., from the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City. “Over the last several years research on the causes and treatments for peptic ulcer disease has neglected the links with psychiatric/psychological factors,” she notes.

Feeling stressed can lower vaccine’s effectiveness

A person’s state of mind may influence the body’s response to a vaccine against meningitis C, suggests new research. The findings support previous research showing a link between psychological factors and antibody response to vaccines. The results of a broad survey revealed that a high level of perceived life stress, but not actual stress, was associated with low antibody levels. A low level of psychological well being – feeling anxious or under strain, for example – was also linked to low antibody levels.

Mother’s marital status, not age, linked to later depression

The age a mother first gives birth may be less relevant to her chance of later-life depression than her marital status, according to new research showing that unmarried teenage mothers and unmarried adult mothers have similar levels of depressive symptoms in their late 20s. The study also found that living in a female-headed family at age 14, living with a stepfather at age 14, having low self-esteem in mid-adolescence and having poor verbal and math skills predicted depressive symptoms in young adulthood.

Brain’s perception depends upon the source of cues, researchers find

When the human brain is presented with conflicting information about an object from different senses, it finds a remarkably efficient way to sort out the discrepancies, according to new research conducted at the University of California, Berkeley. The researchers found that when sensory cues from the hands and eyes differ from one another, the brain effectively splits the difference to produce a single mental image. The researchers describe the middle ground as a “weighted average” because in any given individual, one sense may have more influence than the other. When the discrepancy is too large, however, the brain reverts to information from a single cue – from the eyes, for instance – to make a judgment about what is true.

Hostility may be better predictor of heart disease than smoking, cholesterol

Hostility may predict heart disease more often than traditional coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors like high cholesterol, cigarette smoking and weight, according to research reported on in the November issue of Health Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA). Using a sample of 774 older White men (average age was 60) from the Normative Aging Study, lead researcher Raymond Niaura, Ph.D., and colleagues sought to determine whether hostility was an independent influence or a contributing factor in CHD development. Hostility levels, blood lipids, fasting insulin, blood pressure, body measurement index (BMI), weight-hip ratio (WHR), diet, alcohol intake, smoking and education attainment were assessed over a three year period beginning in 1986.