Functional Neuroimaging – Mapping Psychiatric Illness

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 4, 2015

The brightly colored areas represent brain activity in patients experiencing schizophrenic hallucinations.

Imagine being able to watch the brain in action – watching changes in brain activity when someone is thinking, feeling emotions, or performing certain tasks. Functional brain imaging (functional neuroimaging) does just that, allowing researchers to observe changes in the circuitry of a brain, non-invasively, under different conditions.

Functional brain imaging also is being used to understand which areas of brain circuitry are affected by psychiatric illnesses such as depression, anxiety, or psychosis. Researchers hope to eventually use this information to improve diagnosis and tailor treatment for patients with psychiatric illnesses. Ultimately, the aim is to personalize treatment by looking at profiles or tests in individual patients and predict how someone will respond to a particular treatment or combination of treatments. This approach could even identify new treatment targets.

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Don’t Leave Women’s Health to Chance

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 30, 2015

Dr. Paula Johnson

The author of today’s post is Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH, Executive Director of the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Did you know that, 20 years ago, women and minorities were not routinely included in federally funded clinical trials? That changed in 1993 when President Bill Clinton signed into law the historic NIH Revitalization Act, making inclusion of women in health research a national priority.

Today, we know that women are different from men down to the cellular and molecular level. We see these differences across all organ systems — from our hearts to our joints, lungs, and brains. The Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital is dedicated to exploring and discovering why these differences occur, and translating those differences into clinical care. However, roadblocks remain in research and clinical care. Here are just a few examples:

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Light Treatment for SAD: What You Need to Know

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 2, 2014

Light therapy is one treatment for controlling symptoms of seasonal affective disorder during fall/winter months.

Do you find in the depths of winter you don’t feel like yourself? Your energy level might be lower. You might feel irritable. Maybe you have difficulty sleeping. If you find yourself experiencing the symptoms of depression but only during wintertime, you could have seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder in which a person’s depression occurs repeatedly in a particular season of the year – most often people with SAD get depressed in winter when days are short. SAD is a form of depressive disorder and has the usual symptoms. What is unique to the specific SAD diagnosis is the seasonal timing. Evidence-based treatments for SAD include light therapy. This requires the use of a specific type of light box to mimic some features of natural sunlight. Today’s post, written by Janis L. Anderson, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), offers some tips for choosing the right type of light box to treat SAD. Dr. Anderson has conducted clinical SAD research since 1985.

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A Link between Insomnia and Depression?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 4, 2014

People with insomnia are twice as likely to develop depression compared to those without insomnia.

Contributors: John Winkelman, MD, PhD, studies restless legs syndrome (RLS), insomnia, mood disorders, and sleep-related eating disorders within the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). Hadine Joffe, MD, MSc, is Director of the Women’s Hormones and Aging Research Program in BWH’s Department of Psychiatry and studies depression in women.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly seven percent of adults in the U.S. experienced at least one major depressive episode during 2012. Women, in particular, are twice as likely as men to experience depression. Therapy and antidepressant medications are common treatments for depression, but can treating insomnia be another route to combating the mood disorder?

People with insomnia are twice as likely to develop depression compared to those without insomnia. Chronic primary insomnia, which is defined as sleep problems not associated with other health conditions, may increase a person’s risk for depression later in life. So what makes a person with insomnia more susceptible to future depression?

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10 Essential Health Screenings for Men

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 3, 2014

Every man should have their blood pressure checked regularly. This can be done at the doctor’s office or at home.

Detecting symptoms of certain health conditions early, when they are more easily treatable, is a critical factor in helping men stay healthy. That’s why getting all your doctor-recommended health care screenings in a timely fashion is the kind of to-do list that no man should ignore.

Below is information about ten important health screenings for men, including the appropriate timing for each

1. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Men between the ages of 65 and 75 who have ever smoked tobacco should get screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. An imaging test, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study, can help determine the presence, size, and extent of an aortic aneurysm. The major risk of this aortic bulging is a rupture resulting in severe or fatal internal bleeding.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder – Shining Light on the Winter Blues

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 22, 2014

You can work or read while treating seasonal affective disorder with bright light therapy.

Today’s blog post comes from Dr. Donald B. Levy, Medical Director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

In late fall, as the days shorten and the temperature drops, many people note a change in their behavior and mental outlook. This may include a slight downturn in mood and a tendency to eat more carbohydrates and gain a little weight. For some people, these symptoms occur annually and become severely pronounced and disabling – a syndrome called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

The symptoms of SAD may include depression, fatigue, sleepiness, carbohydrate craving, weight gain, and loss of libido. The biochemical aspects of this condition are not fully understood, but include a shift in the circadian rhythm, abnormal secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland, and abnormal serotonin metabolism.

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Fibromyalgia: Aching for Pain Relief

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 19, 2013

Fibromyalgia patients usually experience widespread pain and discomfort.

Today’s post is written by Dr. Edgar Ross, Director of the Pain Management Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).  The post was adapted from an article that appeared in the September issue of the newsletter published by the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at BWH.

Fibromyalgia is a poorly understood syndrome that is quite common but can be difficult to diagnose and treat. The symptoms of fibromyalgia include widespread soft tissue pain, disturbed sleep, fatigue, and characteristic tender points that are multiple and  diffuse. Conditions such as migraine headaches, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, restless legs syndrome, and temporal mandibular joint dysfunction are often associated with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia patients usually experience widespread pain and discomfort.

The processes within our bodies that can produce symptoms of fibromyalgia are not well understood. The leading theory suggests that the origins of fibromyalgia may relate to an over-reaction of the central nervous system to all types of sensation. These disturbances can have an impact on sleep. Sleep studies of patients with fibromyalgia frequently identify a lack of restful sleep.

Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms in patients can vary from visit to visit. In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology published a list of tender points that can be used to establish the diagnosis. Though laboratory testing is not useful for making a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, it can help rule out other conditions that mimic this condition.

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Your Health: Ten Things That Really Matter (Part 2)

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 26, 2013

Inadequate sleep can lead to anxiety, overeating, high blood pressure, difficulty concentrating, and other problems.

To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.

4. PREVENT DIABETES.

Patients with diabetes take longer to heal from injuries than those without. Diabetes can cause heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, impaired vision, and neuropathy. Although diabetes can come from a genetic predisposition, a high-sugar diet and lack of exercise are modifiable risk factors. Exercise, even without associated weight loss, can improve the body’s glucose control. Studies show that physical activity decreases your risk of diabetes. One hundred and fifty minutes per week (or just 30 minutes per day on weekdays) can reduce your risk of getting diabetes or reduce dependence on medications if you already have diabetes.

It’s never too late. If you have diabetes, you can still exercise. Just make sure you check your blood sugars regularly and be honest with your doctor about your exercise level. Together, you can come up with a plan to balance your exercise level and medications to help with blood sugar control.

TIP:  Use a pedometer!  It is much more fun to count steps than carbohydrates.  If you like the sweet stuff, try to avoid snacks with high sugar content, as they don’t make you feel full.

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Your Health: Ten Things that Really Matter (Part 1)

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 25, 2013

Health tip #1: Quit smoking.

To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.

1. DON’T SMOKE: IF YOU DO SMOKE, STOP.

Smoking promotes multiple medical problems, including chronic health issues like heart attack, stroke, osteoporosis, and cancer. The same is true for all tobacco-containing products, from cigars to chewing tobacco. Secondhand smoke should also be avoided.  Improvements in health, including lifespan and activity level, begin the day you quit. While quitting should be the goal, even simply decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke can improve your life. Preventive efforts, like lowering cholesterol, may be especially effective in decreasing risk for smokers and former smokers.

TIP: If you’ve tried quitting, keep trying!  Research shows it takes an average of three to five tries to quit. If you’re struggling, ask your doctor for help.

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Relief for Persistent Depression

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 13, 2013

Dr. Arielle Stanford helps treat persistent depression with transcranial magnetic stimulation.

A new option to alleviate severe depression symptoms that are not responding to traditional treatment can now be obtained during a series of one-hour doctor visits – even over the lunch hour – using a wand and an easy chair.

It may sound a bit like a scene from a fairy tale, but the science is real. Known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), the treatment uses magnetic pulses to target areas of the brain in people suffering from persistent symptoms of depression, despite available medications.

“Many people with more severe depression do not receive adequate relief from medications alone,” says Dr. Arielle Stanford, Director of the  Program in Brain Stimulation in the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). “TMS is a non-invasive and non-pharmacological treatment to relieve symptoms with minimal side effects. It’s the latest FDA-approved treatment in brain stimulation for psychiatric conditions, an exciting area in the field of psychiatry.”

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