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In the News for June 20, 2018

Each week I try to present a roundup of new research and newly published articles related to the topics I focus on as a therapist. These are articles from the past week.

Depression

A Test for Predicting the Best Treatment?

In the future, when you see a doctor for help with depression, you may be given an in-office EEG test. The EEG picks up brain activity through electrodes attached to your scalp. Researchers have shown that the EEG can identify patients who are more likely to respond to SSRI antidepressants versus responding to cognitive-behavioral therapy. This development would bolster the chances of getting symptom relief for your depression with the first treatment, something which often does not happen at present, causing people to have to try multiple treatments for their depression. You can read more here.

Gut Microbes and Depression and Anxiety in Obesity

Researchers studying mice found evidence that mice on a high-fat diet showed significantly more signs of anxiety and depression than mice on a standard diet. Intriguingly, antibiotics eliminated or improved the symptoms. This probably shouldn’t surprise us– after all, more serotonin is produced in our gut than in our brains and our gut (called the “second brain”) is full of neurons and tied into our brain. It makes sense that the bacteria in our gut can influence our mood and our health through their own byproducts and now science has identified another way this is happening.

Sleep

Depression Risk and Chronotype

In the famous Nurses Health Study, which more than 32,000 nurses participate in, researchers decided to take a look at the effect of chronotype on depression. Chronotype is the technical term for classifying whether someone is a “lark” (going to bed quite early and arising quite early), an “owl” (going to bed quite late and arising quite late), or someone with the typical schedule. This study is important because it involved such a large number of people and because, unlike previous studies, it accounted for other factors that related to depression and instead of looking at a single point in time, it ran for four years. Where previous studies found that being a night owl doubles a person’s risk of depression, this study found the risk was lower. This study found that accounting for risk factors for depression, early birds (“larks”) had a 12-27% lower risk of developing depression that the people with the typical sleep schedule. Night owls had a 6% greater risk of developing depression. It’s important to note, however, that that increased risk was not found to be statistically significant, meaning that it still was not at a rate beyond what you would expect if chance was at work. In the future, when you see a doctor for help with depression, you may be given an in-office EEG test. The EEG picks up brain activity through electrodes attached to your scalp. Researchers have shown that the EEG can identify patients who are more likely to respond to SSRI antidepressants versus responding to cognitive-behavioral therapy. This development would bolster the chances of getting symptom relief for your depression with the first treatment, something which often does not happen at present, causing people to have to try multiple treatments for their depression. You can read more here.

Treatment Options for Nightmares

If you read this blog, then you probably already know that I offer Image Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) to treat nightmares. IRT is the only treatment the American Academy of Sleep Medicine endorses for the treatment of Nightmare Disorder and PTSD-associated nightmares. To my knowledge, I am the only therapist in the Kansas City metro to offer IRT to treat nightmares. After conducting another review of the research literature, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has released an updated position paper and once again, IRT is the only treatment recommended for Nightmare Disorder and PTSD-associated nightmares. If you would like to read the AASM’s position paper, you’ll find it here.

You will find more information about IRT, or “nightmare therapy,” here.

Bi-Phasic Sleep

Did you know for much of history humans slept in two shifts, which is called bi-phasic sleep? That is, they went to bed early, when the sun went down, and slept for several hours. This was creatively called the “first sleep.” Around midnight, people would be up and active. Then after a couple of hours, people would again return to their beds for the “second sleep.” You can read more about this interesting topic here, as well as learn the answer to the question: should we go back to sleeping in two shifts now?

Just for Fun

Get More Enjoyment Out of Things

Researchers have discovered that novelty can help us enjoy familiar things significantly more than otherwise. For example, they had volunteers eat popcorn one popped kernel at a time and rate their pleasure. Then they had them rate how much they enjoyed the popcorn when they ate it using chopsticks. They rated the chopsticks popcorn more highly. It turns out that we quickly become habituated to stimuli– tastes, objects, etc. We get used to them and they become rather boring to us. Think about a slice of your favorite cake. I bet the first bite is better than the 5th bite and way better than the 12th bite. Researchers found that by approaching the familiar in a novel way, such as using chopsticks to eat popcorn, people paid more attention to the item and gained more pleasure out of it. I wonder what would happen if they tried this same approach on leftovers?

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