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-- Walter Cronkite

The following articles are provided courtesy of NIMH - National Institute of Mental Health. For more news and information, visit NIMH - Press Room.

Gene May Bias Amygdala Response to Frightful Faces
The amygdala, the brain structure known as the hub of fear, responds differently to pictures of scary faces, depending on which version of a gene one has inherited, report National Institute of Mental Health scientists. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans revealed that subjects who inherited one or two copies of the short variant of the human serotonin transporter gene experienced greater activation of the amygdala when shown the pictures than those with two copies of the long variant of the gene. The gene's effect on the amygdala's response to emotional stimuli may help shape a dimension of temperament,

Gene Slows Frontal Lobes, Boosts Schizophrenia Risk
National Institute of Mental Health scientists have linked a gene variant that reduces dopamine activity in the prefrontal cortex to poorer performance and inefficient functioning of that brain region during working memory tasks, and to slightly increased risk for schizophrenia. The finding, which must still be confirmed by independent teams of investigators, emerged from an ongoing study of people with schizophrenia and their siblings. The study is among the first to suggest a mechanism by which a gene might confer susceptibility to a mental illness, say the researchers. Daniel Weinberger, M.D., Michael Egan, M.D., NIMH Clinical Brain Disorders Branch, and colleagues, report on their results in the May 29, 2001 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Imaging Study Shows How Cholinesterase Inhibitor
Scientists from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have used functional brain imaging to show how visual working memory may be affected by a class of drugs that is used with modest effectiveness to improve cognitive functioning in some patients with Alzheimer's Disease (AD). This class of drugs, cholinesterase inhibitors, includes the only FDA-approved treatments for AD.

Landmark Bipolar Disorder Study Seeks to Raise Standard of Care
The National Institute of Mental Health has launched a nationwide study to improve the treatment of bipolar disorder, a disabling disease that annually costs the Nation billions in lost productivity and increases the risk of suicide among the 2.3 million Americans who suffer with the disease. The $22 million study – the largest of its kind, recruiting 5,000 participants at 18 centers across the country – will look for the most effective treatments in order to raise the standard of care for individuals with the disorder.

Lithium Shows Promise Against Alzheimer’s in Mouse Model
An enzyme crucial to formation of Alzheimer’s plaques and tangles may hold promise as a target for future medications, suggest studies in mice and cells. By blocking the enzyme, lithium stems the accumulation of beta amyloid, which forms Alzheimer’s plaques, scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) report in the May 22, 2003 Nature. Inhibiting the enzyme, glycogen synthase kinase – 3 alpha (GSK-3 alpha), also blocks formation of neurofibrilary tangles by the tau protein.

Medication and Psychotherapy Treat Depression in Low-Income Minority Women
Treatment with medication or psychotherapy reduced depressive symptoms in women from minority populations, according to research funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Most of the participants in the controlled trial were low-income African-American and Latino women who are at high risk for depression and use county health and welfare services. Research findings appear in the July 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Medication Effective in Treating Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents
A multi-site study to evaluate treatments for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), found that a medication was more than twice as effective as the placebo, or sugar pill. The research trial, which cost $1.7 million, involved 128 children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 over a period of eight weeks. Symptoms improved in 76 percent of those randomly assigned to take the medication, compared to only 29 percent of those in the placebo group. The study, "Fluvoxamine For The Treatment Of Anxiety Disorders In Children And Adolescents," is being published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Mimicking brain's "all clear" quells fear in rats
Researchers funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have discovered a high tech way to quell panic in rats. They have detected the brain's equivalent of an "all clear" signal, that, when simulated, turns off fear. The discovery could lead to non-drug, physiological treatments for runaway fear responses seen in anxiety disorders.

New Program Treats Rural Youth And Targets Barriers To Care
Adolescents and teens with emotional and behavioral problems will receive treatment as part of a new study in eight of the poorest Appalachian counties in Eastern Tennessee. Researchers will work with judges, school administrators, and community leaders to overcome barriers to mental health services. The project is structured to ensure that successful therapies and partnerships with state funding agencies and organizations will continue after the study ends. The 5-year, more than $4 million grant to the University of Tennessee was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

NIMH Study Finds Anti-Psychotic Medication Useful in Treating Serious Behavioral Problems among Children with Autism
One of a newer class of anti-psychotic medications was successful and well tolerated for the treatment of serious behavioral disturbances associated with autistic disorder in children ages 5 to 17. The findings of the large, multi-site, eight-week, placebo-controlled clinical trial, which was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), are being published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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