Oxytocin in Humans

Peter Forster Basic Science, Psychobiology

The February 2016 edition of Biological Psychiatry focused on the neurohormone oxytocin and its effects on both normal and abnormal human behavior as well as its potential role in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. This is apropos given that oxytocin has been described as the “love hormone” and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but oxytocin is involved in …

Body Mindfulness and Peak Performance

Peter Forster Physical Conditions and Health, Psychobiology, Self Care

Research from the UCSD Center for Mindfulness suggests that what distinguishes people who are resilient in the face of physical challenges from others may be a natural capacity for the kind of self-awareness that mindfulness teaches, in other words, that body mindfulness and peak performance may be inextricably linked. Psychologist Lori Haase, and her colleagues at UCSD, have conducted a series of …

TMS Stimulates Brain Growth

Peter Forster Psychobiology, Treatments of Depression

In a recent poster presented at the 2015 Society of Biological Psychiatry meeting Martin Lan and colleagues presented data from the first study of structural changes in the brain following TMS. In the study, 27 patients in an episode of major depression underwent MRIs before and after receiving TMS treatment. Several cortical regions related to cognitive appraisal, the subjective experience of …

Escitalopram Reduces Inflammation in Depression

Peter Forster Major Depression, Physical Conditions and Health, Psychobiology, Treatments of Depression

Escitalopram reduces inflammation in depression and potentially reduces neurotoxicity according to an article just published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. A pro-inflammatory tendence has previously been noted in patients with depression, and this seems to be associated strongly with increases in kynurenine (see below for more information on how exercise counteracts this tendency). Kynurenine is the first step in …

ABCB1 Gene Predicts Antidepressant Response

Peter Forster Basic Science, Major Depression, Psychobiology, Testing, Treatments of Depression

An article that will soon appear in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that it may be possible to predict who will respond to different antidepressants using a genetic test. The study looked at whether by testing for specific genetic variants of a protein involved in transporting drugs and other potentially toxic substances into and out of cells and across the blood …

Brain Differences in Bipolar Disorder Type 1 Versus 2

Peter Forster Psychobiology

A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in December 2014 looked at differences in the brains of people with Bipolar 1 versus Bipolar 2 disorders. It suggested that there might be quite significant differences in brain structure and function in bipolar one as opposed to bipolar 2 patients. The authors used 2 different techniques for imaging brains: one …

Anhedonia and Ketamine

Peter Forster Bipolar Treatment, Psychobiology, Treatments of Depression

Anhedonia, meaning the loss of the normal experience of pleasure in life, can be one of the most troubling symptoms of depression. And also one for which we have relatively few treatments. We know that a small group of dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmentum (limbic system) which project to the prefrontal cortex, among other locations in the brain, are …

Beta Catenin and Depression

Peter Forster Basic Science, Major Depression, Psychobiology

Beta catenin is a molecule that may play a key role in preventing depression in those exposed to stress, at least if mice and humans share the same biology. Beta catenin is involved in a number of quite different functions in the cell. To give you an idea, it may be involved in the development of cancer (it is a …

Brain Morphometry Separates Bipolar vs Unipolar

Peter Forster Diagnosis, Psychobiology, Testing

Brain Morphometry refers to a technique for comparing the sizes of different structures in the brain. A new study suggests that using MRI scans of brains it is possible to distinguish between bipolar and unipolar depression with some degree of accuracy (70 – 80% accuracy). The study looked at two separate groups of patients, one from Munster, Germany and one …

Bipolar Depression Neurobiology – 2014 ISBD Update

Peter Forster Bipolar Treatment, Psychobiology

Bipolar depression neurobiology is an area that urgently needs more research. The treatment of a depression that follows an energized (hypomanic or manic) state remains one of the most difficult areas in psychiatry. Mark Frye, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic, gave a presentation on this topic at the 2014 International Society of Biological Society conference that was …