Similarity Between Schizophrenia and Dementia Discovered for the First Time
Researchers have, for the first time, compared schizophrenia and frontotemporal dementia—disorders that are both located in the frontal and temporal lobe regions of the brain. The idea can be traced back to Emil Kraepelin, who coined the term “dementia praecox” in 1899 to describe the progressive mental and emotional decline of young patients. His approach was quickly challenged, as only 25% of those affected showed this form of disease progression. But now, with the help of imaging and machine learning, scientists have found the first valid indications of neuroanatomical patterns in the brain that resemble the signature of patients with frontotemporal dementia. It is rare that scientists in basic research go back to seemingly obsolete findings that are more than 120 years old. In the case of Nikolaos Koutsouleris and Matthias Schroeter, who are researchers and physicians, this was even a drive. It´s about Emil Kraepelin, founder of the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry (MPI) as well as the psychiatric hospital of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU), and his term “dementia praecox,” coined in 1899. This was his definition for young adults who increasingly withdraw from reality and fall into an irreversible, dementia-like state. Kraepelin lived to see his concept refuted. By the beginning of the 20th century, experts were beginning to use the term “schizophrenia” for these patients, since the disease does not take such a bad course in all persons concerned. Kraepelin had the idea of a frontotemporal disease, he assumed that the reason for the sometimes-debilitating course of the patients is located in the frontal and temporal lobe areas of the brain. That’s where personality, social behavior and empathy are controlled.
Using digital devices could help improve memory skills, study finds
Using digital devices, such as smartphones, could help improve memory skills rather than causing people to become lazy or forgetful, finds a new study led by UCL researchers. The research, published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, showed that digital devices help people to store and remember very important information. This, in turn, frees up their memory to recall additional less important things. Neuroscientists have previously expressed concerns that the overuse of technology could result in the breakdown of cognitive abilities and cause "digital dementia". However, the findings show that using a digital device as external memory not only helps people to remember the information saved into the device, but it also helps them to remember unsaved information too. To demonstrate this, researchers developed a memory task to be played on a touchscreen digital tablet or computer. The test was undertaken by 158 volunteers aged between 18 and 71. Participants were shown up to 12 numbered circles on the screen, and had to remember to drag some of these to the left and some to the right. The number of circles that they remembered to drag to the correct side determined their pay at the end of the experiment. One side was designated 'high value', meaning that remembering to drag a circle to this side was worth 10 times as much money as remembering to drag a circle to the other 'low value' side. Participants performed this task 16 times. They had to use their own memory to remember on half of the trials and they were allowed to set reminders on the digital device for the other half.
Treating Mental Health Through the Microbiome
For decades, the treatment of mental health issues such as depression has focused on the brain and brain functioning. Depression has been understood as a disease of the brain, and research focused on associated neurological components (Ross et al., 2015). Psychopharmacology focuses on the correlation between psychotropic medication and symptom reduction. Certain psychotherapies aim to target maladaptive thinking patterns, schemas and resulting behaviors, and even alternative treatments, such as TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) and neurofeedback, focus on regulating brainwave states. But the brain does not exist in isolation, rather it's a component of a larger systemic function. Symptoms of mental health conditions, such as depression, are not limited to mental and emotional symptomatology, but also present largely as physiological symptoms (e.g., weight gain/loss, insomnia, gastrointestinal distress, lethargy, fatigue, and even hair loss). As such, understanding mental health struggles from a systemic perspective, including the immune system, gut, and microbiome is important in the cohesive treatment of such conditions.