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A Challenge for Mental-Health Experts: Weigh In on Trump?

Chronicle of Higher Education

“I don’t think that, without an examination of an individual, one can make an assessment of the person’s psychological profile,” said Maria A. Oquendo, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who is also president of the American Psychiatric Association. An expert can observe the public behavior of a political candidate, Dr. Oquendo said. “But you really cannot know what is motivating the behavior or what the underlying thought process is,” she said.

Antidepressants in pregnancy tied to health risks for kids


There were no links between SSRI exposure in the womb and scholastic or motor disorders in the children, according to Dr. Alan Brown at Columbia University in New York City and his colleagues, who included researchers from the University of Turku in Finland. But as reported in JAMA Psychiatry October 12th, for children whose mothers purchased at least two SSRI prescriptions during pregnancy, the risk of speech and language disorders was 37 percent higher than it was for children whose mothers had depression but didn’t take the drugs and 63 percent higher than for children whose mothers didn’t have depression. “There is a possible association between SSRIs during pregnancy and speech and language delays,” Brown told Reuters Health.

What you gain and lose with meal replacements


For the average healthy adult, meal replacement bars or shakes seem to be beneficial only when they are replacing an unhealthy food item in your daily diet, said Sharon Akabas, associate director of the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University. “The question is, what would the person do if they didn’t eat the bar or drink the shake? Would they go to a fast food place and have a burger, fries and sweet beverage instead of the shake? In that case, any health specialist would say, go for the shake,” Akabas said.

Special Report: As death toll mounts, Duterte deploys dubious data in drugs war


Joanne Csete, a specialist in health and human rights at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York, said that the term “current drug users” usually refers to those who have used drugs in the past month. However, the DDB survey counts anyone who has used drugs in the past 13 months, which Csete says could inflate the number of users. “So the president can make up whatever numbers he likes – the survey does not adequately estimate current use,” she said.

Can Mental Illness Be Prevented In The Womb?


The prospects of choline supplementation in pregnancy have piqued medical interest, but also notes of caution. “I think the choline research is really intriguing, and we’re starting to investigate maternal choline levels as well,” says Catherine Monk, an associate professor in psychiatry and obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center. “Some prenatal vitamins do contain it and foods rich in choline are readily available. But we have a lot more research to do before we start recommending it widely.”

After a Fall, Then Another, a Devastating Diagnosis

New York Times

Dr. Lawrence Honig, a professor of neurology at Columbia University, told me, “Unfortunately, at this time, we have no proven treatments to affect the course of the disease.” Some patients get small benefits from carbidopa/levodopa, a combination of drugs prescribed for patients with Parkinson’s disease, but most don’t. Various drugs can be used to manage symptoms like drooling, urinary frequency, agitation, insomnia or depression, and “thickeners” can be added to drinks to make them easier to swallow, he said.

Drug reverses one baldness type; is male pattern next?


Dr. Angela Christiano, a co-author of the recently published study, had success with Xeljanz when she made it into an ointment and rubbed it on the skin of mice with skin engineered to be like the skin of bald men. The ointment was rubbed on the right side of the mice and not on the left, and the results are plain to see. Though she thinks men might have the same success with an ointment, she said the trick is that it has to penetrate properly. Compared with the paper-thin skin of mice, human skin is “much thicker, and it’s oily, and it’s deep, and it’s got a fat layer — so there’s a lot to think about when making a good topical formula,” said Christiano, assistant professor of molecular dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center.

Why therapy during pregnancy should be required

Washington Post

According to an associate professor of psychiatry and obstetrics from Columbia University, Catherine Monk, we should introduce therapy as part of routine preventive care on a universal level to offset that stigma. Her recommendation is based on research she and her colleagues have done on the effects of depression on women and their fetuses. The results suggest that, in fact, there’s a third pathway by which the risk of mental illness travels in families. “It’s not just shared genes or how children are raised in their environments — it’s how the woman is feeling during pregnancy,” she says.

Study links antidepressants in pregnancy with language disorders


In practical terms, if a depressed mother did not take antidepressants, her child’s risk of being diagnosed with a speech or language disorder would be about 1%, but if she took an SSRI, it would increase to 1.37%, explained Dr. Alan Brown, lead author of the study and a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center. “When you have relative risks that are 1.37, they’re considered to be low. But because so many people are exposed — 6% to 10% of mothers are exposed (to antidepressants) throughout the world — it’s increasing the public health burden,” Brown said, explaining that this burden amounts to more expenses.

Cancer in Retreat on One Front: Fewer Children Are Dying

New York Times

Dr. Julia Glade Bender, an associate professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, said that the reductions in death rates were the result of lessons learned in clinical trials that had led to small changes in practice. “Many hope for cancer breakthroughs, or cancer moonshots,” she said. “But it’s a series of well-conceived trials where we’ve studied minor changes in standards of care which add up over decades to substantial gains in survival.”

How stem cells could heal damaged jaw tissue

STAT Morning Rounds

Researchers have discovered stem cells that could be harnessed to create new cartilage in the jaw. The cells were found from the temporomandibular joint, or the TMJ, which connects the jaw bone to the skull. When Columbia scientists manipulated those stem cells in mice with TMJ degeneration, the joint began to heal and new cartilage began to grow. The findings are a first step toward a treatment for patients with TMJ disorders, which can cause pain and difficulty chewing. Currently, the only treatments are surgery or palliative care to alleviate a patient’s symptoms. The work will be published in Nature Communications.

This Gene Mutation May Make You Crave More Greasy Food

Popular Science

The results are exciting because they are the first to point to a genetic preference for certain kinds of foods, says Claudia Doege, who studies obesity at Columbia University. “We know that 40 to 60 percent of obesity is inherited but it has been very difficult to find which genes drives these cases,” she said.

The Human Remembering Machine

The Atlantic

“But that has always been a mystery,” says Stefano Fusi, a theoretical neuroscientist at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute. “What we wanted to understand is whether we can take advantage of the complexity of biology to essentially build an efficient [artificial] memory system.” So Fusi and his colleague, Marcus Benna, an associate research scientist at the institute, created a mathematical model that illustrates how the human brain processes and stores new and old memories, given the biological constraints of the human brain. Their findings, published today in a paper in the journal Nature Neuroscience, demonstrate how synapses in the human brain simultaneously form new memories while protecting old ones—and how older memories can help slow the decay of newer ones.

The Shame of Fat Shaming

New York Times

Dr. Michael Rosenbaum, an obesity researcher at Columbia University, explained: “Inevitably, you get these comments, ‘I know how to cure obesity. All you have to do is eat less.’ The idea that obesity is a disease has not caught on. The idea that once you have lost weight you are cured is wrong. Obesity is the disease that keeps on giving.”

Is marijuana a gateway drug?

Boston Globe

Denise Kandel, a professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University and a pioneer in the study of gateway effects, teamed up with her husband Eric, a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist, to look at nicotine. Their study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2014 and titled “A Molecular Basis for Nicotine as a Gateway Drug,” found that mice primed with nicotine had a substantially greater preference for cocaine than a group of mice given only water.

Unanswered questions surround baby born to three parents

Science Magazine

The limited information in the abstract left many wanting more. “Right now it’s just, ‘We have done it.’ It’s a claim,” says Dieter Egli, a stem cell biologist at Columbia University. Unanswered questions included what type of ethics review the IVF procedure received (the abstract notes an Institutional Review Board approved the experiment, but did not specify whether it was in Mexico or elsewhere), what medical follow-up the child would receive, whether this was the first time the group had performed the technique, and whether previous efforts were unsuccessful and went unreported.

Dementia at any age: Symptoms you need to know


It’s World FTD Awareness Week, spotlighting frontotemporal dementia, a serious ailment affecting the middle-aged. Don Newhouse, president of Advanced Publications, lost his wife, Suzi, to the disease, and his brother, Si, was recently diagnosed as well. Newhouse shares his story with TODAY’s Matt Lauer, and psychiatrist and neurologist Dr. Ted Huey explains that while Alzheimer’s disease affects the elderly, FTD typically manifests between ages 55 and 65. Learn the four main symptoms you should look out for.

How to manage your stress and anger as Trump and Clinton face off

New York Daily News

Instead of rehashing all the reasons you’re #NeverTrump or #NeverHillary, you could “focus mindfully on the message of the candidate that you support,” said Dr. Colleen Cullen, a psychologist at Columbia University Medical Center. Or — and Cullen acknowledges this might particularly difficult this year — you could try and understand the other candidate’s point of view “as nonjudgmentally as possible,” even if he or she won’t get your vote. You might also just accept the situation for what it is, Cullen said: “recognizing that whether you like it or not, these are our two candidates.”

Can Math Crack Cancer’s Code?

Wall Street Journal

Dr. Califano is the Clyde and Helen Wu Professor of Chemical Systems Biology at Columbia University and the co-founder of DarwinHealth. Dr. Bosker is the CEO and co-founder of DarwinHealth and CEO of CMEducation Resources.

Drug Used To Treat Blood, Marrow Disorders Can Also Treat Alopecia

CBS New York

It’s called alopecia areata. The autoimmune disease causes the body to attack hair follicles making it fall out in clumps and patches. The disease affects up to 7-million Americans. “It’s a lot of people, all ages — childhood, adults, males, females, genders, races equally,” Dr. Angela Christiano, Columbia University Medical Center said.

As New York Breathes Sigh of Relief, Bomb Victims Cope With Aftermath

New York Times

Victims of trauma might experience insomnia, irritability, hyper-vigilance, or a loss of or gain in appetite, said Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. They might be easily startled by loud sounds. “These are effects that will linger for some period of time,” he said.

America Is Not the Greatest Country on Earth. It’s No. 28


The researchers were able so far to evaluate just 70 percent of the health-related indicators called for by the UN. It may not be pretty, but “we have no chance of success if we can’t agree on what’s critical,” said Linda Fried, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

The Dangers of Snake-Oil Treatments for Autism

The Atlantic

Scientists have uncovered tantalizing clues about the underpinnings of autism, but those findings haven’t translated into drugs to treat key aspects of the condition. “We do not have treatments that relate in any way to what causes autism spectrum disorder, or that really relate to what’s happening in the brain,” says Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. “There are no quick fixes.”

Bariatric Surgery: The Solution to Obesity?

The New Yorker

“People often have moral judgment in this area,” Marc Bessler, who was among the first physicians in the nation to perform a bariatric surgical procedure laparoscopically, in 1997, told me. “But I don’t think that’s helpful. Our relationship to food is strange. We still don’t fully understand how things like refined sugars are affecting us.”

Too little sleep, or too much, linked to risk of heart disease


“We do not know the optimal amount of sleep needed to minimize the risk of heart disease,” but people who get less than seven hours a night or more than nine hours may be more at risk than their peers who fall somewhere in the middle of that range, said lead statement author Dr. Marie St-Onge of Columbia University in New York City, in an email.

Should dating apps have HIV filters?


Although an HIV filter could have the benefit of letting HIV-positive people meet others — avoiding potentially awkward and stigmatizing conversations — it also could have a dark side: creating a false sense of security, said Dr. Eric Schrimshaw, associate professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University.

Scientist’s guide to modern art


In Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures, Eric R. Kandel, the noted brain scientist, states that painting—from the Renaissance until fairly recently—sought to create the illusion of the three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional canvas. What makes this sort of painting convincing is not its realism or its naturalism. What is distinctive, rather, about what Kandel calls figurative art is that it affects the visual system in much the way that the depicted events and figures do or would. Painting in this tradition moves us, he argues, for the same reason that the world moves us.

6 New Zika Virus Cases Reported in Florida, Bringing Outbreak Total to 70

ABC News

Dr. Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told ABC News in an earlier interview that health officials will likely look at past outbreaks of dengue fever to understand how long a Zika outbreak will last. The dengue fever virus is in the same family of viruses as the Zika virus and spread by the same mosquito species, though it causes different symptoms and is not sexually transmitted.

Reconstructing Viruses

WNYC Radio

Vincent Racaniello of Columbia University has done groundbreaking research on reconstructing the DNA of viruses (sort of like microbial “Jurassic Park). The method was used to re-create the spectacularly lethal influenza behind the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, which killed between 50 and 100 million people. Why re-create such a monster? “Influenza is a particularly thorny virus that comes back over and over again. There’s always the possibility that a particular strain may come back,” he tells Kurt Andersen. “The 1918 [strain] was so deadly, knowing about it prepares scientists if it should ever come back.”

Zika presents a rare opportunity for researchers


Dr. Vincent Racaniello is a polio expert by trade and training who, like hundreds of scientists around the globe, dropped what he was studying earlier this year to focus on the emerging threat of Zika, a virus few people had ever heard of before it became a worldwide epidemic. He isn’t trying to cure the disease. He won’t develop a vaccine. And it’s unlikely he will discover any new therapies. But Racaniello, like so many of his peers, believes Zika may offer a unique opportunity to study an unusual virus and its effect on the developing brain.


Beta-blockers may prevent bone loss linked to antidepressant drugs


“Adding low-dose propranolol to depression treatment could potentially block an SSRI’s deleterious effect on bone mass,” said Dr. Patricia Ducy, an associate professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University Medical Center, said in a press release. “[This] may be particularly important for peri- and postmenopausal women since they are already at risk of developing osteoporosis.”

Promising Links Found between Different Causes of Parkinson’s


Asa Abeliovich, a pathologist and neurologist at Columbia University who was not part of this study, says the paper effectively links these two genetic routes to Parkinson’s: the garbage disposal problem and the toxic accumulation that occurs when cellular energy plants go awry. Abeliovich, however, thinks it is still speculative to conclude these problems are also to blame for the noninherited cases of Parkinson’s.

The Coming Trials of Generation Zika

Wall Street Journal

Dr. Lipkin is a professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Being treated for depression doesn’t mean you have it

Washington Post

“Over the last several years there has been an increase in prescription of antidepressants,” said Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at the Columbia University Medical Center and the lead author of the study. “In that context, many people assumed that undertreatment of depression is no longer a common problem.”

New York looks to expand medical marijuana program

Washington Post

A study by Columbia University Medical Center researchers this year found that enrollment is highest in western states with older, less restrictive programs and lower in more recent “medicalized” programs like the one in New York. Minnesota, which has a program similar to New York’s, has enrolled nearly 2,800 patients since its program started a year ago.

How Simplicity Can Unveil Insights in Art and Science

Wall Street Journal

Columbia University neuroscientist Eric Kandel has spent the bulk of his career trying to understand memory and how we remember. Rather than probing the human brain, much of his work has focused on a maroon marine mollusk. The sea slug, known as Aplysia californica, has giant, balloon-shaped nerve cells that lend themselves well to studying how they link up and how changes in their connections might underpin learning, memory and behavior.

Depression Is Poorly Diagnosed and Often Goes Untreated

New York Times

“There are challenges in aligning depression care with patient needs,” said the lead author, Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. “Extending the use of simple screening tools in primary care is a good first step. Most adults who screen positive for depression don’t receive any treatment.”

China seeing a rise in eating disorders

Los Angeles Times

Changes in what is considered an ideal body type, “some of which are coming from the West, are influencing where China is now,” said Kathleen Pike, executive director of the Global Mental Health Program at Columbia University. “But China has its own set of dynamics occurring that results in increasing risk.”