Depression Damages the Brain, and Other News

The hippocampus is illuminated in a diagram of the brainDepression affects about 10% of Americans each year. But even when depression goes into remission, it can cause lasting damage, argues a study published in Molecular Psychiatry. Based on the brain scans of 9,000 participants, researchers concluded that depression can shrink the hippocampus, a brain region that plays an important role in memory and emotional regulation.

Hippocampal shrinkage was most pronounced among those whose depression started before the age of 21. Those who had recurring episodes of depression also had more hippocampal shrinkage. Participants who experienced only one episode of depression did not have smaller hippocampi. This suggests that a small hippocampus is more likely to be the product of ongoing depression rather than the cause of depression.

The good news is that shrinkage in the hippocampus appears to be reversible. Treatment, which might consist of therapy, lifestyle changes, and sometimes medication, has been shown to reverse the shrinkage in this important brain region.

Twitter Pulls Vine Ad After Criticism from an Epilepsy Charity

Flashing lights are a common seizure trigger for people with photo-sensitive epilepsy, a condition that affects 65 million people worldwide. When Twitter created a bright, flashing ad for Vine, Epilepsy Action spoke out, arguing that the ad put millions of people with epilepsy at risk. Twitter promptly removed the ads.

Guantanamo Bay Psychologists to Remain Despite APA Torture Fallout

Though the American Psychological Association publicly disavows torture, an independent report found that APA psychologists played a role in the torture of inmates at Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo Bay continues to employ psychologists, despite concerns about the ethics of mental health professionals using their training to torture inmates. An APA board has suggested that the APA officially ban psychologists from participating in torture. If approved, the measure could allow licensing boards to revoke the license of psychologists who participate in torture. The measure will be reviewed at the APA’s annual conference, which beings August 6.

Success in Adulthood Linked to Childhood Psychiatric Health

According to a study of more than 1,400 North Carolina children, even minor mental health issues in childhood can predict challenges such as addiction, early pregnancy, unemployment, and educational problems in adulthood. Overall, 26.2% of children had depression, anxiety, or a behavioral issue, with 31% experiencing problems below the diagnostic threshold. Forty-two percent had no mental health issues. In adulthood, only one in five children without mental health issues experienced major setbacks. But 41.9% of children with minor mental health issues were shown to face serious issues in adulthood, even if they no longer had psychiatric issues as adults. Among those with serious mental health issues, 59.5% experienced setbacks in adulthood.

Exercise Can Improve Brain Function in Older Adults

A six-month study of adults over the age of 65 suggests that more exercise leads to better brain function. One group of seniors did not exercise at all; three other groups exercised for 75, 150, or 225 minutes per week, respectively. Those who exercised saw improvements in spatial reasoning and attention levels, but the benefits were greatest among the group that got the most exercise.

Can Your Smartphone Tell You if You Have Depression?

Because depression often affects the way a person lives, it may also affect the way people use their smartphones. At least, that is what a group of researchers at Northwestern University hope to determine. The team developed a smartphone app called Purple Robot that uses data from a user’s phone to assesses the likelihood of depression based on how frequently a user leaves home, contacts others via messaging, plays games, or makes phone calls. The app is still in the development stage but appears to be potentially useful as a screening tool to identify those with an above-average risk of depression.

Americans Are Taking Less Vacation Time Than Ever—And It’s Hurting Their Relationships

A study of 1,200 adults suggests that Americans take fewer vacation days than they did 15 years ago. Many did not take all the vacation days they earned, and 70% even reported missing family functions in order to work more, leading to relationship and familial difficulties. Seventy-three percent of respondents said that they recognized the importance of spending time with their families, but that they found it challenging to create a healthy work-life balance. Planning vacations ahead of time may help families find time to reconnect.

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  • Callie

    Callie

    July 17th, 2015 at 2:16 PM

    Well at least it looks like the damage is reversible!

  • Laurel

    Laurel

    July 18th, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    I am not saying that the prisoners should get the country club, but having psychologists participate in their torture? There is something just completely wrong with that.

  • morgan

    morgan

    July 20th, 2015 at 10:42 AM

    Heck I am pretty sure that if more of us got paid time off from work then we would take more vacation time that what we do but there are some companies that do not even offer paid vacation or if they do it might only be like 5 days a year. It’s pretty hard to take a day here and there for rest when you also have to save those days just in case you get sick too.

  • sienna

    sienna

    July 20th, 2015 at 2:44 PM

    I understand the concern, but it’s not like they created that ad with the sole intent of hurting epileptics.

  • Olivia

    Olivia

    July 22nd, 2015 at 3:25 PM

    THERE HAVE BEEN NUMEROUS STUDIES WHICH HAVE CONCLUDED THAT THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE CANNOT BE STATED ENOUGH.
    WHEN IS THE GENERAL PUBLIC GOING TO TAKE NOTE AND UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS REAL STUFF, THEY ARE NOT JUST SAYING THESE THINGS FOR THE HECK OF IT, AND THAT IS PAST TIME FOR MOST OF US TO GET UP AND GET MOVING?

  • Lora

    Lora

    July 23rd, 2015 at 11:45 AM

    The last time we went on a family vacation I seriously thought that I was going to have to take my husband’s phone from him and throw it in the ocean because he couldn’t survive without it for one minute.

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