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Brain Damage, Behavior, And Football

In psychiatry, we’ve had a hard time drawing precise links between brain pathology and psychiatric disorders. We can do it for groups of people: “Disease X” is associated with changes in brain structure of “Brain Area Y” or metabolic changes in “Brain Area Z.” But it’s groups, not individuals, and it’s an association, not a cause-and-effect, or a definite. We still can’t use this information for diagnosis, and there are still patients with any given psychiatric diagnoses who will have brains where “Area Y” is the same size as those without the disorder. We’re learning.

From what I read in this New York Times article, Owen Thomas was a bright, talented young man with no history of psychiatric disorder and no history of known concussion. In April, he committed suicide — a tragedy beyond words.

Sometime people commit suicide and everyone is left to wonder: There was no depression, no obvious precipitant, no note left behind, and every one is left to wonder why. The guilt toll on the survivors is enormous, as is the grief for their families and communities. In this case, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the young man was apparently struggling with the stress of difficult school work and concerns about his team and employment.

Owen’s family donated his brain to Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. They discovered that Owen’s brain showed damage similar to that seen in older NFL players — he had a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Schizophrenia Caused By The Cat?

CatFrom the front page of [the August 1st] Baltimore Sun: Researchers Explore Link Between Schizophrenia, Cat Parasite. Frank D. Roylance writes:

Johns Hopkins University scientists trying to determine why people develop serious mental illness are focusing on an unlikely factor: a common parasite spread by cats. The researchers say the microbes, called Toxoplasma gondii, invade the human brain and appear to upset its chemistry — creating, in some people, the psychotic behaviors recognized as schizophrenia. If tackling the parasite can help solve the mystery of schizophrenia, “it’s a pretty good opportunity … to relieve a pretty large burden of disease,” said Dr. Robert H. Yolken, director of developmental neurobiology at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Teen Suicide: How To Recognize Kids At Risk

The coverage about Michael Blasil’s suicide raises important issues about how to really help depressed teens…and where to look for resources in our own communities.

In many ways, the coverage about the death of Marie Osmond’s son was excellent. The experts on all the news shows were spot on in discussing teen depression and suicide and all the news stations have posted important information for families on their sites. However, what was missing was the reality of how challenging it is to get care. All the experts  I heard this morning made comments such as “if your child is depressed for 2 weeks or more, you need to get that child into treatment because treatment does work in over 90% of the time.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*

Hydrogen Sulfide Gas (H2S) Suicides On The Rise

A year ago we wrote about a death of a San Jose teenager from poisoning by hydrogen sulfide gas, or H2S. At the time, I had hypothesized that the death might have been from an attempt at synthesizing methamphetamine gone awry.

But while one can mistakenly generate hydrogen sulfide gas from improper meth synthesis, I soon learned that intentional suicides with H2S is an increasing US trend imported from Japan. One can easily mix commonly-available consumer products to generate the gas and high enough concentrations can cause death. The gas acts in a manner similar to cyanide by binding to the heme in cytochrome c oxidase and inhibiting electron transport and ATP production by oxidative phosphorylation in the mitochondria. (Interestingly, small amounts of H2S are made in the body and is being investigated as a neurotransmitter and biological modulator.) Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

Update From Haiti: Despair Sets In And Women Consider Suicide

jangurleyDr. Jan Gurley just returned from a mission trip to Haiti, 5 weeks after the earthquake hit. In this audio clip, she relays a horrific first-hand account of the current realities of life in Port Au Prince. With no running water, bathrooms, or place to shelter – and packed into a field with 100,000 people – some young women are choosing to stop drinking water in an effort to commit suicide.

Dr. Gurley describes the loss of human dignity associated with the crisis in Haiti, including a near stampede when sanitary napkins were offered in a crowd of women. She explains that the place is becoming dangerous – and the screams of women being raped in the night fill the dark air. In the day time, people huddle together for safety while the stench of rotting corpses surrounds them. With the rainy season approaching, and tent cities perched precariously on land-slide prone hills, Dr. Gurley predicts a second wave of disease, violence, despair, and death in Haiti.

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