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Concept: Psychiatry


Ayahuasca is an Amazonian psychoactive plant beverage containing the serotonergic 5-HT(2A) agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and monoamine oxidase-inhibiting alkaloids (harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine) that render it orally active. Ayahuasca ingestion is a central feature in several Brazilian syncretic churches that have expanded their activities to urban Brazil, Europe and North America. Members of these groups typically ingest ayahuasca at least twice per month. Prior research has shown that acute ayahuasca increases blood flow in prefrontal and temporal brain regions and that it elicits intense modifications in thought processes, perception and emotion. However, regular ayahuasca use does not seem to induce the pattern of addiction-related problems that characterize drugs of abuse. To study the impact of repeated ayahuasca use on general psychological well-being, mental health and cognition, here we assessed personality, psychopathology, life attitudes and neuropsychological performance in regular ayahuasca users (n = 127) and controls (n = 115) at baseline and 1 year later. Controls were actively participating in non-ayahuasca religions. Users showed higher Reward Dependence and Self-Transcendence and lower Harm Avoidance and Self-Directedness. They scored significantly lower on all psychopathology measures, showed better performance on the Stroop test, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and the Letter-Number Sequencing task from the WAIS-III, and better scores on the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale. Analysis of life attitudes showed higher scores on the Spiritual Orientation Inventory, the Purpose in Life Test and the Psychosocial Well-Being test. Despite the lower number of participants available at follow-up, overall differences with controls were maintained one year later. In conclusion, we found no evidence of psychological maladjustment, mental health deterioration or cognitive impairment in the ayahuasca-using group.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Snake scales, Perception, Mind, Psychiatry, Neuropsychological test


Four assumptions frequently arise in the aftermath of mass shootings in the United States: (1) that mental illness causes gun violence, (2) that psychiatric diagnosis can predict gun crime, (3) that shootings represent the deranged acts of mentally ill loners, and (4) that gun control “won’t prevent” another Newtown (Connecticut school mass shooting). Each of these statements is certainly true in particular instances. Yet, as we show, notions of mental illness that emerge in relation to mass shootings frequently reflect larger cultural stereotypes and anxieties about matters such as race/ethnicity, social class, and politics. These issues become obscured when mass shootings come to stand in for all gun crime, and when “mentally ill” ceases to be a medical designation and becomes a sign of violent threat. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print December 12, 2014: e1-e10. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302242).

Concepts: Health care, Mental health, Sociology, Mental disorder, Violent crime, Psychiatry, Mental illness, Insanity defense


Questions over the clinical significance of cannabis withdrawal have hindered its inclusion as a discrete cannabis induced psychiatric condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV). This study aims to quantify functional impairment to normal daily activities from cannabis withdrawal, and looks at the factors predicting functional impairment. In addition the study tests the influence of functional impairment from cannabis withdrawal on cannabis use during and after an abstinence attempt.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Ronald Fisher, Mental disorder, Clinical psychology, Psychiatry, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Cross-cultural psychiatry


Neuroimaging methods that allow researchers to investigate structural covariance between brain regions are increasingly being used to study psychiatric disorders. Structural covariance analyses are particularly well suited for studying disorders with putative neurodevelopmental origins as they appear sensitive to changes in the synchronized maturation of different brain regions. We assessed interregional correlations in cortical thickness as a measure of structural covariance, and applied this method to investigate the coordinated development of different brain regions in conduct disorder (CD). We also assessed whether structural covariance measures could differentiate between the childhood-onset (CO-CD) and adolescence-onset (AO-CD) subtypes of CD, which may differ in terms of etiology and adult outcomes.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Medicine, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Mental disorder, Psychiatry


Many patients show no or incomplete responses to current pharmacological or psychological therapies for depression. Here we explored the feasibility of a new brain self-regulation technique that integrates psychological and neurobiological approaches through neurofeedback with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In a proof-of-concept study, eight patients with depression learned to upregulate brain areas involved in the generation of positive emotions (such as the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) and insula) during four neurofeedback sessions. Their clinical symptoms, as assessed with the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HDRS), improved significantly. A control group that underwent a training procedure with the same cognitive strategies but without neurofeedback did not improve clinically. Randomised blinded clinical trials are now needed to exclude possible placebo effects and to determine whether fMRI-based neurofeedback might become a useful adjunct to current therapies for depression.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Neuroscience, Magnetic resonance imaging, Cerebrum, Limbic system, Psychiatry, Emotion


Some 5%-15% of all women experience postpartum depression (PPD), which for many is their first psychiatric disorder. The purpose of this study was to estimate the incidence of postpartum affective disorder (AD), duration of treatment, and rate of subsequent postpartum AD and other affective episodes in a nationwide cohort of women with no prior psychiatric history.

Concepts: Cohort study, Childbirth, Mental disorder, Schizophrenia, Psychiatry, Dysthymia, Mental status examination, Postpartum depression


BACKGROUND: Cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may be beneficial for treating depression and improving mood. However, evidence regarding their effects remains inconsistent, with some studies reporting links to mood disturbances. We aimed to conduct a meta-analysis to determine the impact of statins on psychological wellbeing of individuals with or without hypercholesterolemia. METHODS: Articles were identified using medical, health, psychiatric and social science databases, evaluated for quality, and data were synthesized and analyzed in RevMan-5 software using a random effects model. RESULTS: The 7 randomized controlled trials included in the analysis represented 2,105 participants. A test for overall effect demonstrated no statistically significant differences in psychological wellbeing between participants receiving statins or a placebo (standardized mean difference (SMD) = -0.08, 95% CI -0.29 to 0.12; P = 0.42). Sensitivity analyses were conducted to separately analyze depression (n = 5) and mood (n = 2) outcomes; statins were associated with statistically significant improvements in mood scores (SMD = -0.43, 95% CI -0.61 to -0.24). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings refute evidence of negative effects of statins on psychological outcomes, providing some support for mood-related benefits. Future studies could examine the effects of statins in depressed populations.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Evidence-based medicine, Systematic review, Randomized controlled trial, Statistical significance, Effect size, Psychiatry, Random effects model


Changing professionals' attitudes toward seclusion is seen as an important condition to reduce its use. The purpose of this study was to determine whether professionals from a mental health institute in the Netherlands changed in their attitudes toward seclusion after implementation of a multifaceted seclusion reduction program. Professionals working on four acute admission wards filled in the Professional Attitudes Toward Seclusion Questionnaire (PATS-Q) before and after a seclusion reduction program. Changes were analyzed by comparing mean scores on the PATS-Q. After the program, professionals scored significantly higher on ‘ethics’ and ‘more care’. As expected, no change occurred on ‘reasons’ for the use of seclusion. In addition, no significant changes were found on ‘confidence’, ‘better care’ and ‘other care’. Significant changes in professional attitudes concerning the ethics of using seclusion and involving issues of more care were observed after a seclusion reduction program. Mental health professionals moved in the direction of ‘transformers’, indicating an increased criticism of the practice of seclusion and increased willingness to change their own use of seclusion.

Concepts: Professional, Practice-based professional learning, Change, Netherlands, Psychiatry, Tess Gaerthé


Physical activity reduces the incidence and severity of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression. Similarly, voluntary wheel running produces anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects in rodent models. The specific neurobiological mechanisms underlying the beneficial properties of exercise, however, remain unclear. One relevant pharmacological target in the treatment of psychiatric disorders is the 5-HT(2C) receptor (5-HT(2C)R). Consistent with data demonstrating the anxiogenic consequences of 5-HT(2C)R activation in humans and rodents, we have previously reported that site-specific administration of the selective 5-HT(2C)R agonist CP-809101 in the lateral/basolateral amygdala (BLA) increases shock-elicited fear while administration of CP-809101 in the dorsal striatum (DS) interferes with shuttle box escape learning. These findings suggest that activation of 5-HT(2C)R in discrete brain regions contributes to specific anxiety- and depression-like behaviors and may indicate potential brain sites involved in the anxiolytic and antidepressant effects of exercise. The current studies tested the hypothesis that voluntary wheel running reduces the behavioral consequences of 5-HT(2C)R activation in the BLA and DS, specifically enhanced shock-elicited fear and interference with shuttle box escape learning. After 6 weeks of voluntary wheel running or sedentary conditions, the selective 5-HT(2C)R agonist CP-809101 was microinjected into either the BLA or the DS of adult Fischer 344 rats, and shock-elicited fear and shuttle box escape learning was assessed. Additionally, in-situ hybridization was used to determine if 6 weeks of voluntary exercise changed levels of 5-HT(2C)R mRNA. We found that voluntary wheel running reduced the behavioral effects of CP-809101 and reduced levels of 5-HT(2C)R mRNA in both the BLA and the DS. The current data indicate that expression of 5-HT(2C)R mRNA in discrete brain sites is sensitive to physical activity status of the organism, and implicates the 5-HT(2C)R as a target for the beneficial effects of physical activity on mental health.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Ventral tegmental area, Obesity, Cerebrum, Mental disorder, Psychiatry, Anxiety disorder


To evaluate perceptions of being mistreated during internship among first year Oman Medical Specialty Board residents.

Concepts: Medicine, Oncology, Physician, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Specialty