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Journal: Frontiers in psychiatry / Frontiers Research Foundation


Background: The demand for clinically efficacious, safe, patient acceptable, and cost-effective forms of treatment for mental illness is growing. Several studies have demonstrated benefit from yoga in specific psychiatric symptoms and a general sense of well-being.Objective: To systematically examine the evidence for efficacy of yoga in the treatment of selected major psychiatric disorders.Methods: Electronic searches of The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and the standard bibliographic databases, MEDLINE, EMBASE, and PsycINFO, were performed through April 2011 and an updated in June 2011 using the keywords yoga AND psychiatry OR depression OR anxiety OR schizophrenia OR cognition OR memory OR attention AND randomized controlled trial (RCT). Studies with yoga as the independent variable and one of the above mentioned terms as the dependent variable were included and exclusion criteria were applied.Results: The search yielded a total of 124 trials, of which 16 met rigorous criteria for the final review. Grade B evidence supporting a potential acute benefit for yoga exists in depression (four RCTs), as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy in schizophrenia (three RCTs), in children with ADHD (two RCTs), and Grade C evidence in sleep complaints (three RCTs). RCTs in cognitive disorders and eating disorders yielded conflicting results. No studies looked at primary prevention, relapse prevention, or comparative effectiveness versus pharmacotherapy.Conclusion: There is emerging evidence from randomized trials to support popular beliefs about yoga for depression, sleep disorders, and as an augmentation therapy. Limitations of literature include inability to do double-blind studies, multiplicity of comparisons within small studies, and lack of replication. Biomarker and neuroimaging studies, those comparing yoga with standard pharmaco- and psychotherapies, and studies of long-term efficacy are needed to fully translate the promise of yoga for enhancing mental health.

Concepts: Psychology, Pharmacology, Randomized controlled trial, Effectiveness, Mental health, Clinical research, Mental disorder, Psychiatry


Addiction’s biological basis has been the focus of much research. The findings have persuaded experts and the public that drug use in addicts is compulsive. But the word “compulsive” identifies patterns of behavior, and all behavior has a biological basis, including voluntary actions. Thus, the question is not whether addiction has a biology, which it must, but whether it is sensible to say that addicts use drugs compulsively. The relevant research shows most of those who meet the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for addiction quit using illegal drugs by about age 30, that they usually quit without professional help, and that the correlates of quitting include legal concerns, economic pressures, and the desire for respect, particularly from family members. That is, the correlates of quitting are the correlates of choice not compulsion. However, addiction is, by definition, a disorder, and thereby not beneficial in the long run. This is precisely the pattern of choices predicted by quantitative choice principles, such as the matching law, melioration, and hyperbolic discounting. Although the brain disease model of addiction is perceived by many as received knowledge it is not supported by research or logic. In contrast, well established, quantitative choice principles predict both the possibility and the details of addiction.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Brain, Drug, Morphine, Drug addiction, Heroin, Illegal drug trade


Throughout the world, drug and alcohol use has a clear adolescent onset (Degenhardt et al., 2008). Alcohol continues to be the most popular drug among teens and emerging adults, with almost a third of 12th graders and 40% of college students reporting recent binge drinking (Johnston et al., 2009, 2010), and marijuana (MJ) is the second most popular drug in teens (Johnston et al., 2010). The initiation of drug use is consistent with an overall increase in risk-taking behaviors during adolescence that coincides with significant neurodevelopmental changes in both gray and white matter (Giedd et al., 1996a; Paus et al., 1999; Sowell et al., 1999, 2002, 2004; Gogtay et al., 2004; Barnea-Goraly et al., 2005; Lenroot and Giedd, 2006). Animal studies have suggested that compared to adults, adolescents may be particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of drugs, especially alcohol and MJ (see Schneider and Koch, 2003; Barron et al., 2005; Monti et al., 2005; Cha et al., 2006; Rubino et al., 2009; Spear, 2010). In this review, we will provide a detailed overview of studies that examined the impact of early adolescent onset of alcohol and MJ use on neurocognition (e.g., Ehrenreich et al., 1999; Wilson et al., 2000; Tapert et al., 2002a; Hartley et al., 2004; Fried et al., 2005; Townshend and Duka, 2005; Medina et al., 2007a; McQueeny et al., 2009; Gruber et al., 2011, 2012; Hanson et al., 2011; Lisdahl and Price, 2012), with a special emphasis on recent prospective longitudinal studies (e.g., White et al., 2011; Hicks et al., 2012; Meier et al., 2012). Finally, we will explore potential clinical and public health implications of these findings.

Concepts: 1920, 1919, 1918, 1921, 1922, 1916, 1932, 1926


The claim that addiction is a brain disease is almost universally accepted among scientists who work on addiction. The claim’s attraction rests on two grounds: the fact that addiction seems to be characterized by dysfunction in specific neural pathways and the fact that the claim seems to the compassionate response to people who are suffering. I argue that neural dysfunction is not sufficient for disease: something is a brain disease only when neural dysfunction is sufficient for impairment. I claim that the neural dysfunction that is characteristic of addiction is not sufficient for impairment, because people who suffer from that dysfunction are impaired, sufficiently to count as diseased, only given certain features of their context. Hence addiction is not a brain disease (though it is often a disease, and it may always involve brain dysfunction). I argue that accepting that addiction is not a brain disease does not entail a moralizing attitude toward people who suffer as a result of addiction; if anything, it allows for a more compassionate, and more effective, response to addiction.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Medicine, Neuron, Brain, Human brain, Suffering, Compassion


Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impairments in communication and social behavior, and by repetitive behaviors. Although genetic factors might be largely responsible for the occurrence of autism they cannot fully account for all cases and it is likely that in addition to a certain combination of autism-related genes, specific environmental factors might act as risk factors triggering the development of autism. Thus, the role of environmental factors in autism is an important area of research and recent data will be discussed in this review. Interestingly, the results show that many environmental risk factors are interrelated and their identification and comparison might unveil a common scheme of alterations on a contextual as well as molecular level. For example, both, disruption in the immune system and in zinc homeostasis may affect synaptic transmission in autism. Thus, here, a model is proposed that interconnects the most important and scientifically recognized environmental factors. Moreover, similarities in how these risk factors impact synapse function are discussed and a possible influence on an already well described genetic pathway leading to the development of autism via zinc homeostasis is proposed.

Concepts: Immune system, Psychology, Organism, Apoptosis, Immunology, Autism, Human behavior, Neurodevelopmental disorder


Police and law enforcement providers frequently come into contact with individuals who have psychiatric disorders, sometimes with tragic results. Repeated studies suggest that greater understanding of psychiatric conditions by police officers would be beneficial. Here we present a novel approach to training police officers to improve their interactions with those who might have a mental illness. This approach involved developing a carefully scripted role-play training, which involved police officers (n = 663) interacting with highly trained actors during six realistic scenarios. The primary goal of the training was to improve empathy, communication skills, and the ability of officers to de-escalate potentially difficult situations. Uniquely, feedback was given to officers after each scenario by several individuals including experienced police officers, a mental health professional, and by the actors involved (with insights such as “this is how you made me feel”). Results showed that there were no changes in attitudes of the police toward the mentally ill comparing data at baseline and at 6 months after the training in those who completed both ratings (n = 170). In contrast, there were significant improvements in directly measured behaviors (n = 142) as well as in indirect measurements of behavior throughout the police force. Thus, compared to previous years, there was a significant increase in the recognition of mental health issues as a reason for a call (40%), improved efficiency in dealing with mental health issues, and a decrease in weapon or physical interactions with mentally ill individuals. The training cost was $120 per officer but led to significant cost savings (more than $80,000) in the following 6 months. In conclusion, this novel 1-day training course significantly changed behavior of police officers in meaningful ways and also led to cost savings. We propose that this training model could be adopted by other police agencies.

Concepts: Better, Psychology, Improve, Mental health, Mental disorder, Psychiatry, Mental health professional, Police


Study Objective: Animal data suggest that Δ(9)-TetraHydroCannabinol (Δ(9)THC) stabilizes autonomic output during sleep, reduces spontaneous sleep-disordered breathing, and blocks serotonin-induced exacerbation of sleep apnea. On this basis, we examined the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of dronabinol (Δ(9)THC), an exogenous Cannabinoid type 1 and type 2 (CB1 and CB2) receptor agonist in patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Design and Setting: Proof of concept; single-center dose-escalation study of dronabinol. Participants: Seventeen adults with a baseline Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI) ≥15/h. Baseline polysomnography (PSG) was performed after a 7-day washout of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure treatment. Intervention: Dronabinol was administered after baseline PSG, starting at 2.5 mg once daily. The dose was increased weekly, as tolerated, to 5 mg and finally to 10 mg once daily. Measurements and Results: Repeat PSG assessments were performed on nights 7, 14, and 21 of dronabinol treatment. Change in AHI (ΔAHI, mean ± SD) was significant from baseline to night 21 (-14.1 ± 17.5; p = 0.007). No degradation of sleep architecture or serious adverse events was noted. Conclusion: Dronabinol treatment is safe and well-tolerated in OSA patients at doses of 2.5-10 mg daily and significantly reduces AHI in the short-term. These findings should be confirmed in a larger study in order to identify sub-populations with OSA that may benefit from cannabimimetic pharmacologic therapy.

Concepts: Sleep, Sleep disorder, Agonist, Sleep apnea, Polysomnography, Obstructive sleep apnea, Cannabinoid receptor, Hypopnea


Incarceration affects the lives of many African American men and often leads to poverty, ill health, violence, and a decreased quality of life. There has been an unprecedented increase in incarceration among African American males since 1970. In 2009, the incarceration rate among black males was 6.7 times that of white males and 2.6 times of Hispanic males. Substance abuse in African American males leads to higher mortality rates, high rates of alcohol-related problems, more likely to be victims of crimes, and HIV/AIDS. African Americans comprised only 14% of the U.S. population but comprised 38% of the jail population. The cost of incarcerating persons involved in substance related crimes has increased considerably over the past two decades in the U.S. A reduction in the incarceration rate for non-violent offences would save an estimated $17 billion per year. Substance use disorder makes the individual more prone to polysubstance use and leads to impulse control problems, selling drugs, and other crimes. The high rate of incarceration in U.S. may adversely affect health care, the economy of the country, and will become a burden on society. Implementation of good mental health care, treatment of addiction during and after incarceration will help to decrease the chances of reoffending. Therapeutic community programs with prison-based and specialized treatment facilities, cognitive behavioral therapy treatment for 91-180 days, and 12-step orientation with staff specialized in substance abuse can be helpful. It is essential for health care professionals to increase public awareness of substance abuse and find ways to decrease the high rates of incarceration.

Concepts: Health care, Black people, Race, White American, African American, Native Americans in the United States, Barack Obama, Hispanic and Latino Americans


Background: The underlying molecular mechanisms of PTSD are largely unknown. Distinct expression signatures for PTSD have been found, in particular for immune activation transcripts. DNA methylation may be significant in the pathophysiology of PTSD, since the process is intrinsically linked to gene expression. We evaluated temporal changes in DNA methylation in select promoter regions of immune system-related genes in U.S. military service members with a PTSD diagnosis, pre- and post-diagnosis, and in controls. Methods: Cases (n = 75) had a post-deployment diagnosis of PTSD in their medical record. Controls (n = 75) were randomly selected service members with no PTSD diagnosis. DNA was extracted from pre- and post-deployment sera. DNA methylation (%5-mC) was quantified at specific CpG sites in promoter regions of insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2), long non-coding RNA transcript H19, interleukin-8 (IL8), IL16, and IL18 via pyrosequencing. We used multivariate analysis of variance and generalized linear models to calculate adjusted means (adjusted for age, gender, and race) to make temporal comparisons of %5-mC for cases (pre- to post-deployment) versus controls (pre- to post-deployment). Results: There were significant differences in the change of %5-mC pre- to post-deployment between cases and controls for H19 (cases: +0.57%, controls: -1.97%; p = 0.04) and IL18 (cases: +1.39%, controls: -3.83%; p = 0.01). For H19 the difference was driven by a significant reduction in %5-mC among controls; for IL18 the difference was driven by both a reduction in %5-mC among controls and an increase in %5-mC among cases. Stratified analyses revealed more pronounced differences in the adjusted means of pre-post H19 and IL18 methylation differences for cases versus controls among older service members, males, service members of white race, and those with shorter deployments (6-12 months). Conclusion: In the study of deployed personnel, those who did not develop PTSD had reduced %5-mC levels of H19 and IL18 after deployment, while those who did develop PTSD had increased levels of IL18. Additionally, pre-deployment the people who later became cases had lower levels of IL18 %5-mC compared with controls. These findings are preliminary and should be investigated in larger studies.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Promoter, Transcription, RNA, Transcription factor, RNA polymerase


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition characterized by intrusive and persistent memories of a psychologically traumatic event that leads to significant functional and social impairment in affected individuals. The molecular bases underlying persistent outcomes of a transient traumatic event have remained elusive for many years, but recent studies in rodents have implicated epigenetic modifications of chromatin structure and DNA methylation as fundamental mechanisms for the induction and stabilization of fear memory. In addition to mediating adaptations to traumatic events that ultimately cause PTSD, epigenetic mechanisms are also involved in establishing individual differences in PTSD risk and resilience by mediating long-lasting effects of genes and early environment on adult function and behavior. In this review, we discuss the current evidence for epigenetic regulation of PTSD in human studies and in animal models and comment on ways in which these models can be expanded. In addition, we identify key outstanding questions in the study of epigenetic mechanisms of PTSD in the context of rapidly evolving technologies that are constantly updating and adjusting our understanding of epigenetic modifications and their functional roles. Finally, we discuss the potential application of epigenetic approaches in identifying markers of risk and resilience that can be utilized to promote early intervention and develop therapeutic strategies to combat PTSD after symptom onset.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Histone, Epigenetics, DNA methylation, Psychological trauma, Nucleosome, Posttraumatic stress disorder