Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Depression: An evolutionary byproduct of immune system?

Depression: An evolutionary byproduct of immune system?

From the 3 March 2012 article at Science News Daily

 Depression is common enough — afflicting one in ten adults in the United States — that it seems the possibility of depression must be “hard-wired” into our brains. This has led biologists to propose several theories to account for how depression, or behaviors linked to it, can somehow offer an evolutionary advantage

Some previous proposals for the role of depression in evolution have focused on how it affects behavior in a social context. A pair of psychiatrists addresses this puzzle in a different way, tying together depression and resistance to infection. They propose that genetic variations that promote depression arose during evolution because they helped our ancestors fight infection….

“The basic idea is that depression and the genes that promote it were very adaptive for helping people — especially young children — not die of infection in the ancestral environment, even if those same behaviors are not helpful in our relationships with other people,” Raison says.

Infection was the major cause of death in humans’ early history, so surviving infection was a key determinant in whether someone was able to pass on his or her genes. The authors propose that evolution and genetics have bound together depressive symptoms and physiological responses that were selected on the basis of reducing mortality from infection. Fever, fatigue/inactivity, social avoidance and anorexia can all be seen as adaptive behaviors in light of the need to contain infection, they write.

The theory provides a new explanation for why stress is a risk factor for depression. The link between stress and depression can be seen as the byproduct of a process that preactivates the immune system in anticipation of a wound, they write….

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

Most ‘locked-in syndrome’ patients say they are happy

Most ‘locked-in syndrome’ patients say they are happy
A survey on self-assessed well-being in a cohort of chronic locked-in syndrome patients: happy majority, miserable minority

BMJ Open

From the February 25, 2011 Eureka news alert

Most “locked-in syndrome” patients say they are happy, and many of the factors reported by those who say they are unhappy can be improved, suggest the results of the largest survey of its kind, published in the launch issue of the new online journal BMJ Open.***

The findings are likely to challenge the perception that these patients can no longer enjoy quality of life and are candidates for euthanasia or assisted suicide, say the authors.

The research team quizzed 168 members of the French Association for Locked in Syndrome on their medical history and emotional state, and their views on end of life issues, using validated questionnaires.

Locked-in syndrome describes a condition in which a person is fully conscious, but cannot move or communicate, save through eye movements or blinking. The syndrome is caused by brain stem injury, and those affected can survive for decades.

In all, 91 people replied, giving a response rate of 54%. Around two thirds had a partner and lived at home, and most (70%) had religious beliefs.

There were no obvious differences between those who expressed happiness or unhappiness, but not unexpectedly, depression, suicidal thoughts, and a desire not to be resuscitated, should the need arise, or for euthanasia were more common among those who said they were unhappy.

Over half the respondents acknowledged severe restrictions on their ability to reintegrate back into the community and lead a normal life. Only one in five were able to partake in everyday activities they considered important.

Nevertheless, most (72%) said they were happy.

Only four of the 59 people (7%) who responded to the question asking whether they wanted to opt for euthanasia, said they wished to do so.

Among the 28% who said they were unhappy, difficulties getting around, restrictions on recreational/social activities, and coping with life events were the sources of their unhappiness.

But a shorter period in the syndrome – under a year – feeling anxious, and not recovering speech were also associated with unhappiness.

A greater focus on rehabilitation and more aggressive treatment of anxiety could therefore make a big difference, say the authors, who emphasise that it can take these patients a year or more to adapt to this huge change in their circumstances.

“Our data show that, whatever the physical devastation and mental distress of [these] patients during the acute phase of the condition, optimal life sustaining care and revalidation can have major long term benefit,” they write. “We suggest that patients recently struck by [the syndrome] should be informed that, given proper care, they have a considerable chance of regaining a happy life,” they add.

And they conclude: “In our view, shortening of life requests … are valid only when the patients have been give a chance to attain a steady state of subjective wellbeing.”

***BMJ Open ” is an online-only, open access general medical journal, dedicated to publishing medical research from all disciplines and therapeutic areas. The journal publishes all research study types, from study protocols to phase I trials to meta-analyses, including small or potentially low-impact studies. Publishing procedures are built around fully open peer review and continuous publication, publishing research online as soon as the article is ready.

 

BMJ Open aims to promote transparency in the publication process by publishing reviewer reports and previous versions of manuscripts as pre-publication histories. Authors are asked to pay article-processing charges on acceptance; the ability to pay does not influence editorial decisions.”

 

 

 

 

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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