How electrodes in the brain block obsessive behaviour

Deep brain stimulation helps some people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but no one was quite sure why it is effective. A new study offers an explanation: the stimulation has surprisingly pervasive effects, fixing abnormal signalling between different parts of the brain.

A small number of people with difficult-to-treat OCD have had electrodes permanently implanted deep within their brain. Stimulating these electrodes reduces their symptoms.

To work out why stimulation has this effect, Damiaan Denys and Martijn Figee at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues recorded neural activity in people with electrodes implanted into a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. This region is vital for conveying motivational and emotional information to the frontal cortex to guide decisions on what actions to take next. In some people with OCD, feedback loops between the two get jammed, leading them to do the same task repeatedly to reduce anxiety.

Surplus signalling

The researchers took fMRI scans as participants rested. In 13 people with OCD and implanted electrodes, there was continuous and excessive exchange of signals between the nucleus accumbens and the frontal cortex that was not seen in 11 control subjects. When the electrodes were activated, though, the neural activity of both brain regions in the people with OCD became virtually identical to that in the controls.

The researchers also used EEGs to monitor electrical activity in the brain as the 13 people with OCD viewed images linked with their obsessions, such as cleaning toilets. This time, the team observed excessive activity in the frontal cortex – and again, this activity disappeared when the electrodes were activated.

“The most striking thing is that stimulation doesn’t just affect the nucleus accumbens, but the whole network linked up with the cortex,” says Figee.

The study suggests that the electrodes do more than normalise brain activity at the site where they are implanted, as had been assumed. Rather, they appear to repair entire brain circuits that had been faulty. “It resets and normalises these circuits,” says Figee.

Thomas Schlaepfer at the University of Bonn, Germany, points out that such work may allow researchers to use deep brain stimulation to learn about the causes of OCD as they treat it. “It will serve as a research platform informing us about the underlying neurobiology of such disorders,” he says.

Journal reference: Nature Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1038/nn.3344




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Dispute between Royce White, Rockets a potential road map for mentally ill …

Royce White may never make it in the NBA.

The Houston Rockets’ first-round draft pick might drift into anonymity as a role player, someone more familiar on the bench than on the court.

Yet no matter what path his career takes, he’s already built a legacy — as a fierce, outspoken advocate for the mentally ill and their legal rights in the workplace. In his case, that workplace is the highest level of professional basketball in the world.

White has general anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder and he’s finally back on the court after refusing to play for 2 1/2 months until he got special additions, or protocols, put in his contract to help him cope with his condition. The basis for White’s stand was the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal law that requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees with a physical or mental impairment.

White’s often contentious and very public dispute with his team culminated in late January with a unique (cut ‘written’) agreement that addresses White’s issues. White joined the Rockets’ developmental league affiliate two weeks ago to resume the career that got him all the attention in the first place.

“It was tough not being able to play,” White said, “but it was necessary.”

Lawyers say White’s campaign raises intriguing questions about how the ADA addresses mental illness in professional sports, and may provide a road map for other athletes to follow. Psychiatrists say White’s openness about his disorder has already helped lift the stigma of mental illness and may embolden other athletes to publicly acknowledge their afflictions.

In itself, an athlete dealing with mental illness is not a recent development.

Outfielder Jimmy Piersall famously coped with bipolar disorder in the 1950s, spending seven weeks in a mental hospital at one point. He returned to baseball, was twice named to the All-Star team and played in the majors until the late 1960s. Pitcher Zack Greinke almost quit baseball because of his social anxiety disorder, but learned to control it and was named the AL Cy Young award winner in 2009. Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall has been named to four Pro Bowls despite an acknowledged borderline personality disorder. Retired NFL running back Ricky Williams won the Heisman Trophy at Texas and played 11 NFL seasons while dealing with social anxiety disorder.

The Rockets knew what they were getting when they selected White out of Iowa State with the 16th overall pick. White freely acknowledged his condition and issues in predraft interviews, including a fear of flying that triggered panic attacks. When he flew — or anticipated flying on the ride to the airport — his heart rate would speed up, he’d feel tingling in his extremities and he’d break into cold sweats.

After he was drafted, he flew to Las Vegas for the team’s summer-league games and to a rookie orientation in New York. As training camp approached, though, White began to have reservations about handling the demands of the NBA schedule. And it wasn’t just the intimidating itinerary of flights required during an NBA season. It was what White thought might happen if he didn’t address it promptly.

“If I’m stressed out, if I have an anxiety disorder that gets out of control,” he said in an interview in October, “how dangerous am I? So tackling it from the front is important. That’s what I kind of did, to take care of my own health first.”

He sat out the first week of training camp after asking for the special protocols, including permission to travel by bus on road trips. He also wanted an independent physician to have the final say about when he could play.

White argued that his mental illness was no different than a physical injury, and the law sees it the same way. But Alex Long, a University of Tennessee law professor who teaches disability law, said making “reasonable accommodations” for someone with a mental disorder is more challenging than providing for someone with a physical disability.

“In theory, the law treats both of those impairments the same way,” Long said. “If I’m in a wheelchair, it’s fairly easy for an employer to make modifications to the workplace. They can put in a ramp, they can widen the aisles or something like that.

“Mental impairments and what the employees are usually asking for, are basically changes to the rules and the normal ways of doing things,” Long said. “Those are the kinds of things that employers are particularly resistant to changing.”

The Rockets let White use a recreational vehicle and referred him to a prominent psychiatrist in Houston. Still, White left the team on Nov. 12 and called the team “inconsistent with their agreement to proactively create a healthy and successful relationship.”

The negotiations began again.

Marty Orlick, a San Francisco-based attorney who’s represented corporate clients in ADA cases, said the Rockets were obligated to provide accommodations, but didn’t have to allow an outside physician to determine White’s playing status. Orlick said White’s case could have “really significant” legal ramifications, even though it never ended up in a courtroom.

The Real Cost of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The devastating effects of the widely misunderstood mental illness, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are being exposed this week by charity, OCD Action.

The World Health Organisation classifies OCD as one of the top ten most debilitating illnesses, yet it is often considered a mild, quirky or even amusing affliction.

OCD sufferers worry that people will think they are mad and so do not always seek help. This has led to a lack of public awareness.

Washing hands frequently is a common compulsive behaviour of OCD. (Gang Liu/photos.com)

“In order to be diagnosed with OCD means that the impact is very great,” says Joel Rose, Director of OCD Action. “You’re spending 5/6/7 hours a day on those compulsions.” 

OCD has two parts: Obsessional thoughts and the compulsion to dampen those thoughts.

The compulsion becomes a ritual like hand washing or checking the front door. It can also be a mental routine used to stifle a feeling of anxiety or stop a particular thought. 

“People get into a vicious circle, the amount of time they need to spend on the compulsion and the elaborateness of those compulsions has grown,” Joel says.

“It’s not like a psychosis where someone doesn’t know their behaviour is illogical. Someone with OCD knows that standing in front of a door for 5 hours doesn’t make sense but they’re compelled to do it.”

OCD sufferers are often intelligent, creative, caring people and try to protect themselves and their loved ones from presumed harm.

Rose explains that sometimes there is no logical connection between the obsessive thoughts and the compulsive behaviour but only an association such as counting to 30 or their parents will die of a horrible accident.

Barbara Lloyd, 49, from Wirral, who has suffered from OCD since childhood, says that the disorder is not the same as a person who can’t go near a knife because they’ll pick it up and stab someone. “Mine is a fear [about] things I do innocently
—if I was to cook I would harm someone with the food or that I would harm me because of not locking the house properly,” she says.

Barbara’s OCD is an all-encompassing version. Compelled to spend up to 7 or 8 hours checking, washing and cleaning, she then has a half an hour ritual checking switches and locks before she can leave the house, “I pull on the back door handle to the point where I think I’m going to pull the handle off.”

“);

Lena Dunham battled obsessive-compulsive disorder

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(Photo by Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic)

“Girls” creator and star Lena Dunham has opened up about her battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety.

The actress, who was diagnosed with OCD as a young girl, reveals she came up with strange rituals after becoming obsessed with the number eight.

She tells Rolling Stone magazine, “I’d count eight times. … I’d look on both sides of me eight times, I’d make sure nobody was following me down the street, I touched different parts of my bed before I went to sleep, I’d imagine a murder, and I’d imagine that murder eight times.”

Dunham now takes anti-anxiety medications to help with her condition, but she admits the anti-depressants she took as a teen often had unpleasant side effects.

She says, “(I felt) drugged like a big horse. I was so exhausted all the time, night sweats. I was pretty fat in high school if I look at it, because it just slows down your metabolism. My mom would always be like, ‘I think you’re having a lot of side effects.’ And I’d be like, ‘You’re such a [bleep]; you just want me to be skinny!’”

Free mental illness education class starts March 16 in Aurora – Hudson Hub

Close to someone with a mental illness? Attend a free program that has helped many Ohioans. The Portage County Family-to-Family Education Program will run Saturdays starting March 16, 2013 for 12 weeks. The course will be held from 9:30 a.m. to noon at The Church in Aurora, 146 S. Chillicothe Road, Aurora 44202. The program is sponsored by the Mental Health Recovery Board of Portage County and NAMI Portage County. The course is open to anyone who has a family member or a friend with a brain disease, including schizophrenia, manic depression, clinical depression, an anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. It is taught by local residents who have a family member dealing with mental illness. Register by March 14. Call 330-673-1756, ext 201. You can also register by emailing laurab@mental-health-recovery.org.

Does anxiety have an effect on your children?

Practical Parenting


The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that anxiety is a normal part of childhood, and children can experience different degrees of worry as they learn and mature. A phase is temporary and usually harmless. Some children can suffer from anxiety disorders, avoiding places and activities due to their fear, nervousness, and shyness. Essentially, this degree of fearfulness consumes their thoughts on a day-to-day basis. 

Most anxieties are a normal reaction to stress and can actually be beneficial. For some children, however, anxiety can become excessive, and while the child suffering may realize it is excessive they may also have difficulty controlling it. There are a wide variety of anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and specific phobias to name a few. Collectively they are among the most common mental disorders experienced by Americans. Surprisingly, anxiety disorders affect one in eight children.

At www.childparenting.about.com there are some tips and guidelines for helping your child when anxiety becomes overwhelming. 

Don’t dismiss the feelings. Telling your child not to worry about her fears may only make her feel like she’s doing something wrong by feeling anxious. Let her know it’s okay to feel bad about something, and encourage her to share her feelings.

Listen. You know how enormously comforting it can be just to have someone listen when something’s bothering you. Do the same thing for your child. If he doesn’t feel like talking, let him know you are there for him. 

Offer comfort and distraction. Try to do something she enjoys, like playing a favorite game or cuddling in your lap and having you read to her. Any child of any age will appreciate a good dose of parent “TLC”.

Get outside. Exercise can boost moods, so get moving! Even if it’s just for a walk around the block, fresh air and physical activity may be just what he needs to lift his spirits and give him a new perspective on things.

Stick to routines. Children like routines because it gives them a sense of security. Try sticking to regular bedtime and mealtimes.

Keep your child healthy.  Is your child eating right and getting enough sleep? Not getting enough rest or eating nutritious meals at regular intervals can contribute to your child’s stress. If he feels good, he’ll be better equipped to work through whatever is bothering him.

Avoid overscheduling. Soccer, karate, baseball, music lessons, play dates – the list of extracurricular activities can be endless! Too many activities can easily lead to stress and anxiety in children. Just as we need some downtime after work and on weekends, children also need some quiet time alone to decompress.

Limit your child’s exposure to upsetting news/stories. If your child sees or hears upsetting images or accounts of natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis or sees disturbing accounts of violence or terrorism on the news, talk to your child about what’s going on. Talk about the aide that people who are victims of disasters or violence receive from humanitarian groups, and discuss ways that she may help, such as working with her school to raise money for the victims.

Set a calm example. You can set the tone for how stress and anxiety is handled in your house. It’s virtually impossible to block out stress from our lives in today’s high-tech, 24-hour-news-cycle world, but you can do something about how you handle your own stress. By keeping things calm and peaceful at home, the less likely it is that anxiety in children will be a problem in your household.

If you believe your child’s anxiety is not just a phase and is not improving, please seek advice from your pediatrician or help from a counselor that specializes in childhood anxiety. The ADAA’s findings show that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse. However, managing negative emotions is a part of life and a learning process. The ADAA offers encouraging words for those families with an anxiety-ridden child. “Children need to learn to manage negative emotions, and to do that, they need to experience them from time-to-time at manageable levels. The anxiety-free child is a fantasy. Anxiety is an important warning signal for potential danger, and mastering both the anxiety and the thing or event that provoked it is a powerful learning experience.”

Barbara A. Burrows is owner of The Goddard School in Edwardsville, located at 801 South Arbor Vitae, an Edwardsville Rotarian and a wish granter/ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  Burrows and her staff provide The Goddard School experience to more than 250 area families with children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old enrolled in childcare, preschool and before- and after-school programs.  Burrows’ writes this column exclusively for the Edwardsville Intelligencer offering advice on parenting, child development and family enrichment.

 

Lena Dunham and 9 More Stars with OCD

New mother Charlize Theron may have a tougher time than other new moms adjusting to her first child. That’s because she’s admitted to suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD.

“I have OCD, which is not fun,” she told Australian radio show Kyle and Jackie O. “I have to be incredibly tidy and organized or it messes with my mind and switches off on me.”

Babies, especially once they reach toddler-hood, aren’t exactly known for their neatness. The Oscar-winning actress announced that she is the “proud mom of a healthy baby boy named Jackson” in March 2012. This is the first child for the 36-year-old actress who has been single since her split from actor Stuart Townsend in 2010.

For parents with OCD, having children can actually make symptoms worse. “OCD symptoms tend to latch on to things that are most important to us, so parents with OCD may have doubts about their abilities or intrusive thoughts about their child’s safety or hurting their child,” Stephen Whiteside, a psychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who specializes in anxiety disorders including OCD, told ABCNews.com.

OCD is an anxiety disorder that at its basic level is a fear of one’s thoughts, whether it’s a fear of messiness, germs or something else. To relieve the anxiety associated with such intrusive thoughts, an obsessive-compulsive will feel compelled to behave in a certain way, such as cleaning out their cabinets before going to sleep or checking and rechecking their child.

Whiteside has heard anecdotes of OCD patients actually improving once they became parents. “It’s certainly possible that when you have something that is of greater concern to you — you’re not just taking care of yourself but a baby — those emotions can overwhelm the OCD and motivate you to do the things to get better. The best treatment is exposure or facing your fears,” Whiteside said.

That’s what happened to Julianne Moore, who scrapped her daily routine of leaving her apartment at exactly the same time and pacing her walk so that she only got green lights, after having children Caleb and Liv. “Having two young children means you drop all that sort of rubbish!” Moore told UK’s Guardian.

Moore admitted she’s still “fanatical about straightening furniture and lining stuff up, but I’m much more laid back than I used to be!”

Theron also struggles when things are out of order. “I have a problem with cabinets being messy and people just shoving things in and closing the door. I will lie in bed and not be able to sleep because I’ll say to myself: ‘I think I saw something in that cabinet that just shouldn’t be there,'” she was quoted saying in London’s Daily Mail.

Comparing herself to the character she played in “Young Adult,” she told the Australian radio show, “I am not dirty at all, I’m actually the opposite.”

Whiteside’s advice to her and other new parents with OCD: “Try to put things in perspective, reminding yourself that you’re going to do a much better job as a parent if you leave things messy and spend time with your child than being perfect.”

He said, “It might be uncomfortable at first, but the feeling gradually goes away, and it should get easier.”

Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners

Michele, who spends 60 hours a week cleaning at home (using bleach on her
floors five times a day and even washing tins when they come new from the
supermarket), helped someone else called Richard to clean his bedsit,
untouched by him for four years during a spell of depression.

“I still couldn’t have a tea or coffee here,” she said after relentless
scrubbing. “I must have an illness. But what can you do?”

What you can do is see a doctor, if you can get an appointment. What you can
do if someone in your family has OCD is not just to stand there and buy them
extra bleach, for use in their unending rituals under the lash of crushing
fear. What you can do is to find out the effects of OCD on people, and not
to indulge in a television fantasy that puts them on a level with dancing
dogs.

This degree of unreality has crept up on us. In 1999, the documentary A Life
of Grime, narrated by John Peel, focused on Edmund Trebus, an obsessive
hoarder. There was some depth, some nuance. The old man had seen things in
Poland under the Nazis; he had become isolated from his family. By last
year, Britain’s Biggest Hoarders was sending a weekly conveyor belt of
specimens past the television camera. They have been joined by embarrassing
bodies, undateables, Touretters, pseudo-Touretters, Britain’s fattest
teenagers, and all the fun of Bartholomew Fair.

Mindless rubbish has its place in the schedules, but I can’t lighten up or
chillax in the face of this gruesome farrago. Voluntarily watching Obsessive
Compulsive Cleaners is a hate crime if there ever was one, and I wish doing
so attracted stern penalties.

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On The Cover: Lena Dunham Tells All

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Lena Dunham, the creator and star of HBO’s Girls, has made the cover of Rolling Stone. In our new issue on stands and on iTunes Friday, February 15th, Dunham tells senior writer Brian Hiatt about her lifelong struggles with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, her childhood fear of sex, her reaction to criticisms about the show’s lack of diversity – and much more. “It’s funny to me that I’m writing a show that people consider to be the voice of twentysomething people,” she says. “Because I don’t feel that connected to it all the time.”

Stay tuned for more from the cover story.

District 200, Alexian Brothers Partner to Show Free Screening of ‘Race to Nowhere’

Community Unit School District 200 has partnered with Alexian Brothers Parish Services to present a free screening of Race to Nowherean up-close look at America’s culture and the pressures facing today’s students at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25, at Hubble Middle School.

The documentary was produced and co-directed by Vicki Abeles, a concerned mother who reveals the truth behind the nation’s achievement-infatuated societal effect on school-age children, according to a press release for the event.

“Students are burdened with the demand to become high achievers who excel in academics, extracurricular activities and community service, leaving little time for themselves or their families,” Abeles said in a statement.

A panel discussion will follow the screening, featuring Trevor Simpson of Alexian Brothers Parish Services as the moderator and Patrick B. McGrath, Ph.D., Director, Alexian Brothers Center for Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders; Bob Murray, Dean of Enrollment Management, Illinois Wesleyan University; Julann Ferguson, Guidance Counselor, Wheaton Warrenville South High School; and Sheila Thorse, Seventh Grade Counselor, Hubble Middle School.

A limited number of advance tickets are available at http://rtnhubblemiddleschool.eventbrite.com.

Report: Royce White Will Join Rockets’ D-League Affiliate

It appears as if Houston Rockets forward Royce White has finally taken the first step toward beginning his NBA career.

According to the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen, the controversial forward passed a physical on Friday and will report to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets’ Developmental League affiliate, on Monday:

Rockets rookie Royce White moved a step closer to reporting Monday to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Development League by passing a physical Friday, athletic trainer Keith Jones said.

White is expected to be in uniform for the Vipers for their games on Tuesday and Wednesday, marking the end of a long, ugly dispute between the rookie and Houston.

Though White is largely viewed as having immense talent, the Rockets drafted him with knowledge of preexisting anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders. He has a fear of flying on airplanes and has been taking anxiety medication since he was a teenager. 

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Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

It has been those disorders—more specifically, White and the Rockets’ disagreement on how to treat them—that have halted his NBA career. White missed the opening of training camp while the two sides hammered out how he would travel. While that issue ultimately was resolved, the tension lingered.

The 21-year-old forward eventually left the team again in November due to the Rockets’ “inconsistent” treatment of his anxiety disorder. Houston’s frustration eventually bubbled up, leading to a suspension, but the two sides have finally come to what seems like an amenable middle ground. 

Taken No. 16 overall in last June’s draft, White was looked at by many as yet another steal for general manager Daryl Morey. A point forward with innate court vision, slick handles and elite strength, he led Iowa State in all five major statistical categories last season en route to a second-round NCAA tournament appearance.

That’s the type of franchise-altering talent the Rockets were hoping for when they took him in the first round. Instead, they’ve gotten little more than constant headaches.

With White’s playing days finally on the horizon, Houston undoubtedly hopes for more of the former than the latter going forward.

 

Bell Let’s Talk Day features all-day programming Feb. 12

TORONTO – Bell Media is featuring a full day of non-stop programming designed to break the silence and stigma surrounding mental health to mark Bell Let’s Talk Day on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

From news and sports to business and lifestyle, Bell says all areas of the company are engaged to deliver a programming slate that elevates the important conversation about mental health. Anchored by the prime-time special premiere of Let’s Talk: A Marilyn Denis Special at 7 p.m. ET on CTV, Bell Media announced today details of feature programming in support of the third annual Bell Let’s Talk Day on CTV, CTV Two, CP24, BNN, CTV News Channel, MuchMusic, MTV, Discovery, E!, SPACE, TSN, RDS, TheLoop.ca and its digital, local radio, and TV properties.


Throughout the day, various Bell Media properties will feature regular updates on-screen of text, Twitter and long distance call activity, representing both the spreading conversation, and the additional funds to be dedicated to mental health by Bell.

“We’re proud to play a part in keeping the conversation going about mental health,” said Kevin Crull, President, Bell Media. “Our audiences have told us how much they appreciate this programming, so this year we’ve dedicated dozens of hours of new original programming and related coverage across all platforms in support of this year’s Bell Let’s Talk Day.”

Clara Hughes, Serena Ryder, Dr. Marla Shapiro, and new national ambassador for Bell Let’s Talk Day, Seamus O’Regan, are some of the personalities on tap to support Bell Media’s day of special programming. Bell Media also enlists the help of many mental health experts specializing in eating disorders, anxiety issues, and various therapies that can change and save lives.

Canada AM gets the conversation going at the top of the morning with a discussion on mental health in the workplace, BNN explains why investing in the brain can pay big dividends, Daily Planet takes a look at Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the use of meditation in place of medication, and TSN presents the new documentary Talk To Me. Marilyn Denis is dedicating her first CTV prime-time broadcast to raising awareness for mental health in the day’s flagship program Let’s Talk: A Marilyn Denis Special, featuring Canadian Olympic Champion Clara Hughes and Dr. Marla Shapiro sharing their personal connections to mental illness. The special also highlights conversations with other real people sharing their stories about living with mental illness and how to treat it. 

Additionally, local CTV television stations and Bell Media radio outlets from coast-to-coast will engage their communities in the conversation by featuring local mental health experts and shedding light on community initiatives supporting those suffering from mental illness.