March 30, 2005

Suzy Zeus Gets Organized

Suzy Zeus Gets Organized -- This new fictional book by Maggie Robbins is a semi-autobiographical novel of poems written over a period of 20 years, during which Maggie conquered her own bipolar depression

Maggie Robbins's novel in verse tracks a blundering bombshell as she risks all, ricocheting from man to man, place to place, through a haze of sensuality, spirituality, serendipity, and psychosis. In its own singsong rhythm–the "crazy beat" of Suzy's unforgettable life–Suzy Zeus Gets Organized chronicles a furious odyssey from Astoria to Astroland–by way of such pit stops as Berlin, the Big Easy, Buddhism, Barbie, and the Bible–that leaves Suzy, although in the same town, in a somewhat better state.

"Suzy hails from Indiana,
land of crops, of Fords and farms.
Suzy lives in New York City,
land of cops and car alarms.
Suzy lives six blocks from Harry.
Touch him and she'll break your arms."

Suzy Zeus Gets Organized - at Amazon.com

The Suzy Zeus web site

Posted by szadmin at 11:48 PM | Comments (1)

The mad world of Princess Leia: Carrie Fisher

There is a good article on Carrier Fisher in this week's National Post of Canada.

"Carrie Fisher is curled up inside a Perspex swinging seat that hangs from the ceiling of her cluttered Beverly Hills bedroom. She snuggles into the cushions and slowly rocks to and fro in a sort of trance....Peace reigns. ...

Fisher has no qualms about admitting that she has been addicted to a host of drugs. "I took them," she says, "because I wanted to feel as others seemed." She is an alcoholic too, although she insists that alcohol was never her favourite route to oblivion -- and she claims not to touch the stuff these days. To top that, she was diagnosed six years ago as suffering from manic depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. She takes a cocktail of more than two dozen medications each day and when she doesn't, she tells me, "I go, well, sort of mad."

Posted by szadmin at 11:17 PM | Comments (1)

Genes affected by Lithium

A recent study identifies the genes that may be activated by lithium.

While lithium treatment has proven effective for treating bipolar disorder (BPD), the drug is also associated with hypothyroidism, tremors, cognitive impairment, excessive thirst and urination and weight gain.

Researchers led by Philip Brandish of Merck & Co and Edward Scolnick of the Broad Institute (formerly of Merck) have identified genes that appear to be activated by lithium, suggesting more direct targets for drugs to treat the disorder, with fewer side effects.

The studies were published in the 24th March issue of Neuron (2005;45:861-872). Lithium is known to inhibit the production of an important cellular switch, called inositol monophosphate. The researchers aimed to find genes that were activated by this inhibition, by treating slices of rat brain with lithium chloride as well as a chemical that depletes inositol. The research group discovered several genes that suggest new directions toward the treatment of BPD. The behaviour of one such activated gene, called GPR88, has been found to be associated with a rat model of mania.

This research is good news for those with bipolar disorder - suggesting new and better treatments are on the way.

Posted by szadmin at 11:11 PM | Comments (0)

Helping a Bipolar Child

There is an excellent and detailed story outlining the challenges that one family has faced in getting help for their bipolar daughter. Highly recommended for families with children diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

A Family's Painful Journey;
Quest for Help for Mentally Ill Md. Child Seemingly Has No End

"Dawn Rieck sat at the dining room table in her split-level house at Andrews Air Force Base, chain-smoking. She wore a distant yet acute expression, as if she were trying to read the wind.

...At that moment, her middle child, Jessica Marie Caughlin, 11, was not beating her 4-year-old brother or killing her big sister's hamster or cutting the goldfish in two. She was not threatening to stab her mother. The knives were all locked in the garage.

With this child, however, her mother is always anticipating the next disaster.

It's like that for many parents who are raising children with serious mental illness.

With nerves and budgets, jobs and marriages regularly strained, they are consumed in the struggle to care for their children. Some say they need help that neither private insurance nor the public health system comes close to covering."

Click Here For Full Story

Posted by szadmin at 10:44 PM | Comments (1)

March 20, 2005

Symposium on Bipolar Disorder

Symposium on Advances in Treatment of Bipolar Disorder
20 Mar 2005

Reporters are welcome to attend “Advances in the Treatment of Bipolar Disorder,” an all day symposium geared to psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals, which will take place at the Lighthouse International on Saturday, March 26, 2005 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHAT: The symposium, sponsored by Montefiore Medical Center (MMC)and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (AECOM), is designed to provide professionals with:

• a state-of-the-art overview of the diagnostic, epidemiological, clinical and somatic treatment issues of bipolar disorder

• the subtle differences between bipolar1 and bipolar2 disorders

• how bipolar disorder presents and masquerades in childhood and adolescence;

• new advances in various treatments, including drug refractory states, and

• which treatment approach to utilize depending on clinical profile and APA guidelines.

WHO: Gregory M. Asnis, MD, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Director of the Affective Disorders Program, AECOM and MMC.

Gabrielle A. Carlson, MD, professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, SUNY at Stony Brook..

Jean Endicott, Ph.D, professor of Clinical Psychiatry, College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University.

Max Fink, MD, professor Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, AECOM

Robert M. Post, MD, head, Bipolar Collaborative Network, Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Norman Sussman, MD, professor of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine.

WHEN: Saturday, March 26 2005 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (registration at 8:15 a.m.)

WHERE: Lighthouse International, 111 East 59th Street, NY, NY 10022

Axel F. Bang PR & Marketing
66 Mathews Mill Rd.
Bedford Hills, NY 10507
United States
Phone 914-234-5433
Fax 914-234-5434

Posted by szadmin at 6:45 AM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2005

Repligen and Bipolar Disorder

Repligen Corporation (NASDAQ: RGEN) today announced that the Company has entered into a development agreement with the Stanley Medical Research Institute under which Repligen will receive funding for a Phase 1 clinical trial to assess the oral bioavailability of Repligen's proprietary formulation of uridine.

This Phase 1 study is expected to enroll patients next quarter and follows Repligen's preliminary findings in animal models and patients that uridine may be useful in treating the depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder. The Stanley Medical Research Institute is the largest nonprofit provider of funding for research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in the United States.

"This clinical study will provide us valuable information to help design a Phase 2 study to assess the potential of uridine in bipolar disorder," stated Dr. Michael Knable, Executive Director of The Stanley Medical Research Institute.

In 2004, Repligen completed a 6-week Phase 1 clinical trial of a prodrug of a uridine (RG2133) in patients with bipolar disorder or major depression. The results demonstrated that administration of RG2133 in this patient population appeared to be safe, did not induce mania, a potential side effect of existing therapies, and provided early evidence of a clinical effect of the drug. The trial evaluated 19 patients and was carried out by investigators at McLean Hospital, the largest psychiatric clinical care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

Uridine is a biological compound essential for the synthesis of DNA and RNA, the basic hereditary material found in all cells, and numerous other factors essential for cell metabolism. Uridine is synthesized by the power plant of the human cell known as the mitochondria. The rationale for uridine therapy in neuropsychiatric disorders is supported by pre-clinical and clinical research. Researchers at McLean Hospital previously demonstrated that uridine is active in a well-validated animal model of depression. Recent reports indicate that certain genes that encode for mitochondrial proteins are significantly down regulated in the brains of bipolar patients. This new insight suggests that the symptoms of bipolar disorder may be linked to dysregulation of energy metabolism of the brain.

For more information:
About Repligen Corporation
Repligen Corporation is a biopharmaceutical company committed to being the leader in the development of novel therapeutics for profound neuropsychiatric disorders and autoimmune disease with particular emphasis on applications for children. Repligen's corporate headquarters are located at 41 Seyon Street, Building #1, Suite 100, Waltham, MA 02453. Additional information may be obtained from www.repligen.com.

Posted by szadmin at 6:13 PM | Comments (4)

Bipolar Disorder and Anti-depressants

A recent Q&A response highlights the risk that people with bipolar take if they use anti-depressants without first being stabilized.

"Some people with bipolar illness are particularly sensitive to antidepressants and may respond with mania or rapid cycling (switching quickly from depression to mania and back again), advises bipolar expert Dr. John Nurnberger, director of the Indiana University Institute of Psychiatric Research."

For the full story see:

Saturday Evening Post: On Antidepressants and Bipolar Illness

Posted by szadmin at 12:10 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2005

Resetting the Brain - Bipolar

Time magazine has a good article on transcranial magnetic stimulation - that, while focusing primarily on depression, at least provides a positive update on the proceedure.

Resetting The Brain - Can a pulsing magnet really change a personality? Doctors--and patients--are cheered by early tests

"Martha, a mother of two from Connecticut, has suffered from depression for the better part of two decades. She has been to psychiatrists and psychologists and tried dozens of medications, but nothing seemed to work very well or for very long. Then last June she heard about an experimental treatment being tested at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University. It involved aiming a powerful magnet at a spot on the brain to reset the wayward neural circuits that keep Martha, and millions like her, stuck in the downward spiral of depression.

Figuring she had little to lose, Martha agreed to the treatment and soon found herself sitting in a chair under a squat, gray crescent that administered a series of magnetic pulses to the top of her head. The treatment lasted for one hour, five times a week, for six weeks. "I started to see signs of change by about the third week," she says. "By September, I was on top again. I could take pleasure in things like food and sunshine." Returning to the institute every once in a while for repeat sessions of what researchers call repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), Martha has kept her symptoms at bay for the better part of six months.

See full story: Resetting the Brain


For more information see:

Transcranial Maganetic Stimulation Looks Hopeful for Bipolar Disorder

TMS and Bipolar Disorder - Information

Posted by szadmin at 6:17 PM | Comments (0)

Child Bipolar Disorder Therapies

Effective therapies for bipolar children sought

By Jim Dryden

March 14, 2005 — Child psychiatry researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are investigating the effectiveness of several therapies for children with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive illness.

The study, called TEAM (Treatment of Early Age Mania), builds on previous research that showed bipolar disorder can occur in children as young as 7. During the manic phase of the illness, children may experience an inflated sense of power and self esteem and inappropriately behave as if they are in charge at home or school. They may seem extremely happy, silly and giddy, but their moods can change rapidly. A decreased need for sleep and excessive chatter also are common. Some bipolar children experience depression at the same time.

Diagnosis is difficult because the manic phase can be confused with the more common attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The confusion arises because mania and ADHD both involve hyperactivity, irritability and distractibility. However, researchers have developed a diagnostic interview that differentiates bipolar disorder from ADHD and other psychiatric illnesses. All children eligible for the TEAM study will be evaluated using that interview.

Although characteristics of the disorder in children are now clear, there is little available data about appropriate treatment. Despite several effective medications for adults, specific testing in children is needed because they often respond to medications differently.

To investigate the effectiveness of medications for the treatment of childhood bipolar disorder, the National Institute of Mental Health funded the TEAM treatment study, the first and largest federally funded study of it's kind. Barbara Geller, M.D., professor of child psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine and a pioneer in the recognition of bipolar disorder in children, leads the national study.

In St. Louis, Washington University School of Medicine's Early Emotional Development Program is one of five national sites participating in the TEAM study. Joan L. Luby, M.D., associate professor of child psychiatry is principal investigator for the St. Louis site.

In this study, researchers are investigating how well different medications and medication combinations work in making bipolar children between the ages of 6 and 15 feel better. The TEAM study is unique because there are no inactive placebos given; all children will receive active treatment.

Qualified participants are randomly selected to receive either lithium, a drug commonly prescribed for adults with bipolar disorder; valproate, an anticonvulsant drug that has been related to improvement of manic symptoms in a few smaller studies; or risperidone, an antipsychotic medication used in adults with schizophrenia that also is being tested in children with autism.

"There is no proven, effective treatment for children with bipolar disorder," Luby says. "But we hope that by comparing these drugs and drug combinations we might be able to find ways to better control this severe illness in affected children."

In addition to diagnostic evaluations and free study medications, volunteers receive laboratory tests at several intervals during the study. When the eight- or 16-week study period has been completed, volunteers who have had good responses from investigational medications may continue taking those drugs. Subjects will be compensated for participating in a follow-up examination six months after completion of the initial study period.

For more information, call study coordinator Samantha Blankenship at (314) 286-2783.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis - Bipolar Study

Posted by szadmin at 6:55 AM | Comments (0)

March 7, 2005

Iris Chang, Author was Bipolar?

It was revealed today that Iris Chang, renowned author of the bestselling book "The Rape of Nanking" was diagnosed with "brief reactive psychosis" and possibly bipolar disorder, prior to her suicide in Los Gatos, California last year.

The Mercury News newspaper of San Jose, California, said today that "Her suicide has made her a symbol for another cause: the fight to end a longstanding stigma against mental illness in Asian-American communities, which leads many people to delay getting treatment and suffer in isolation."

The story noted that Iris Chang's parents said Sunday that they wish they had not honored her request to keep it private.

"In Asian culture it's considered shameful to have some mental patient in your family," she said. "But mental illness is a disease, a chemical imbalance in the brain. We should treat it just like a heart attack or diabetes."

The parents suggest that if the family had been more open about discussing Chang's condition with family and friends, they might have found support from these people -- some of whom came forward after her death to reveal their own struggles with mental illness -- and the tragedy might have been prevented.

The message that I take away from this sad story that its best to be open with close family and friends, about bipolar disorder and related brain disorders. Its nothing to be ashamed of, and we all are better off if people understand how common these illnesses are.

The Culture to Culture Foundation, based in Alamo, California has raised more than $230,000 toward scholarships for Chinese-speaking students who are working toward mental health careers.

The foundation has compiled a directory of Asian mental health professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area and recently opened the Healthy Living Center in Fremont. The Foundation's directory of Asian mental health services in the Bay Area is at www.asianmentalhealth.info

More information: The Chinese-American Mental Health Network

Posted by szadmin at 7:45 PM | Comments (4)

March 4, 2005

Mental Illness and Movies

Following is a good article about the persistant problem of Hollywood and other media frequently ignoring modern science as they develop their movies and books. While not specifically about bipolar disorder, it is a good overview of the important problems with Hollywood when it comes to mental illness.

Time for Hollywood to Ground Freud

"It's all Mom's fault" makes great scripts but scorns brain science and families struggling with mental illness.

The opening scene of Martin Scorsese’s award winning biopic The Aviator shows us young Howard Hughes being sensuously towel dried by his mother who murmurs to him about the unsafe world around them. A cholera epidemic is rampant and she carefully teaches him to spell the word "quarantine." The images are slow, shadowy and ominous. They provide the dark undercurrent which frames this otherwise fast-paced, opulent, and stylish romp through the glamorous life of Howard Hughes.

Click here for Full Story

Posted by szadmin at 3:31 AM | Comments (0)

Childhood Bipolar

The Washington Post article discussing the possibility of overdiagnosis of bipolar disorder in children is on the web now. Its a good story - recommended for any families that are impacted.

Bipolar children - Experts debate rise in the diagnosis among kids

Posted by szadmin at 3:23 AM | Comments (0)

March 1, 2005

Preventing Bipolar Disorder

Today's Boston Globe has an excellent article on the under utilized approach of "prevention" for mental illness. Following is a brief excerpt from a long article - the full story is linked below.

Doctors see need for prevention in mental illness

Cancer treatment is more effective when the disease is caught early. Ditto for heart disease that's treated before a stroke or heart attack. But, in mental health, most patients suffer for months or years before doctors intervene.

A growing number of psychologists and psychiatrists -- frustrated with what they see as an ''epidemic" of mental illness -- say that attitude needs to change. Doctors need to know how to find mental illness in at-risk children and young adults before the symptoms become full-blown.

''In the whole history of medicine, it's never been possible to overcome an epidemic simply by treatment. You need to have prevention," said Gregory Clarke, a psychologist at Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research in Oregon.

Source: Boston Globe

Posted by szadmin at 4:04 PM | Comments (0)

200% Higher Bipolar Risk when you use Marijuana

The BBC News reported today on a new research study out of New Zealand that highlights the greatly increased risk of mental illness associated with Marijuana use. While the study seems to focus on schizophrenia, the research literature suggests that there is a broad spectrum of mental illnesses - including bipolar disorder and depression - that are linked to marijuana use. Moreover, research is increasingly suggesting that a number of the genes involved in the development of bipolar disorder, are shared in the development of schizophrenia.

"Smoking cannabis virtually doubles the risk of developing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, researchers say. The New Zealand scientists said their study suggested this was probably due to chemical changes in the brain which resulted from smoking the drug.

The study, published in the journal Addiction, followed over 1,000 people born in 1977 for 25 years. "

The researchers stated that "cannabis may increase the chances of a person suffering psychosis by causing chemical changes to the brain."

For the Full story go to:

BBC News - Drug 'doubles mental health risk'

For the original Research go to:

Tests of causal linkages between cannabis use and psychotic symptoms

Addiction Journal

Posted by szadmin at 4:36 AM | Comments (24)

$20 Million for New Research

Last week it was announced by the University of British Columbia (Canada) that an anonymous donor has given the University $10 million to kick-start a new $20-million Institute of Mental Health that will focus on bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and related disorders.

The donation, along with a $10-million matching donation from the provincial government, will make UBC a world leader in the prevention and treatment of mental illness, UBC president Martha Piper said in a prepared statement.

Mental health has for too long been the "orphan" of Canada's health-care system, even though depression ranks only second to heart disease as a leading cause of disability, Piper told a news conference.

"The generosity of this very special friend of UBC will give a very special impetus to research into illnesses that impact all of our families and all of our communities," said UBC president Martha Piper.

With the $20 million, UBC plans to:

Create three $5-million endowments to support research chairs in child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry and depression, and psychotherapy.

Use the $5-million balance for fellowships, junior faculty positions, and support for communicating research and clinical findings to clinicians and mental health professionals.

The $20-million investment will provide the UBC Institute of Mental Health with three $5-million research chairs in child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry and depression, and psychotherapy.

The new chairs will join a team of scientists and academic clinicians already in place thanks to funding from such sources as the provincial Leading Edge Endowment Fund and the federal Canada Research Chairs program, said Department of Psychiatry Head Prof. Athanasios Zis.

"Today's announcement," said Zis, "creates a unique cascade of opportunities, not only in leading edge research, but also in the training of clinicians and the development of innovative treatments that will benefit all Canadians."

The UBC Institute of Mental Health will reside in the faculty of medicine's department of psychiatry, and will become one of only three mental health centres of excellence in Canada.

Dr. John Ogrodniczuk, assistant professor of psychiatry at UBC, said the institute is required because there is a "dearth" of research into child, adolescent and geriatric psychiatry.

Funding has typically been more available for research into the biological roots of mental illness, including genetics or neural transmission.

"This gift is not intended to further develop a neuro-science approach. It's more focused toward the psycho-social aspects."

More information:

Announcement of $20 Million for Mental Illness

CBC Canada News on the $20 Million for Mental Illness Research

Posted by szadmin at 4:31 AM | Comments (0)