Posts Tagged ‘Tori Rodriguez’

by Tori Rodriguez, MA, LPC

The social transmission of emotions has been reported in several studies in recent years. Research published in 2013, for example, found that joy and fear are transmissible between people, while a 2011 study showed that stress — as measured by an increase in cortisol — can be transmitted from others who are under pressure.1,2 Results of a new study that appeared in Science Advances suggest that pain may also be communicable.3

“Being able to perceive and communicate pain to others probably gives an evolutionary advantage to animals,” study co-author Andrey E. Ryabinin, PhD, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University, told Clinical Pain Advisor. Such awareness may trigger self-protective or caretaking behaviors, for instance, that facilitate the survival of the individual and the group.
In the current study, Ryabinin and colleagues investigated whether “bystander” mice would develop hyperalgesia after being housed in the same room as “primary” mice who had received a noxious stimulus. In one experiment, the paws of primary mice were injected with complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA), which, as expected, induced persistent hypersensitivity that was apparent for 2 weeks. Bystander mice who had been injected with phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) similarly demonstrated hypersensitivity throughout the same 2-week period.

Bystander mice also displayed acquired hypersensitivity in another set of experiments in which primary mice experienced pain related to withdrawal from morphine and alcohol. This suggests that the transfer of hyperalgesia is not limited to the effects of inflammatory stimuli. In addition, the transfer was consistent across mechanical, thermal, and chemical modalities of nociception.

Tests revealed that nociceptive thresholds returned to basal levels in both primary and bystander mice within 4 days, and the transferred hyperalgesia was not accounted for by familiarity, as the effects were similar between mice that were not familiar with the others and those that were.
Finally, the authors determined that the transfer of hyperalgesia was mediated by olfactory cues (as measured by exposing naïve mice to the bedding of hypersensitive co-housed mice), and it could not be accounted for by anxiety, visual cues, or stress-induced hyperalgesia.

Future research is needed to pinpoint the molecular messenger involved in the transfer of hyperalgesia, and whether a similar process occurs in humans.

“Here we show for the first time that you do not need an injury or inflammation to develop a pain state–pain can develop simply because of social cues,” said Dr Ryabinin. These findings have important implications for the treatment of chronic pain patients. “We cannot dismiss people with chronic pain if they have no physical pathology. They can be in pain without the pathology and need to be treated for their pain despite lack of injury.”

Dezecache G, Conty L, Chadwick M, et al. Evidence for Unintentional Emotional Contagion Beyond Dyads.PLoS One. 2013; 8(6): e67371.
Buchanan TW , Bagley SL, Stansfield RB, Preston SD. The empathic, physiological resonance of stress. Soc Neurosci. 2012; 7(2):191-201.
Smith ML, Hostetler CM, Heinricher MM, Ryabinin AE. Social transfer of pain in mice. Sci Adv. 2016; 2(10): e1600855.


by Tori Rodriguez, MA, LPC

Individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) have double the risk of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) and vice versa, and it has previously been proposed that some people with MDD may use alcohol to self-medicate. Though alcohol can become depressant if used chronically, alcohol initially has an antidepressant effect, though the underlying mechanisms have not been identified. Findings reported in September 2016 in Nature Communications begin to elucidate the basis of this action.

Behavioral and molecular evidence of the rapid antidepressant activity of NMDA receptor (NMDAR) antagonists, which have been found to be effective within 2 hours of administration and remain so for 2 weeks, represents a significant advance in depression treatment. Antidepressant efficacy involves the induction phase and the sustained phase.

The sustained phase of rapid antidepressants requires “both new protein synthesis and an increase in protein stability… for the GABABR shift in function necessary to increase” the activity of mTORC1, a mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1, the authors explained in their paper. Rapamycin (mTOR) is a “serine/threonine kinase essential for messenger RNA translation” and is required for the sustained impact of rapid antidepressants.

Citing previous findings that ethanol (EtOH) also blocks NMDARs in the hippocampus, scientists at the University of Texas at Austin and Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, aimed to determine whether EtOH and NMDAR antagonists exert rapid antidepressant effects via the same synaptic pathways in rodents. They hypothesized that EtOH “has lasting antidepressant efficacy, shares the same downstream molecular signaling events as rapid antidepressants, and requires de novo protein synthesis.”

First, they found that acute exposure to EtOH led to antidepressant and anxiolytic behaviors in rodents for up to 24 hours. They then discovered that, like NMDAR antagonists, EtOH alters the expression and signaling of GABABR, increases dendritic calcium, and leads to the synthesis of new GABABRs. This synthesis requires fragile-X mental retardation protein (FMRP), an RNA-binding protein of which precise levels are needed for normal neuronal functioning.

The antidepressant effects and the changes in GABABR expression and dendritic calcium were not observed in in Fmr1-knockout (KO) mice, supporting the concept that FMRP has in important role in regulating protein synthesis after EtOH exposure, and thereby facilitating its antidepressant efficacy.

These results point to a shared molecular pathway for the antidepressant activity of EtOH and rapid antidepressants, and highlight a mechanism involved in the initial antidepressant action of alcohol. “A shift in GABABR signaling is observed with both rapid antidepressants and acute EtOH treatment, which may provide insight into the molecular basis for the high comorbidity between major depressive disorder and AUD,” the authors concluded.

by Tori Rodriguez, MA, LPC

Although there was a consistent reduction in US suicide rates from 1986 through 1999, the trend appears to have reversed during the most recent investigation period. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1) reveals that suicide rates increased by 24% from 1999 to 2014, with the greatest increase observed in the latter half of that period.

The increase occurred among males and females in all age groups from 10-74. While rates for males still exceed those for females, the gap began to narrow during the most recent period. Among females, the rate increase was almost triple that of males: 45% vs 16%.

While the highest suicide rate was observed among men aged 75 and older, there was a reduction of 8% in this group from the previous report. There was a 43% increase among males in the 45-64 age group, making it the group with the greatest rate increase and the second-highest suicide rate among males. The second highest increase (37%) occurred among males aged 10–14, although this group had the lowest rate among all of the age groups.

As with males, the suicide rate also decreased among females in the 75 and over group, by 11%. The steepest increase (200%) occurred among females aged 10-14, though the actual number of suicides in this age group was relatively small (150 in 2014). The females with the highest suicide rates comprised the 45-64 age group, which had the second greatest increase (63%) since the previous period. For females in the age groups of 15-24, 25-44, and 65-74, rate increases ranged from 31% to 53%.

The most common cause of suicide in females was poisoning, which accounted for 34.1% of cases, while the use of firearms accounted for more than half of male suicides (55.4%). Cases involving some form of suffocation–including hanging and strangulation–increased among both males and females.

Though the report does not provide possible explanations for these trends, other recent findings offer clues about a host of variables that could be influencing rates in the middle age brackets in particular, with especially strong support for economic issues as a potential influence. A study published in 2015 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, for example, found that economic and legal problems disproportionately affected adults aged 40-64 who had committed suicide (2). Research reported in 2014 showed a robust link between suicide rates and unemployment rates in adults in middle-aged adults but not other age groups, and according to a 2011 CDC study, suicide rates increased during periods of economic recession and declined during economic growth among people aged 25-64 years (3,4).

A co-author of the 2014 and 2015 studies, Julie A. Phillips, PhD, of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University, has received a grant from the American Foundation of Suicide to investigate the numerous variables that could be influencing the trend in middle-aged adults.

Additionally, a randomized controlled trial published in 2016 in PLoS Medicine found promising results with a brief, low-cost treatment designed to address the main risk factor for suicide: previous attempts (5).

An approach called the Attempted Suicide Short Intervention Program (ASSIP) was shown to reduce subsequent attempts by 80% among patients admitted to the emergency department after a suicide attempt.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and visit online at


1. Curtin SC, Warner M, Hedegaard H. Increase in suicide in the United States, 1999–2014. NCHS data brief, no 241. 2016; Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

2. Hempstead KA, Phillips JA. Rising suicide among adults aged 40-64 years: the role of job and financial circumstances. Am J Prev Med. 2015; 48(5):491-500.

3. Phillips JA, Nugent CN. Suicide and the Great Recession of 2007-2009: the role of economic factors in the 50 U.S. states. Social Science & Medicine. 2014; 116:22-31.

4. Luo F, Florence CS, Quispe-Agnoli M, et al. Impact of business cycles on US suicide rates, 1928-2007. Am J Public Health. 2011; 101(6):1139-46.

5. Gysin-Maillart A, Schwab S, Soravia L, Megert M, Michel K. A novel brief therapy for patients who attempt suicide: A 24-months follow-up randomized controlled study of the Attempted Suicide Short Intervention Program (ASSIP). PLoS Medicine. 2016; 13(3): e1001968.,psych_all&hmSubId=&hmEmail=5JIkN8Id_eWz7RlW__D9F5p_RUD7HzdI0&NID=1710903786&dl=0&spMailingID=14943637&spUserID=MTQ4MTYyNjcyNzk2S0&spJobID=820858811&spReportId=ODIwODU4ODExS0

by Tori Rodriguez, MA, LPC

As the search continues for effective drug treatments for dementia, patients and caregivers may find some measure of relief from a common, non-pharmaceutical source. Researchers have found that music-related memory appears to be exempt from the extent of memory impairment generally associated with dementia, and several studies report promising results for several different types of musical experiences across a variety of settings and formats.

“We can say that perception of music can be intact, even when explicit judgments and overt recognition have been lost,” Manuela Kerer, PhD, told Psychiatry Advisor. “We are convinced that there is a specialized memory system for music, which is distinct from other domains, like verbal or visual memory, and may be very resilient against Alzheimer’s disease.”

Kerer is a full-time musical composer with a doctoral degree in psychology who co-authored a study on the topic while working at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. She and her colleagues investigated explicit memory for music among ten patients with early-state Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and ten patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and compared their performance to that of 23 healthy participants. Not surprisingly, the patient group demonstrated worse performance on tasks involving verbal memory, but they did significantly better than controls on the music-perceptional tasks of detecting distorted tunes and judging timbre.

“The temporal brain structures necessary for verbal musical memory were mildly affected in our clinical patients, therefore attention might have shifted to the discrimination tasks which led to better results in this area,” she said. “Our results enhance the notion of an explicit memory for music that can be distinguished from other types of explicit memory — that means that memory for music could be spared in this patient group.”

Other findings suggest that music might even improve certain aspects of memory among people with dementia. In a randomized controlled trial published in last month in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, music coaching interventions improved multiple outcomes for both patients with dementia and their caregivers. The researchers divided 89 pairs of patients with dementia and their caregivers into three groups: two groups were assigned to caregiver-led interventions that involved either singing or listening to music, while a third group received standard care. Before and after the 10-week intervention, and six months after the intervention, participants were assessed on measures of mood, quality of life and neuropsychological functioning.

Results showed that the singing intervention improved working memory among patients with mild dementia and helped to preserve executive function and orientation among younger patients, and it also improved the well-being of caregivers. The listening intervention was found to have a positive impact on general cognition, working memory and quality of life, particularly among patients in institutional care with moderate dementia not caused by AD. Both interventions led to reductions in depression.

The findings suggest that “music has the power to improve mood and stimulate cognitive functions in dementia, most likely by engaging limbic and medial prefrontal brain regions, which are often preserved in the early stages of the illness,” study co-author Teppo Särkämö, PhD, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, Finland, told Psychiatry Advisor. “The results indicate that when used regularly, caregiver-implemented musical activities can be an important and easily applicable way to maintain the emotional and cognitive well-being of persons with dementia and also to reduce the psychological burden of family caregivers.”

Singing has also been shown to increase learning and retention of new verbal material in patients with AD, according to research published this year in the Journal of Clinical & Experimental Neuropsychology, and findings published in 2013 show that listening to familiar music improves the verbal narration of autobiographical memories in such patients. Another study found that a music intervention delivered in a group format reduced depression and delayed the deterioration of cognitive functions, especially short-term recall, in patients with mild and moderate dementia. Group-based music therapy appears to also decrease agitation among patients in all stages of dementia, as described in a systematic review published in 2014 in Nursing Times.

n addition to the effects of singing and listening to music on patients who already have dementia, playing a musical instrument may also offer some protection against the condition, according to a population-based twin study reported in 2014 in the International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Researchers at the University of Southern California found that older adults who played an instrument were 64% less likely than their non-musician twin to develop dementia or cognitive impairment.

“Playing an instrument is a unique activity in that it requires a wide array of brain regions and cognitive functions to work together simultaneously, throughout both the right and left hemispheres,” co-author Alison Balbag, PhD, told Psychiatry Advisor. While the study did not examine causal mechanisms, “playing an instrument may be a very effective and efficient way to engage the brain, possibly granting older musicians better maintained cognitive reserve and possibly providing compensatory abilities to mitigate age-related cognitive declines.”

She notes that clinicians might consider suggesting that patients incorporate music-making into their lives as a preventive activity, or encouraging them to keep it up if they already play an instrument.
Further research, particularly neuroimaging studies, is needed to elucidate the mechanisms behind the effects of music on dementia, but in the meantime it could be a helpful supplement to patients’ treatment plans. “Music has considerable potential and it should be introduced much more in rehabilitation and neuropsychological assessment,” Kerer said.


Kerer M, Marksteiner J, Hinterhuber H, et al. Explicit (semantic) memory for music in patients with mild cognitive impairment and early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Experimental Aging Research; 2013; 39(5):536-64.

Särkämö T, Laitinen S, Numminen A, et al. Clinical and Demographic Factors Associated with the Cognitive and Emotional Efficacy of Regular Musical Activities in Dementia. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease; 2015; published online ahead of print.

Palisson J, Roussel-Baclet C, Maillet D, et al. Music enhances verbal episodic memory in Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Clinical & Experimental Neuropsychology; 2015; 37(5):503-17.

El Haj M, Sylvain Clément, Luciano Fasotti, Philippe Allain. Effects of music on autobiographical verbal narration in Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Neurolinguistics; 2013; 26(6): 691–700.

Chu H, Yang CY, Lin Y, et al. The impact of group music therapy on depression and cognition in elderly persons with dementia: a randomized controlled study. Biological Research for Nursing; 2014; 16(2):209-17.

Craig J. Music therapy to reduce agitation in dementia. Nursing Times; 2014; 110(32-33):12-5.
Balbag MA, Pedersen NL, Gatz M. Playing a Musical Instrument as a Protective Factor against Dementia and Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Twin Study. International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease; 2014; 2014: 836748.