Alzheimer’s Drug May Help Treat TBI

Summary: A new study published in The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reveals a drug currently used to treat dementia may be helpful in the treatment of traumatic brain injury.

Source: Wiley.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of disability and death globally, but medications have generally failed to benefit patients. A new study found that memantine, a drug that is used to treat dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease, may be a promising therapy.

The study examined the effect of memantine on blood levels of neuron-specific enolase (NSE), a marker of neuronal damage, and the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) in patients with moderate TBI. The GCS is the most common scoring system used to describe the level of consciousness in a person following a TBI.

Patients with moderate TBI who received memantine had significantly reduced blood levels of NSE by day 7 and marked improvements in their GCS scores on day 3 of the study.

About this neuroscience research article

Source: Penny Smith – Wiley
Image Source: image is adapted from the Wiley news release.
Original Research: Abstract for “Effect of Memantine on Serum Levels of Neuron-Specific Enolase and on the Glasgow Coma Scale in Patients With Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury” by Majid Mokhtari MD, FCCP, Hossein Nayeb-Aghaei MD, Mehran Kouchek MD, Mir Mohammad Miri MD, Reza Goharani MD, Arash Amoozandeh MD, Sina Akhavan Salamat PharmD and Mohammad Sistanizad PharmD, PhD in The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Published online July 19 2017 doi:10.1002/jcph.980

Cite This Article

Wiley “Alzheimer’s Drug May Help Treat TBI.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 22 July 2017.

Wiley (2017, July 22). Alzheimer’s Drug May Help Treat TBI. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved July 22, 2017 from

Wiley “Alzheimer’s Drug May Help Treat TBI.” (accessed July 22, 2017).


Effect of Memantine on Serum Levels of Neuron-Specific Enolase and on the Glasgow Coma Scale in Patients With Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of disability and death globally. Despite significant progress in neuromonitoring and neuroprotection, pharmacological interventions have failed to generate favorable results. We examined the effect of memantine on serum levels of neuron-specific enolase (NSE), a marker of neuronal damage, and the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) in patients with moderate TBI. Patients were randomly assigned to the control group (who received standard TBI management) and the treatment group (who, alongside their standard management, received enteral memantine 30 mg twice daily for 7 days). Patients’ clinical data, GCS, findings of head computed tomography, and serum NSE levels were collected during the study. Forty-one patients were randomized into the control and treatment groups, 19 and 22 patients respectively. Baseline characteristics and serum NSE levels were not significantly different between the 2 groups. The mean serum NSE levels for the memantine and the control groups on day 3 were 7.95 ± 2.86 and 12.33 ± 7.09 ng/mL, respectively (P = .05), and on day 7 were 5.03 ± 3.25 and 10.04 ± 5.72 ng/mL, respectively (P = .003). The mean GCS on day 3 was 12.3 ± 2.0 and 10.9 ± 1.9 in the memantine and control groups, respectively (P = .03). Serum NSE levels and GCS changes were negatively correlated (r = −0.368, P = .02). Patients with moderate TBI who received memantine had significantly reduced serum NSE levels by day 7 and marked improvement in their GCS scores on day 3 of the study.

“Effect of Memantine on Serum Levels of Neuron-Specific Enolase and on the Glasgow Coma Scale in Patients With Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury” by Majid Mokhtari MD, FCCP, Hossein Nayeb-Aghaei MD, Mehran Kouchek MD, Mir Mohammad Miri MD, Reza Goharani MD, Arash Amoozandeh MD, Sina Akhavan Salamat PharmD and Mohammad Sistanizad PharmD, PhD in The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Published online July 19 2017 doi:10.1002/jcph.980

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Ottawa University gains psychology faculty member

Ottawa University has a new face in the psychology department.

This week, OU announced the hiring of Pilar Galiana Abal, PhD, as an assistant professor of psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences, according to a news release. Abal has experience teaching abnormal psychology, personality theories, multicultural psychology, psychology of criminal behavior and cognitive and behavior disorders, the release said.

For the past two years, Abal taught at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, located in Corpus Christi, Texas. Prior to that, she was an instructor in Paris, France, where she focused on psychology classes in nursing, medical and social work schools, in addition to the University of Paris X-Nanterre.

While in France, she was also licensed as a forensic psychologist and appointed to the court of Paris as an expert witness in 2011, the release said. She maintained a private practice in Paris where she served the population of adults, adolescents and children with psychological, psychiatric and identity disorders.

Abal has doctorate degrees in clinical psychology and psychopathology from the Université Vincennes-Saint Denis, France, as well as in social Anthropology and ethnology from École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, France. She has master’s degrees in clinical psychology and psychopathology from the Université Vincennes-Saint Denis, France, and in anthropology and ethnology from the Université Denis Diderot, France. Her bachelor’s degrees include general psychology, Japanese language and culture, Thai language and culture and Lao language and literature.

What I’m really thinking: the burned-out businessman

‘I sailed on, hitting target after target, until one day I couldn’t do it any more’

Everyone told me to be careful. “Watch out: you’re burning the candle at both ends.” “Maybe you could do with some support?” And I would wave them away dismissively. Of course I could cope. They hadn’t seen anything yet. So I sailed on, hitting target after target, making my company more successful than it had ever been until suddenly I couldn’t do it any more. I couldn’t get out of bed some days, and when I did, I couldn’t stand up, walk in a straight line or talk sense. I felt physically sick in the presence of colleagues; I couldn’t make decisions, take notes or sit in meetings.

Thank goodness I had someone to support me through it all. My partner quietly gave me space to get well, encouraged me to see a psychotherapist and never judged. “Welcome to the mainstream!” said my doctor, who told me my body was simply shutting down until I could get my head straight.

Related: What I’m really thinking: the woman who is grateful for her abortion

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Two of TV’s richest players have North Texas ties

Forbes likes its lists. The business magazine just released its 2017 ranking of the world’s top-earning TV entertainers (based on annual income), and two people with Texas ties are on the list.

It’s worth noting that while the category is for TV entertainers, the stars’ earnings can come from a variety of sources in addition to TV, including endorsements and merchandise sales.

The top person on the list, with earnings of $79 million, is Dr. Phil McGraw. He’s also the first Texan on the list. His masters degree in experimental psychology and his doctorate in clinical psychology came from The University of North Texas. In 2003 he told the university’s alumni magazine, The North Texan, that “Denton in general, and North Texas in particular, are among my wife Robin’s and my fondest memories. We loved everywhere we lived — loved all the little restaurants. Really, we just loved the culture there. And North Texas is such a music giant and we love music, so we really partook of all those opportunities.”

Steve Harvey talks to the audience during a taping of his show in Chicago, Illinois, on April 23, 2013. Harvey, one of Forbes’ top 10 richest TV players, has ties to North Texas. 


Rounding out the top 10, and bookending the list with Texans, is Steve Harvey, with annual earnings of $42.5 million. The host and comedian keeps a lot of Dallas ties, including his annual mentoring camp for young men. Last year, he helped a young Dallas girl plan her birthday party. The theme? Steve Harvey.

The full Forbes list, pulled from the Associated Press:

1. Dr. Phil McGraw, $79 million (talk-show host, personality, producer).

2. Ellen DeGeneres, $77 million (talk-show host, personality, producer).

3. Jerry Seinfeld, $69 million (comedian, sitcom star).

4. Gordon Ramsay, $60 million (personality, celebrity chef).

5. Ryan Seacrest, $58 million (personality, radio host, producer).

6. Louis C.K., $52 million (sitcom star, comedian, producer).

7. Judy Sheindlin, $47 million (courtroom-show host, personality).

8. Kim Kardashian West, $45.5 million (reality show star, personality).

9. Simon Cowell, $43.5 million (TV personality, producer).

10. Steve Harvey, $42.5 million (TV host, comedian).

FEATURE IMAGE: Talk Show host and author Dr. Phil McGraw speaks at the University of North Texas master’s and doctoral commencement ceremony on May 13, 2011.  Dr. Phil, as he is known, came to fame after appearing weekly on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1998 and has been the host of his own day-time talk show “Dr. Phil” since 2002. McGraw is a University of North Texas alumnus, earning his master’s degree in experimental psychology in 1976 and his doctorate in clinical psychology in 1979.  McCraw made Forbes top 10 most wealthy television figures. File photo by David Minton/Denton Record-Chronicle.

Depression Changes Structure of the Brain

Summary: White matter integrity appears to be reduced in people with major depressive disorders, a new Scientific Reports study reveals.

Source: University of Edinburgh.

Changes in the brain’s structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

Alterations were found in parts of the brain known as white matter, which contains fibre tracts that enable brain cells to communicate with one another by electrical signals.

White matter is a key component of the brain’s wiring and its disruption has been linked to problems with emotion processing and thinking skills.

The study of more than 3000 people – the largest of its type to date – sheds light on the biology of depression and could help in the search for better diagnosis and treatment.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh used a cutting-edge technique known as diffusion tensor imaging to map the structure of white matter.

A quality of the matter – known as white matter integrity – was reduced in people who reported symptoms indicative of depression. The same changes were not seen in people who were unaffected.

Depression is the world’s leading cause of disability, affecting around a fifth of UK adults over a lifetime. Symptoms include low mood, exhaustion and feelings of emptiness.

Experts say the large number of people included in the sample – 3461 – means that the study findings are very robust.

Participants were drawn from UK Biobank, a national research resource with health data available from 500,000 volunteers.

The study forms part of a Wellcome Trust initiative called Stratifying Resilience and Depression Longitudinally (STRADL), which aims to classify subtypes of depression and identify risk factors.

Heather Whalley, Senior Research Fellow in the University of Edinburgh’s Division of Psychiatry, said: “This study uses data from the largest single sample published to date and shows that people with depression have changes in the white matter wiring of their brain.

“There is an urgent need to provide treatment for depression and an improved understanding of it mechanisms will give us a better chance of developing new and more effective methods of treatment. Our next steps will be to look at how the absence of changes in the brain relates to better protection from distress and low mood.”

About this neuroscience research article

The work – published in Scientific Reports – was carried out in collaboration with the University of Glasgow.

Funding: Support for the study was provided by the Wellcome Trust.

The authors report no financial or other conflicts of interest.

Source: Kate McAllister – University of Edinburgh
Image Source: image is credited to Whalley et al./Scientific Reports.
Original Research: Full open access research for “Subcortical volume and white matter integrity abnormalities in major depressive disorder: findings from UK Biobank imaging data” by Xueyi Shen, Lianne M. Reus, Simon R. Cox, Mark J. Adams, David C. Liewald, Mark E. Bastin, Daniel J. Smith, Ian J. Deary, Heather C. Whalley & Andrew M. McIntosh in Scientific Reports. Published online March 21 2017 doi:10.1038/s41598-017-05507-6

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University of Edinburgh “Depression Changes Structure of the Brain.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 21 July 2017.

University of Edinburgh (2017, July 21). Depression Changes Structure of the Brain. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved July 21, 2017 from

University of Edinburgh “Depression Changes Structure of the Brain.” (accessed July 21, 2017).


Subcortical volume and white matter integrity abnormalities in major depressive disorder: findings from UK Biobank imaging data

Previous reports of altered grey and white matter structure in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) have been inconsistent. Recent meta-analyses have, however, reported reduced hippocampal grey matter volume in MDD and reduced white matter integrity in several brain regions. The use of different diagnostic criteria, scanners and imaging sequences may, however, obscure further anatomical differences. In this study, we tested for differences in subcortical grey matter volume (n = 1157) and white matter integrity (n = 1089) between depressed individuals and controls in the subset of 8590 UK Biobank Imaging study participants who had undergone depression assessments. Whilst we found no significant differences in subcortical volumes, significant reductions were found in depressed individuals versus controls in global white matter integrity, as measured by fractional anisotropy (FA) (β = −0.182, p = 0.005). We also found reductions in FA in association/commissural fibres (β = −0.184, pcorrected = 0.010) and thalamic radiations (β = −0.159, pcorrected = 0.020). Tract-specific FA reductions were also found in the left superior longitudinal fasciculus (β = −0.194, pcorrected = 0.025), superior thalamic radiation (β = −0.224, pcorrected = 0.009) and forceps major (β = −0.193, pcorrected = 0.025) in depression (all betas standardised). Our findings provide further evidence for disrupted white matter integrity in MDD.

“Subcortical volume and white matter integrity abnormalities in major depressive disorder: findings from UK Biobank imaging data” by Xueyi Shen, Lianne M. Reus, Simon R. Cox, Mark J. Adams, David C. Liewald, Mark E. Bastin, Daniel J. Smith, Ian J. Deary, Heather C. Whalley & Andrew M. McIntosh in Scientific Reports. Published online March 21 2017 doi:10.1038/s41598-017-05507-6

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The 10 best US colleges for a major in psychology

Psychology is an absorbing and interesting topic that remains one of the most popular majors students pursue today. A degree in psychology allows graduates to further understand how people and animals think as students take classes that explore personality types, human development, and behavior. This degree leads to careers in social work, marketing, human resources and public health programs, with more opportunities arising with an advanced degree.

This list rounds up the top 10 colleges for a degree in psychology. Each of these schools offer quality educations that prepare students for success. Students learn all concepts, theories, and methodologies of the psych field while gaining hands-on experience that will be useful when entering the job force.

Learn more about the ranking methodology here. Salaries are estimates with data provided from Payscale.

1. Stanford University

Stanford University is a prestigious research school that houses many of the top academic programs in the country. Students interested in studying psychology should consider Stanford due to the strength of the program.

Psychology majors receive extensive knowledge and training on how to become leaders in the field. Psych classes are supplemented by undergraduate research, introductory seminars and study abroad programs to ensure students understand all theories and receive a dynamic education.

Graduates enter the workforce earning an average starting salary of $53,000, jumping to $67,000 at the mid-career level.

2. University of California-Los Angeles

The University of California–Los Angeles is known as a pioneer in academia. The undergraduate psychology program gives students the opportunity to study human and animal behavior to further understand normal and abnormal reactions and tendencies.

Students take classes in learning and memory, cognition, personality and other specialized fields to help them explore their areas of interest. UCLA graduates typically earn an average starting salary of $45,000, increasing to $77,000 at the mid-career level. 

3. Washington University-St. Louis 

Established in 1853, Washington University is well-known for offering students a quality education. In addition to being one of the best schools in the country for psychology majors, the university is ranked 19th in the nation in terms of overall quality.

The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences has four primary research programs: Aging and Development; Behavior, Brain and Cognition; Clinical Psychology and Social/Personality. Students graduating with a degree in psychology from WUSTL go on to careers that earn an average starting salary of $48,000.

4. Vanderbilt University

Founded in 1873, Vanderbilt has a long history of providing students with a quality education. The social science programs are the largest at Vanderbilt, with psychology being among the most popular.

Psychology majors are challenged to analyze and solve social and psychological problems using the theories and critical thinking skills they acquire in the classroom. This knowledge translates to the real world, and Vanderbilt graduates find jobs earning a mid-career salary of $86,000.

Dig deeper into College Factual’s psychology ratings with this interactive tool.

5. Princeton University

Princeton University is a highly selective, independent research university known for its excellent education. The psychology program offers numerous undergraduate research opportunities, which allow students can work closely with faculty members on projects.

Students take classes that study thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to further understand human and animal emotion and interactions. The undergraduate program is designed to prepare students for successful careers in the psych field by providing hands-on experience through independent work during the junior and senior years.

Psychology graduates from Princeton earn an average starting salary of $45,000 and average mid-career salary of $94,000.

6. University of Pennsylvania

Founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania is among the oldest in the United States and has spent decades providing a strong education to all students. It is a research institution that has a strong focus on interdisciplinary curriculums.

Penn is home to many exceptional programs ranked among the top ten in the country, including its psychology program. As the oldest continuously functioning psych department in North America, the Penn program has a strong history of developing leaders in the field.

Students learn about the mind and the various ways we respond to outside factors. The school offers the best earnings boost for psychology majors with graduates making $45,000 out of college and $79,000 at the mid-career level.

7. Duke University

Duke University has a strong track record for developing future leaders. A popular and challenging major at Duke is the psychology program. Undergraduate students have the option to focus on abnormal/health, biological, cognitive, developmental or social psychology and take classes within their concentration.

With an affordable net price and best earnings boost, Duke is a good value for your money. The mid-career salary of Duke psychology graduates is the highest on this list at $101,000. Students fresh out of college can expect an average earning of $43,000.

8. Yale University

Yale University is an Ivy League school that often tops the list of best colleges. One of its best programs is the undergraduate psychology program. Along with a variety of psych classes, Yale offers research opportunities that give students the ability to dig deeper into the field.

Psych majors are given the chance to analyze why humans and animals think and act like they do. Theories and ideas are taken out of the classroom and applied to real world situations. The university is a good value for your money because it provides an excellent education that leads to a starting salary around $44,000 and mid-career salary of $91,000.

9. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina was chartered in 1789 and is one of the oldest public universities in the United States. The school’s 729-acre campus has won numerous awards for its architectural beauty. Due to its academic excellence and in-state tuition discount, the university is considered a great value for your money.

The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience has about 1,600 undergraduate majors with over 200 of them working with faculty on research projects. Upon graduation, majors go on to earn an average starting salary of $40,000.

10. University of Virginia

The University of Virginia’s Department of Psychology has research studies in clinical, cognitive, community, developmental, quantitative, neuroscience and behavior, and social psychology. Study abroad programs are available for students who want to gain a more varied perspective of their field of focus.

The university has a freshman retention rate of 97% – that’s one of the in the country. UVA has a reputation for quality and a very reasonable net price, making it a super value for in-state students. With this excellent foundation, psychology majors earn an average starting salary of $41,000.

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CD44s Gives Glioblastoma Brain Cancer a Survival Advantage

Summary: A new Baylor study reveals the CD44s molecule gives glioblastoma brain cancer cells a survival advantage. Removing CD44s from cancer cells and treating with erlotinib helped to promote the death of cancer cells than by just treating the cancer with erlotinib alone, researchers said.

Source: Baylor.

Understanding the mechanisms that give cancer cells the ability to survive and grow opens the possibility of developing improved treatments to control or cure the disease. In the case of glioblastoma multiforme, the deadliest type of brain cancer, researchers have discovered that the molecule CD44s seems to give cancer cells a survival advantage. In the lab, eliminating this advantage by reducing the amount of CD44s resulted in cancer cells being more sensitive to the deadly effects of the drug erlotinib. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Treatment with erlotinib attempts to kill cancer cells by inhibiting EGFR signaling, a cellular mechanism that is hyperactive in most cases of glioblastoma multiforme and associated with poor prognosis,” said senior author Dr. Chonghui Cheng, associate professor of molecular and human genetics and of molecular and cellular biology at Baylor College of Medicine. “However, the clinical benefit of treatment with this and other EGFR inhibitors has been limited by the development of drug resistance.”

Erlotinib can inhibit EGFR signaling but in time cancer cells become resistant to the treatment, in part because other molecules can compensate for the lack of EGFR activity.

Increasing evidence also suggests that EGFR and related signaling mechanisms do not act alone. Another molecule present in a number of cancers, CD44s, seems to be involved in sustaining those cancer-promoting mechanisms, but how this happens remained a mystery.

CD44s gives cancer cells a survival advantage

“In this study, we discovered a mechanism by which CD44s helps maintain the EGFR signaling activated in glioblastoma multiforme,” said Cheng, who also is an associate professor in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor, part of the NCI-designated Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Working with a number of cancer cells grown in the lab, we determined that CD44s on the cell surface can enter the cell and prevent the digestion of EGFR, thus sustaining the activity of the signaling cascade that gives the cells a survival advantage.”

Cheng and her colleagues have shown that CD44s holds a strategic place from which it can influence not only EGFR, but also a number of other signaling cascades that are important for cancer cell survival.

Image shows a glioblastoma brain cancer tumor in a brain slice.

Increasing evidence also suggests that EGFR and related signaling mechanisms do not act alone. Another molecule present in a number of cancers, CD44s, seems to be involved in sustaining those cancer-promoting mechanisms, but how this happens remained a mystery. image is for illustrative purposes only.

“If we remove CD44s from the cell surface, we also can reduce the appearance of other molecules that could help cancer cells sustain their growth by compensating for the lack of EGFR activity,” Cheng said.

Importantly from the therapeutic point of view, the researchers also found that removing CD44s from cancer cells in culture and treating them with erlotinib resulted in higher cancer cell deaths than treating with erlotinib alone. Cheng and colleagues anticipate that CD44s might also play a similar role in other types of cancer in which EGFR signaling is involved. This opens the possibility that targeting CD44s could potentially reduce the growth of many types of cancer, not just glioblastoma.

“Researchers have been focused on developing inhibitors of EGRF and related pathways. Instead, we want to find novel approaches to boost the activity of inhibitors already available, and removing CD44s is a good example of how this could be done,” said co-author Sali Liu, a graduate student in the Cheng lab. “Our work suggests that in the future, physicians and scientists might approach cancer treatment in a different way. For example, instead of deciding on a treatment based on the type of breast cancer a patient has, they might choose a treatment according to the type of mechanism that helps this particular cancer grow, regardless of the type of cancer it is.”

About this neuroscience research article

Other contributors to this work include Wei Wang, Honghong Zhang, Chung Kwon Kim, Yilin Xu, Lisa Hurley, Ryo Nishikawa, Motoo Nagane, Bo Hu, Alexander Stegh and Shi-Yuan Cheng. The authors are affiliated with one or more of the following institutions: Baylor College of Medicine, Northwestern University, Saitama Medical University and Kyorin University.

Funding: This research was supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Northwestern University Brain Tumor Institute and a Brain Cancer Research Award from James S. McDonnell Foundation. Further support was provided by a Zell Scholarship at Northwestern University and the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas.

Source: Allison Huseman – Baylor
Image Source: image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “Internalized CD44s splice isoform attenuates EGFR degradation by targeting Rab7A” by Wei Wang, Honghong Zhang, Sali Liu, Chung Kwon Kim, Yilin Xu, Lisa A. Hurley, Ryo Nishikawa, Motoo Nagane, Bo Hu, Alexander H. Stegh, Shi-Yuan Cheng, and Chonghui Cheng in PNAS. Published online July 17 2117 doi:10.1073/pnas.1701289114

Cite This Article

Baylor “CD44s Gives Glioblastoma Brain Cancer a Survival Advantage.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 21 July 2117.

Baylor (2117, July 21). CD44s Gives Glioblastoma Brain Cancer a Survival Advantage. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved July 21, 2117 from

Baylor “CD44s Gives Glioblastoma Brain Cancer a Survival Advantage.” (accessed July 21, 2117).


Internalized CD44s splice isoform attenuates EGFR degradation by targeting Rab7A

CD44 has been postulated as a cell surface coreceptor for augmenting receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) signaling. However, how exactly CD44 triggers RTK-dependent signaling remained largely unclear. Here we report an unexpected mechanism by which the CD44s splice isoform is internalized into endosomes to attenuate EGFR degradation. We identify a CD44s-interacting small GTPase, Rab7A, and show that CD44s inhibits Rab7A-mediated EGFR trafficking to lysosomes and subsequent degradation. Importantly, CD44s levels correlate with EGFR signature and predict poor prognosis in glioblastomas. Because Rab7A facilitates trafficking of many RTKs to lysosomes, our findings identify CD44s as a Rab7A regulator to attenuate RTK degradation.

“Internalized CD44s splice isoform attenuates EGFR degradation by targeting Rab7A” by Wei Wang, Honghong Zhang, Sali Liu, Chung Kwon Kim, Yilin Xu, Lisa A. Hurley, Ryo Nishikawa, Motoo Nagane, Bo Hu, Alexander H. Stegh, Shi-Yuan Cheng, and Chonghui Cheng in PNAS. Published online July 17 2117 doi:10.1073/pnas.1701289114

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Working life: Clinical psychologist Mark Smyth

Mark Smyth is a senior clinical psychologist at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).


The kids, aged four and six, are my wake-up call. I drop them to the childminder before hitting the 20-minute commute to work in Swords.


In work I wear two hats — clinical psychologist and co-ordinator of our CAMHs team which includes psychiatry, psychology nursing, social workers, OT, speech and language therapists, and dieticians. As team co-ordinator, I take the lead on waiting lists and am first point of contact for referral issues. The early morning is spent responding to emails and planning when to return phone calls. A large catchment area means a lot to process.


I switch back to my psychologist’s role for an individual session with a teenager. I work predominantly with teenagers with a range of mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression, self-harm, and thoughts of suicide. Social media has been playing a significant role in terms of anxiety and body image.

There is a lot of pressure to be seen to be perfect, to fit in and be accepted.


I meet another teen. All referrals to our team are in consultation with the GP.

I grab lunch at my desk while watching a box-set on my laptop, which helps me switch off.


We run a dialectical behaviour therapy programme, aimed at helping young people with ongoing difficulties managing intense emotions and self-harm. Young people receive weekly individual therapy and group skills sessions with a parent. This is reinforced by out-of-hours phone-coaching to help remind them of the coping skills they’ve learned, such as distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation.


I see another individual young person or facilitate group work with a colleague. We hold a monthly support group for groups of teens on a Thursday afternoon and the teens largely guide the discussion on different topics affecting their mental health.


I engage in private practice twice a week.


Home for dinner and story time with the kids before their bedtime. For downtime, I get out for an occasional round of golf. I also help run the Twitter account for the Psychological Society of Ireland as a member of its communications team and governing council.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Neuroscience Offers Insights Into the Opioid Epidemic

Most Americans say they’re interested in scientific discoveries, but they may be thinking of the kinds of findings that lead to new gadgets and wonder drugs. When it comes to discoveries about hazards and risks — especially the risks of those wonder drugs — Americans seem more likely to tune out.

Such ambivalence might help explain how opioid misuse became such a problem in America. Despite 20 years of warnings from scientists about the dangers of addiction, the rate of prescriptions has tripled between 1999 and today. It hit a peak around 2012 and has started to decline slightly, going from 81.2 per 100 people to a still-enormous 70.6 per 100, new data show. Indeed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for potentially addictive painkillers in 2014 — enough for every adult in the country to have a bottle.

All the while, neuroscientists have found that opioids can cause long-term changes in the brain even after an addicted person experiences the severe nausea and other withdrawal symptoms typically associated with quitting. That lingering hazard might have given patients and prescribing physicians pause.

But it’s not too late to start listening to scientists. Brain research can help inform policy on how to help the 2 million Americans who are currently addicted to prescription opioids, as well as the 1 million addicted to heroin. Neuroscience “definitely has things to offer helping us understand the reality of the addicted brain,” said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Stanford University. He and several colleagues urged a greater role for neuroscience in shaping policy in a commentary that ran last month in the journal Science.

Neuroscience research has shown, for example, that addictive drugs can alter the brain circuitry that controls motivation and reward, and they can wreak havoc on the brain’s decision-making center, the prefrontal cortex. And yet, he said, insurance providers tend to stop coverage after an addict goes through detoxification and withdrawal, based on the old idea that the disease is over at that point.

Other treatment programs require people to prove they’re motivated by abstaining for some period of weeks, he said, but it’s the motivational circuitry that’s damaged in the brains of addicts. “It’s not that it’s hopeless,” he said, but treatment might save more lives if designed for dealing with addiction as a long-term brain disease.

Newer research also shows how environmental cues can trigger cravings in people who have been addicted. Other studies provide insight into why some people are vulnerable to addiction and others face no temptation. Humphreys said that people don’t necessarily have to use these drugs recreationally in order to become addicted — it can happen while patients are following doctors’ orders. All this points to a policy that protects vulnerable people by requiring doctors to exercise more care and restraint in prescribing.

Age and environment also matter. There’s evidence from neuroscience that people in their teens and early 20s are more likely to become addicted because the prefrontal cortex is still developing, suggesting that stronger measures need to be taken to protect teens. A recent New York Times column by psychiatrist Richard Friedman brought up studies that suggest low social status also increases people’s risks of becoming addicted, not just to opioids, but also to other substances and to overeating. Friedman implies that the solution is in creating a just society — a lofty goal, even if, in the shorter term, careful prescribing is more practical.

Humphreys said there is some hope that neuroscience — and related fields such as genetics and psychology — is starting to get more of a voice in the opioid crisis. The MacArthur Foundation, he said, is supporting an initiative to allow scientists to help policy makers take a more evidence-based approach to mental health issues, including addiction.

What is clear is that current drug policies in the U.S. aren’t working to stem the tide of opioid addiction. While rates of prescription have tapered off a bit, rates of addiction increased almost 500 percent from 2010 to 2016. Opioid addiction is now the leading cause of death in people under 50.

Scientific discoveries do sometimes reveal the hazards behind what people thought were life-enhancing or lifesaving drugs. People don’t have to use opioids recreationally to develop deadly addictions. This may not be what people want to hear, but with 91 Americans dying every day from opioid overdose, we have an obligation to start listening.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Faye Flam at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Tracy Walsh at

Matt Haig: ‘There is no more shame in mental illness than having tonsilitis’

In our series marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the writer says it is time to integrate mental and physical health

The problem we have with talking about mental health is that we still don’t think of it as an equal priority with physical health. This is wrong not simply because it leads to less money being spent on mental health service provision by governments, but also because it fails to see that the whole idea of mental health shouldn’t be an isolated one.

As a species, we love to divide things up. We draw a straight line in a map between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans while the water remains oblivious. We also draw a line between the mental and physical and base our entire system of healthcare on that false division.

Related: NHS bosses warn of mental health crisis with long waits for treatment

You can’t draw a line between a body and a mind any more than you can draw a line between oceans

Continue reading…

Gene variant increases risk for depression, study finds

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A gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression, finds a new study. People with apolipoprotein-E4, called ApoE4 for short, have a 20 percent greater chance of developing clinically significant depressive symptoms later in life compared to those who don’t have the gene variant, report the investigators.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

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Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according to new research.

Similar improvements between speech language therapy delivered online and in-person

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A recent study found that patients who accessed speech language therapy over the Internet saw large improvements to their communication abilities that were similar to those of patients doing in-person therapy.

How CRISPR proteins find their target

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In addition to the Cas9 protein that bacteria use to bind and snip DNA, bacteria have other Cas proteins that know where to insert that viral DNA into the CRISPR region to remember which viruses have attacked and mount a defense. A research team has discovered how these proteins — Cas1 and Cas2 — locate and insert the viral DNA, and it relies on the flexibility of these enzymes and the shape of the DNA.