Hi Everybody! I made an interactive brain diagram of the lateral view of the brain that you can check out at this link: http://web.pdx.edu/~kristinb/Brains/brainlateralEX.html
Hey Everybody! I recently made this new brain/neuron fabric and gift wrap! I made a giant brain pillow for my psychiatrist too, and he seemed to like it which was awesome! :) Here are some pics! Also, the fabric, gift wrap, and wall paper are available on spoonflower here: http://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/3713721
I have some great news! I was able to ask Dr. Steven G. Potkin, Professor of Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) Medical Center, some questions regarding the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. He is also the Robert R. Sprague Endowed Chair in Brain Imaging. It was a brief, by email interview, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with you all! The following is the Q&A:
Kristin: What are negative symptoms?
Dr. Potkin: “Negative” does not refer to a person’s attitude, but instead to a lack of characteristics that should be present. Symptoms include reduced amount and content of speech, even when encouraged to interact (alogia), lack of emotional and facial expression (affective flattening), diminished ability to begin and sustain activities (avolition), decreased ability to find pleasure in everyday life (anhedonia) and social withdrawal (asociality).  
Negative symptoms can appear a few years before other symptoms appear in young adulthood in the so-called “prodromal” stage of the illness. Unfortunately these symptoms often go undetected because they manifest themselves as issues common among teenagers: social withdrawal, problems with school work, irritability, depression and sleeping problems.
Kristin: Do all people with schizophrenia have negative symptoms?
Dr. Potkin: No, but at any point in time, negative symptoms can affect approximately 50 percent or more of people with schizophrenia. 
Kristin: How do negative symptoms affect a person with schizophrenia? How do they affect their family and friends?
Dr. Potkin: Research suggests that for people living with schizophrenia, negative symptoms are key factors in poor quality of life as well as problems with personal hygiene, school and work performance, maintaining relationships, interacting within the community, and participating in social activities.    
For caregivers of people with schizophrenia, negative symptoms may cause more burden than do other types of symptoms as they see their loved ones life isolated and lacking in meaning or joy. 
Kristin: How are negative symptoms currently treated?
Dr. Potkin: Current treatments for schizophrenia focus on reducing characteristic symptoms and can include both medication and psychosocial interventions. No effective medication treatment has yet been approved for specific treatment of negative symptoms. Despite progress in the medication side of treatment, there are still unmet needs in terms of symptom control. A large study found that despite treatment, approximately 57 percent of people receiving treatment for a schizophrenia spectrum disorder still had at least one negative symptom.
Kristin: What is the research that Genentech is doing regarding negative symptoms?
Dr. Potkin: Researchers at Genentech are pursuing new treatment strategies for schizophrenia, including increasing N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor activity in the brain in order to target the mechanism that may be a common link between the positive, negative and cognitive symptoms of the disorder.   
Specifically, through a clinical trial program, Genentech is looking at an investigational medication for people with schizophrenia, including people who experience mostly negative symptoms of schizophrenia, despite taking medication. For more information, please visit www.SearchLyteschizophrenia.com
Kristin: How can family and friends of someone with schizophrenia help someone with negative symptoms?
Dr. Potkin: Caregivers can talk to doctors about interventions including medication, psychosocial rehabilitation (work, school, relationships), medical care and wellness, and therapy (e.g. cognitive behavioral therapy and peer support groups), as well as ongoing clinical trials. They can work with physicians to find the medications and non-medicine therapies that are right for their loved one. Different medicines may have different side effects. Caregivers can also consider programs from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) including:
• NAMI Hearts and Minds
– Online, interactive wellness initiative
• NAMI Peer-to-Peer
– Free, 9-week educational course on recovery
• NAMI Connection
– Recovery support group for adults
Kristin: Do scientists know the biological mechanisms involved in negative symptoms? If so, what are the areas of the brain and/or mechanisms involved in negative symptoms?
Dr. Potkin: In the 1970s, the “dopamine hypothesis” of schizophrenia emerged, suggesting the biological basis of schizophrenia was an excess of signaling by dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain. This theory, however, could not explain negative or cognitive symptoms. In the late 1980’s a newer theory suggested positive, negative and cognitive symptoms could all be due to reduced function of NMDA receptors in the brain. This theory is now known as the “NMDA receptor hypofunction hypothesis.”   
Researchers are pursuing new treatment strategies for schizophrenia, including increasing NMDA receptor function in the brain in order to target the mechanism that may be a common link between the positive, negative and cognitive symptoms of the disorder.    It is thought that NMDA receptor activity is an important pathway in psychiatric disorders, especially schizophrenia.
End of article.
*Note: I would like to thank Dr. Potkin for helping me put together this interview. This research is very exciting and I hope that negative symptoms can be tackled in this decade! I know how debilitating they can be!
4. National Institute of Mental Health. Schizophrenia. 2009; http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/schizophrenia/complete-index.shtml. Accessed July 7, 2012.
6. Bobes J, Arango C, Garcia-Garcia M, Rejas J. Prevalence of negative symptoms in outpatients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders treated with antipsychotics in routine clinical practice: findings from the CLAMORS study. J Clin Psychiatry. Mar 2010;71(3):280-286.
10. Milev P, Ho BC, Arndt S, Andreasen NC. Predictive values of neurocognition and negative symptoms on functional outcome in schizophrenia: a longitudinal first-episode study with 7-year follow-up. Am J Psychiatry. Mar 2005;162(3):495-506.
12. National Institute of Mental Health. Schizophrenia. 2009; http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/schizophrenia/complete-index.shtml. Accessed July 7, 2012.
13. National Institute of Mental Health. Schizophrenia. 2009; http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/schizophrenia/complete-index.shtml. Accessed July 7, 2012.
Hey Everybody! I wanted to share with you this cool genetics testing that is available to people. I just got it done, because my nurse practitioner ordered it and Medicare pays for it. (Medicare pays for this testing, because it saves a LOT of money and can save lives!) It is really cool, because it tells you how medications will interact with your specific genetic makeup! It is extremely important if you are taking really any kind of medication. For example, had I known about my results before I took Wellbutrin years ago, it would have saved me from basically having a manic reaction to the medication. It turns out that I metabolize differently than normal on some of the metabolic pathways. This means that I will metabolize the meds on those pathways different than people without this issue. If you have Medicare, I strongly urge you to get this testing done. It could save your life from a bad genetic-medication mistake. I think many other insurance carriers might also pay for it. It also explains why I can take a lower dose of many medications and still get the desired effect from the medication. I would say that anyone who is trying to figure out their psych meds should really get this testing done too. It doesn’t just tell about psych meds though, it tells about stuff involving all other sorts of meds. Seriously, this is pretty awesome! Again, here is the link: http://www.genemedrx.com/
So, for my Biology class that starts Fall term we have to use these iClicker devices (I’m assuming for taking quizzes or something). I bought a Hello Kitty tin to put it in, but I didn’t want it clunking around in there, so I made this iClicker fabric cozy for it out of a swatch of fabric that I had. The inside is lined with fleece so it is a bit heavier weight than just cotton fabric. :) Neat! Now I can be all kawaii in bio class! :) hehe UPDATE: I decided to put on some ribbons that when tied keep the clicker from falling out! :)
I always get really excited when I start taking new classes, and this year is no exception! This summer I’m excited to take Calc 4, basically vector calculus and Mth256 which is Differential Equations! I’m excited and nervous! I hope things work out okay. I’m also excited about Fall term when I hope to at least take Chemistry and Biology and maybe Advanced Calculus! It might be too much to add the Advanced Calc class, but I really want to keep up with the math skills so I don’t forget it all!!! I’ve actually taken the first term of Chem and Bio before, but it was a long time ago when I wasn’t really doing all that well, and I didn’t really do the homework at that time. Anyway, it was so long ago that I pretty much forgot everything, so I’m going to take them again and hopefully get more into it this time and really understand everything! The unfortunate thing about Chem and Bio at my college is that they only start the sequence in the Fall, so if I want to take the whole year I need to start Fall term. I’m signed up, so I hope it works out! I will have to get up earlier than normal, so that is going to be a challenge that I hope I can tackle. Also, textbooks are ridiculously expensive, but the good thing about Chem and Bio is that they use the same books the whole year, so I’m only out of money for Fall term! I hope I can do it and not drop the classes! :)
“Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void” by Mary Roach will probably make a wanna-be astronaut out of you if you aren’t already! Simply put, this book is FANTASTIC! I fell in love with the idea of space travel all over again. Roach’s writing is top notch and very humorous. This book was a joy to read and it makes me want to have a bake sale to help fund space missions or something. People often ask “why go to space when there are so many problems on THIS planet?!?” and I think that Mary Roach has an answer for them. Get this book and read it! I can’t imagine anyone not loving it! ( )
“The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” by Nicholas Carr is a terrific and fascinating book. I couldn’t put it down. It would be easy to dismiss Carr and say “oh yah, whatever, the internet is making us all dumb, riiiiiiight,” but his case is compelling and hard to dismiss. He isn’t even so much saying that technology is bad at all. His point seems to be that we should be more mindful of the impact that technology has on us. Only Carr talks about it with interesting and thought-provoking examples from ancient history to current psycho-biology! You’d do well to read this book in print and NOT on an ebook reader too!
This book is engaging, well written and thought-provoking. If you really believe you are getting so many things done by doing 100 things at once, you should pick up this book and think again. Well worth the thoughtful contemplation time. ( )