Friday Factoid: Synesthesia

Katelyn Yunes, MS

WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

Have you ever tasted shapes, saw sounds, or felt flavors? If so, you may be experiencing synesthesia, a neurological trait where “a triggering stimulus evokes the automatic, involuntary, affect-laden, and conscious perception of a sensory or conceptual property that differs from that of the trigger” (Cytowic, 2002).

 

References

Cytowic, R. (2002). Synesthesia: A union of the senses. The MIT Press.

Posted in Blog, Current Interns, Friday Factoids | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Friday Factoid: Hallucinations and Sleep

Katelyn Yunes, MS

WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

Did you know that nonpathological hallucinations exist? Hypnagogic hallucinations are short-lived perceptual experiences that can occur while falling asleep. Similarly, hypnopompic hallucinations are short-lived perceptual experiences that can occur upon waking up and are often a continuation of a dream (Waters et al., 2016). Ohayon et al. (2016) found that both hypnopompic and hypnogogic hallucinations were common among a sample of United Kingdom citizens, with increased hypnopompic hallucinations in individuals with narcolepsy.

 

References

Ohayon, M., Priest, R., Caulet, M., & Guilleminault, C. (1996). Hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations: Pathological phenomena? British Journal of Psychiatry, 169, 459–467.

 

Waters, F., Blom, J., Dang-Vu, T., Cheyne, A., Alderson-Day, B., Woodruff, P., & Collerton, D. (n.d.). What Is the link between hallucinations, dreams, and hypnagogic–hypnopompic experiences? Schizophrenia Bulletin, 42(5), 1098–1109.

Posted in Blog, Current Interns, Friday Factoids | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Article Review: Brooks, S., et al. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: Rapid review of the evidence.

Katelyn Yunes, MS

WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

The researchers performed an article review of the psychological impact of quarantining. A search in three electronic databases yielded 3166 papers, 24 of which matched criteria (e.g., at least 24-hour quarantine, report data on the prevalence of psychological wellbeing, peer-reviewed) and were extensively reviewed. Of all symptoms noted within these articles, there was a high prevalence of irritability and low mood in individuals who were quarantined. Other symptoms included, grief, anxiety-induced insomnia, anger, emotional exhaustion, and trauma-related stress symptoms. History of psychiatric diagnosis was associated with prolonged anger and anxiety (i.e., 4-6 months) after discontinuing quarantine. Generally, health-care workers experienced more severe symptoms of trauma-related stress and stigmatization. The researchers found that duration of quarantine, fear of infection, boredom and frustration, inadequate supplies, and inadequate information were common significant stressors among the general population. Whereas, finances and stigma for those who had to be quarantined were persistent stressors following quarantine. Overall, increased duration of quarantine and whether the quarantine was voluntary were associated with poorer psychological outcomes. The researchers suggested that provision of accurate information of the disease and reasons for quarantine, access to supplies to cover basic needs, review of stress-management strategies (e.g., social networking, telephone support lines, online support groups), and delivery of special support for health-care workers may be helpful to diminish the psychological consequences of quarantining.

 

References

Brooks, S., Webster, R., Smith, L., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Neil, G., & Gideon, R. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: Rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet, 395(10227), 912–920.

Posted in Blog, Current Interns | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Article Review: Haaksma, M. et al. (2019). Survival time tool to guide care planning in people with dementia. 

Katelyn Yunes, MS

WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

Haaksma and colleagues (2019) set out to determine factors that would facilitate accurate prediction of mortality rate in individuals with late-onset (i.e., ≥ age 65 at diagnosis) dementia. Participants were 55,076 individuals from 829 Swedish health centers who had been diagnosed with late-onset dementia by either their primary care or specialist memory doctor between May 2007 and December 2015. The researchers found that accurate survival predictions could be calculated based off of five characteristics at time of dementia diagnosis, including age, sex, comorbidity status, cognitive performance on the Mini Mental Status Examination, and type of dementia. According to the researchers, limitations included generalizability to other countries and lack of external validity. Additionally, other factors (e.g., living situation, number of medications) were not included in the tables and could have predictive value. Overall, the researchers hope that this tool can assist with shared decision-making and advanced care planning in individuals diagnosed with dementia.

 

References

Haaksma, M., Eriksdotter, M., Rizzuto, D., Leoutsakos, J., Rikkert, M., Melis, R., & Garcia-Ptacek, S. (2019). Survival time tool to guide care planning in people with dementia. Neurology94(5), e538–e548. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000008745

Posted in Blog, Current Interns | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Friday Factoid: Are Weighted Blankets the Real Deal?

Rebecca Girlinghouse, MA

WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

One of my favorite things about winter is that it gives me a reason to bust out all of my warm, fuzzy blankets.  This year, I decided to add a weighted blanket to my collection.  I had heard a lot of good things about them, so I decided to check them, and the research behind them, out.  These blankets are heavier than your normal blanket because their linings are filled with material (such as sand) that is evenly distributed.  They can range from around 5 ponds to 30 pounds.  One study found that the optimal weight was 12 pounds (Breus, 2019), while others recommend a blanket that is around 10 percent of your body weight (Schneeberg, 2020).  The general idea behind the weighted blanket is that it can alleviate anxiety and improve sleep in individuals with insomnia (Schneedberg, 2020).  The question, though, is whether or not relief from weighted blankets is the real deal or just a placebo effect.

 

One theory behind weighted blankets is that they cause deep pressure stimulation, which is similar to getting a message.  It is believed this type of pressure causes the hormone oxytocin (which helps us sleep) to be released.  It is also thought to reduce the amount of cortisol (a hormone released during times of stress) in the bloodstream (Breus, 2019).  One study referenced quite often in articles about these blankets found that signs of physical arousal were reduced by 33 percent when individuals used a weighted blanket (Ackerley, Badre, & Olausson, 2015).  However, one limitation of this study is that it was funded by a major manufacturer of weighted blanks.  Further, this and other studies like it tend to lack control groups, do not adequately control for extraneous variables, or have a limited number of participants (Lockett, 2019).  So, for now, it appears the verdict is out until more studies or a larger study is conducted.  However, I will say I have enjoyed mine so far, and if nothing else, it’s unique and good at keeping in the warmth!

 

References

Ackerley, R., Badre, G., & Olausson, H. (2015). Positive effects of a weighted blanket on insomnia. Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, 2(3), 1022.

 

Breas, M. (2019, July 12). What you need to know about using a weighted blanket. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201907/what-you-need-know-about-using-weighted-blanket

 

Lockett, E. (2019, August 29). Weighted blankets: Do they work? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/do-weighted-blankets-work#bottom-line

 

Schneedberg, L. (2020, January 08). Why everyone is talking about weighted blankets. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/become-your-childs-sleep-coach/202001/why-everyone-is-talking-about-weighted-blankets

Posted in Blog, Current Interns, Friday Factoids | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Friday Factoid: Dark Chocolate and Depression

Rebecca Girlinghouse, MA

WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

Following Valentine’s Day, there are massive sales on chocolate, and if you’re anything like me, you took full advantage of that fact.  Further sweetening this post-Valentine’s Day deal is a recent survey of over 13,000 adults that found dark chocolate actually helps fight symptoms of depression.  More specifically, results of the study found that those who had eaten dark chocolate within the past day were 70% less likely to report symptoms of depression.  However, this effect appears to be specific to dark chocolate, as the same effect was not found for those who ate milk chocolate.  Further, other factors such as diet or exercise were removed from the equation, indicating that dark chocolate indeed seemed to be the cause for less depression.

 

Additionally, there’s some good news for those of you who may be weary of eating too much chocolate and ruining those New Year’s resolutions: not much dark chocolate is needed to benefit from its natural antidepressant qualities.  The study found that the average amount of dark chocolate consumed was less than half an ounce of chocolate containing 45% cocoa.  This means that if you eat dark chocolate with 70 percent cocoa, you can eat less of it and still benefit.

 

Of course, as with most things, too much can be detrimental.  Further, it is always good to keep in mind that there are some people who did not benefit from dark chocolate, so don’t fret if it  isn’t for you or if you don’t feel the antidepressant effects.  There are many positive ways out there to reduce feelings of sadness and depression.  However, it’s nice to know you don’t have to feel guilty about capitalizing on those fantastic February 15th sales.

 

References

Jackson, S.E., Smith, L., Firth, J., Grabovac, I., Soysal, P., Koyanagi, A., Hu, L., Stubbs, B., Demurtas, J., Veronese, N., Zhu, X., & Yang, L. (2019). Is there a relationship between chocolate consumption and symptoms of depression? A cross-sectional survey of 13,626 US adults. Depression and Anxiety, 36(10), 987-995.

Posted in Blog, Current Interns, Friday Factoids | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Friday Factoid: The Heart and Psychology

Rebecca Girlinghouse, MA

WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

With February being American Heart Month, it made me wonder what kind of link there may be between the heart and mental health.  The answer: a really big one! There is actually an entire subsection of psychology called Cardiac Psychology dedicated to understanding the link between the heart and mental health as well as to finding treatments to reduce the risk of heart disease.  The field of Cardiac Psychology got it’s start back in 1959 and has grown to become the largest empirically validated specialty in health psychology (Allan, Pace, & Dorri, 2018).

 

Research has found that there are several psychological and social risk factors linked to heart disease and poor treatment outcomes including depression, anxiety, anger, loneliness, and social isolation (Allen et al., 2018).  Another large area of research for Cardiac Psychology regarding risk factors is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  In fact, some research has shown that individuals with PTSD are more than twice as likely to experience cardiac related hospitalization than those who do not have the disorder (Ginsberg, Pietrabissa, Manzoni, & Castelnuovo, 2015).  On the other side, optimism is a huge factor in protection against heart disease, and several psychological interventions have been shown to decrease the risk for heart problems (Allen et al, 2015).

 

The intervention found to be most effective in reducing further cardiac problems is support groups for cardiac patients.  Individual psychotherapy focused on the reduction and management of anger, stress, and depression is also beneficial (Allen et al., 2018).  However, the field is still growing and there is a call for research exploring the effectiveness of specific types of psychology-based interventions such as various approaches to psychotherapy, psychoeducation, community-based interventions, biofeedback, etc. (Ginsberg et al., 2015).  This is truly an exciting time to be in the field of Cardiac Psychology as it continues to expand and grow.  Additionally, given the increasing body of literature linking mental and physiological health, the important role of psychology in keeping not just our minds, but our bodies, healthy has never been so clear.

 

References

Allen, R., Pace, T., & Dorri, Y. (2018). Behavioral Cardiology/Cardiac Psychology: Translating research into practice. Journal of Integrative Cardiology, 4(6), 1-3.

 

Ginsberg, J., Pietrabissa, G., Manzoni, G., & Castelnuovo, G. (2015). Treating the mind to improve the heart: The summon to cardiac psychology. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4523709/pdf/fpsyg-06-01101.pdf

Posted in Blog, Current Interns, Friday Factoids | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Friday Factoid: Honoring Black Psychologists

Rebecca Girlinghouse, MA

WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

Racism within the field of psychology has long hindered its ability to reach those in need.  Further, it has kept many pioneers in the field from receiving the recognition they deserve due to the color of their skin.  In honor of Black History Month and the ongoing fight to dismantle racism within institutions such as psychology, let us take some time to honor Black and African American men and women who have contributed so much to psychology.

 

Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D. (1872-1953)

Dr. Fuller was an African American psychiatrist who made ground-breaking discoveries regarding the physical changes the brain goes through when affected by Alzheimer’s.  He spent the majority of his career at Westborough State Mental Hospital and devoted his work to furthering research on not only Alzheimer’s, but also schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder (MHA, 2020; Anderson, 2018).

 

Herman George Canady, Ph.D. (1901-1970)

Dr. Canady was a clinical and social psychologist best known for his pioneering work investigating the ways in which the race of an evaluator can bias the results of IQ testing.  He also served as an expert witness for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in cases regarding discrimination and segregation.  The work he did throughout his life helped decrease racism in psychology by better preparing universities to accept and train future Black/African American psychologists (APA, 2020).

 

Mamie Phillips Clark, Ph.D. (1917-1983)

Dr. Clark was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate from Columbia University.  She performed the ground-breaking “Doll Test,” which revealed that even African American children preferred dolls with white skin over those with that were black.  These findings were then used to bolster testimony in the Brown v. Board of Education case, which ultimately led to the decision that segregation in schools was unconstitutional.  Throughout her studies, Dr. Clark also noticed the lack of psychological services available to minorities.  Due to this, she went on to open her own agency to provide much needed services to poor and minority communities (MHA, 2020; Anderson, 2018).

 

Maxie Clarence Maultsby, Jr., M.D. (1932-2016)

Dr. Maultsby was the founder of the well-known psychological intervention called rational behavior therapy (RBT).  His work made emotional self-help a focus of research and combined neuropsychology with emotional and behavioral self-control.  Many studies have found this technique to be efficacious and that it produces long-term results.  It continues to be taught in school and utilized by therapists to this day (MPA, 2020; Anderson, 2018).

 

Freda C. Lewis-Hall, M.D., DFAPA

Dr. Lewis-Hall strove to become a physician from an early age, as she was inspired by her uncle’s fight against polio and those who cared for him (Taylor, 2012).  She has had a long and successful career in psychiatry and is currently Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Pfizer, a leader in research-based pharmaceutical development.  She has been in a myriad of leadership roles, worked in academia, contributed to medical research, and worked in clinical settings.  In 2010, she was asked to join the Board of Governors for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute by the Obama Administration.  Dr. Lewis-Hall was also been named one of Savoy’s Top Influential Women in Corporate America, “Woman of the Year,” one of Black Enterprise Magazine’s 75 Most Powerful Women in Business, and one of Black Health Magazine’s 25 Most Influential African Americans in health care (MPA, 2020).

 

Jacki McKinney, M.S.W.

Ms. McKinney is a trauma survivor, has overcome addiction and homelessness, and experienced the psychiatric and criminal justice systems first-hand during her life.  Due to her experiences, she became a family advocate and specialized in issues affecting African American women, seclusion and restraint, intergenerational family support, and problems faced by minorities seeking public health services.  She has received many awards including those given to individuals who provide leadership and advocacy for trauma survivors and individuals who seek to decrease stigma against and improve conditions for those with addictions and mental illnesses (MPA, 2020).

 

References

Mental Health America (2020). African American Pioneers in Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.mhanational.org/african-american-pioneers-mental-health

 

Taylor, F. (2012). Drug executive defies race and gender. Retrieved from: https://www.cnn.com/2012/09/04/business/leading-women-freda-lewis-hall/index.html

 

Anderson, A. (2018). African American Pioneers in Mental Health You Need to Know. Social Justice Solutions. Retrieved from: http://www.socialjusticesolutions.org/2018/09/26/african-american-pioneers-mental-health-need-know/

 

American Psychological Association. (2020). George Canady, PhD: Featured Psychologist. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/psychologists/george-canady

Posted in Blog, Current Interns, Friday Factoids | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Article Review: Fujii, D. & Fujii, D. (2012). Psychotic Disorder Due to Traumatic Brain Injury: Analysis of Case Studies in the Literature.

Rebecca Girlinghouse, MA

WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

This study sought to replicate findings from the literature on psychotic disorder due to traumatic brain injury (PD-TBI) and explore characteristics that may assist in differentiating PD-TBI from schizophrenia.  The authors argue that studies conducted over the past few decades have demonstrated that TBI, coupled with a genetic predisposition for schizophrenia, increases the odds for developing a psychotic disorder.  However, other authors criticized these findings, arguing that past studies were unreliable due to methodological weaknesses.  They argued that psychosis is a risk factor for sustaining a TBI and not vice versa.  Given these criticisms, the authors of the current study sought to update their findings on PD-TBI, which were published in the early 2000s.

 

For their study, the authors obtained case studies from various psychiatric and neurological publications.  Case studies were included if the subject developed psychosis following TBI and met the DSM-IV criteria for Psychotic Disorder Due to a General Medical Condition.  Exclusion criteria were subjects with a history of psychosis before TBI, cases originally used in the authors’ previous studies, and case studies published in journals written in another language other than English.

 

The authors examined a total of 30 articles with 64 cases.  The severity of TBI was based on established criteria in which a head injury is considered mild if duration of loss of consciousness is 30 minutes or less.  The sample consisted of 56 men and 8 women.  Causes of TBI, in order of frequency, were motor vehicle accidents, assault, falls, gunshot wounds, and unspecified.  Most (91%) were closed head injuries.

 

After analysis of the cases, the authors reported a variety of findings that, overall, supported their previous studies.  First, they found that PD-TBI can result from all TBIs, regardless of severity.  However, most individuals who developed psychosis following TBI experienced loss of consciousness after their injury. Second, the data suggested the mean latency for onset of psychotic disorder following TBI was 3.6 years.  Third, the authors noted that males have a significantly higher risk to develop PD-TBI, even when analyses were controlled for the overrepresentation of men in the sample.  Additionally, those with a family history were found to be more at risk of developing psychotic disorder following TBI.

 

The authors also found that seizures are more common in those who develop a psychotic disorder following TBI than those who do not.  Additionally, data suggested those with PD-TBI most often experience delusions (92%), with persecutory content (77%) as well as hallucinations (87%) that are auditory in nature (92%).  Of note, individuals with PD-TBI are less likely to experience negative symptoms (37%) when compared to those with schizophrenia.  Furthermore, when negative symptoms are present in those with PD-TBI, the most common type is blunted affect while the most common type in those with schizophrenia is social withdrawal.  Individuals with PD-TBI, like those with schizophrenia, also tend to show impairment in neuropsychological functioning, most commonly in the areas of executive functioning and memory.  However, they do not often evidence deficits in vocabulary and verbal skills.

 

Results of neurological testing also suggest differences between those with PD-TBI and schizophrenia.  Individuals diagnosed with PD-TBI are more likely to show positive findings on MRI/CT scans.  Further, these findings tend to be more focal in nature, with lesions in the frontal and temporal lobes being most prevalent.  In contrast, those with schizophrenia show whole-brain involvement, hippocampal atrophy, and enlarged ventricles.  Additionally, the most common EEG finding in those with PD-TBI is temporal spiking or slowing, whereas individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia show general slowing.

 

Given the findings from this study, as well as similar findings in the literature, the authors argue that there is evidence suggesting PD-TBI is a distinct subtype of psychotic disorder.  Further, PD-TBI tends to have a less severe presentation than schizophrenia, as negative symptoms and difficulties with verbal abilities are less common.  This is likely due to the fact that those with schizophrenia evidence global brain abnormalities while those with PD-TBI often have abnormalities in specific regions of the brain.  However, even though there appears to be underlying differences in the disease process between those with PD-TBI and schizophrenia, the authors conclude the most efficacious treatment continues to be decreasing positive symptoms with antipsychotic medication.

 

There are several limitations to this study that should be mentioned.  First, the authors noted there were missing data due to differences in the way cases were described in the various studies they analyzed.  Therefore, the sample sizes for specific characteristics of PD-TBI were highly variable and often less than 64.  This limitation, then, can threaten internal and external validity.  Second, metanalysis always comes with an increased risk of bias, as oftentimes only articles reporting significant findings are published.   Third, the authors had to base their comparisons of PD-TBI and schizophrenia on descriptive statistics used in each study they analyzed and, therefore, were not able to use inferential statistical analysis.

 

Overall, the article was helpful in further building the case that PD-TBI is a disorder separate from schizophrenia.  Additionally, it provides valuable information regarding possible characteristics for differential diagnosis between PD-TBI and schizophrenia.  Future research could add to the already existing literature by continuing to build evidence supporting PD-TBI as its own disorder and identifying characteristics helpful for differential diagnosis.  Additionally, it would be interesting to determine if these findings hold up when using the criteria in the DSM-V.  The authors also propose that research examine possible prodromal symptoms that may occur between TBI and onset of psychosis and determine if they mirror the prodromal period preceding first episode psychosis in schizophrenia.  Furthermore, it may be helpful to examine if there are therapeutic interventions that may be efficacious for those with PD-TBI, now that the literature provides a better understanding of the etiology and characteristics of the disorder.

 

References

Fujii, D. & Fujii, D. (2012). Psychotic disorder due to traumatic brain injury: Analysis of case studies in the literature. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 24(3), 278-289.

Posted in Blog, Current Interns | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Friday Factoid: Syndrome of Intermetamorphosis

Katelyn Yunes, MS

WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

Intermetamorphosis syndrome is a variant of Capgras’ delusion, where one believes that someone has transformed physically and psychologically into another person (Bick, 1984). Intermetamorphosis syndrome is often comorbid with psychiatric and neurological disorders, such as Schizophrenia and dementia (Cipriani et al., 2013; Forstl, Almeida, Owen, Burns, & Howard, 1991).

 

References

Bick, P. (1984). The syndrome of intermetamorphosis. The American Journal of Psychiatry141(4), 588–589. https://doi.org/10.1176/aip.141.4.588

 

Cipriani, G., Vedovello, M., Ulivi, M., Lucetti, C., Fiorino, A., & Nuti, A. (2013). Delusional misidentification syndromes and dementia: A border zone between neurology and psychiatry. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias28(7), 671–678.

 

Forstl, H., Almeida, O., Owen, A., Burns, A., & Howard, R. (1991). Psychiatric, neurological and medical aspects of misidentification syndromes: A review of 260 cases. Psychological Medicine21(4), 905–910.

Posted in Blog, Current Interns, Friday Factoids | Tagged , | Leave a comment