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The NARSAD Feed: NARSAD Researchers in the News, Using Animals as Part of Therapy, Tsunami’s Effects on Mental Health
NARSAD Scientific Council Member Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., and NARSAD Young Investigator Kimberly Thompson, Ph.D., and colleagues at Stanford University employed a mouse model to show that stimulating activity in a specific brain circuit enhances animals’ willingness to take risks, while inhibiting its activity renders them more risk-averse. This discovery could lead to new treatments for anxiety disorders, Dr. Deisseroth said. This discovery utilized optogenetics, a state-of-the-art technology pioneered by Dr. Deisseroth and supported by a NARSAD Grant.
A growing number of psychotherapists are using therapy animals to facilitate treatment, especially treatment of children with emotional, social and even physical problems. Among the pioneers is Aubrey H. Fine, psychotherapist and professor at the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, whose extensive successful use of therapy animals in treating children is documented in “The Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy” (Elsevier/Academic Press, 2010).
Even seen on tiny screens from thousands of miles away, the images of destruction in Japan are devastating. The emotional aftermath seems unimaginable, and yet once the immediate crisis is over, the survivors will certainly be faced with it. Experience with past disasters suggests that some types of psychological first aid may help those who have lived through them, but others can actually cause harm.
The study of veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War – 41 with current PTSD and 41 recovered – was led by Brigitte A. Apfel, MD, a researcher with the mental health service and the Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases at SFVAMC. The brain volumes of the veterans, who were participants in a larger study of the health effects of the Gulf War on the brain, were measured by magnetic resonance imaging. The study appears in the March 15, 2011 issue of Biological Psychiatry.
by Barbara Wheeler, NARSAD manager of communications and media relations