A recent study found inconsistent evidence linking the neurotransmitter serotonin to depression. In an article for The Conversation, the authors of the study concluded that it is impossible to say that taking SSRI antidepressants is worthwhile. But is it safe to conclude that serotonin is not involved in depression or that modern antidepressants aren’t helpful in treating the condition? [Read more…] about Debunking the “chemical imbalance” theory yet not throwing out the antidepressant baby with the bathwater
Brain/ Mental Health
Have you ever looked forward to a concert, beach vacation, or party only to find yourself not enjoying it as much as you thought you would?
You may be suffering from overly high expectations, says psychologist Robb Rutledge of Yale University. Rutledge and his colleagues have been using smartphone-based data collection (via a free app called Happiness Quest, where anyone can play short games and contribute to research) to see how our expectations affect our future happiness. Some of their findings point to novel approaches for increasing our enjoyment of everyday life. [Read more…] about Q&A with researcher Robb Rutledge on mental health, expectations, decision-making and, yes, holiday planning!
Wysa, a popular mental health app originally founded in India around an AI chatbot that helps users talk through their feelings, has raised $20 million in a Series B funding round to expand its business on the heels of hitting 4.5 million users in 65 countries.
The all-equity round is led by India’s digital health-focused venture capital fund HealthQuad, with participation also from British International Investment (BII), the U.K.’s development finance institution. The plan will be to use the money to double down on its home market as well as the U.S. and U.K, where it already has respectively had approvals from the FDA and the National Health Service (NHS) and is used by the latter as part of its online mental health services. [Read more…] about Artificial Intelligence (AI) meets Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Wysa raises $20M to scale up mental health chatbot
When Pat Paulson’s son told her he was feeling anxious and depressed at college, Paulson went through her Blue Cross Blue Shield provider directory and started calling mental health therapists. No providers in the Wisconsin city where her son’s university is located had openings. So she bought a monthly subscription to BetterHelp, a Mountain View, California, company that links people to therapists online.
Her son felt uncomfortable with his first BetterHelp therapist. After waiting several weeks, he saw a second therapist, whom he liked. But she wasn’t available the following week. [Read more…] about How much should you trust BetterHelp, Talkspace, Cerebral and other mental health start-ups touted by celebrities?
A new digital mental health intervention, Step-by-Step, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) with the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) at the Ministry of Public Health Lebanon and other partners, was effective in reducing depression among Syrian refugees in Lebanon, according to a study published in PLOS Medicine. [Read more…] about Digital mental health intervention by the World Health Organization (WHO) found to lower anxiety and depression, with improvements maintained at 3‑month follow-up
Welcome to a new edition of SharpBrains’ e‑newsletter, featuring timely brain & mental health news and a fun brain teaser to put your temporal lobes to good use 🙂
“Here, we estimated the impact of different types of screen time (watching, socializing, or gaming) on children’s intelligence while controlling for the confounding effects of genetic differences in cognition and socioeconomic status … Broadly, our results are in line with research on the malleability of cognitive abilities from environmental factors, such as cognitive training and the Flynn effect.”
Fascinating! Having said that…
“Social interaction is hugely important. One study found that the size of our social group is actually associated with the volume of the orbitofrontal cortex (involved in social cognition and emotion). But how many friends do we need? … It is hard to argue with the fact that humans are social animals and gain enjoyment from connecting with others, whatever age we are. But, as we are increasingly uncovering, it also crucial for the health of our cognition.”
“Some people do very well in training, such as playing a video game, but they don’t show near transfer, perhaps because they are using highly specific strategies,” said first author Anja Pahor … “For these people, far transfer is unlikely. By better understanding why this type of memory training or ‘intervention’ works for some people but not others, we can move forward with a new generation of working-memory training games or use approaches that are more tailored to individuals’ needs”
“In our ongoing large-scale study (note: the one right above) we aim to recruit 30,000 adults who are motivated and willing to help us better understand the factors that underlie learning outcomes using a variety of training paradigms and outcome measures. Our endeavor will ultimately contribute to the personalization of cognitive training so that, hopefully, anyone who would like to improve their cognitive functioning will be able to choose the approach that may fit them best.” — researchers Susanne Jaeggi, Anja Pahor, Aaron Seitz @ UC Irvine/ Riverside
Esports are borrowing a page from Pro Sports’ book … we wouldn’t be surprised to see the inverse taking place too in just a few years.
“For those without severe mental illness, app-based therapy may be helpful in matching clients with a professional familiar with a range of problems and stressors. This makes apps attractive to those with anxiety and mild to moderate depression. They also appeal to people who wouldn’t ordinarily seek out office-based therapy, but who want help with life issues such as marital problems and work-related stress.”
#8. And here’s the Brain Teaser: Ready to stimulate those neurons in your temporal lobes?
Wishing you and yours a healthy and fun summer!