Mental disorders in high versus low income countries

Psychiatric epidemiology studies the distribution and causal mechanisms of mental disorders in the population (McQuistion, 2008). It is a branch of epidemiology with its own set of challenges, including difficult assessment of caseness, high comorbidity, complex measurement of risk-factors such as stress or lack of social support, costly diagnostics, and information bias (Burger & Neeleman, …

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Benzodiazepines and anxiety disorders: a risky bet

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), anxiety disorders are a group of mental disorders characterised by significant and ongoing feelings of worry and fear. They include agoraphobia, panic disorder, social phobia, and generalised anxiety disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). They constitute the most prevalent subgroup of mental disorders, with up …

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Challenges of memory-sparing medication for Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative brain disorder typically occurring in middle or late life which is characterised by progressive dementia, with three main pathological symptoms: degeneration of acetylcholine cells, accumulation of extracellular plaque, and intracellular neurofibrillary tangles (McKhann et al., 1984). Its global prevalence in people aged 60+ was estimated to be 3.9%, with …

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How effective are early interventions in psychosis services?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), psychosis is a common symptom in a spectrum of psychotic disorders including schizophrenia and delusional disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Arciniegas, 2015). Classified as a clinical syndrome rather than a nosological entity (or distinct disease), psychosis is characterised by clinical features such as …

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A quick overview of the polymerase chain reaction

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a laboratory method that allows researchers to produce a significant amount of specific DNA using trace amounts of source DNA, which can be obtained from a variety of organisms and tissues (Garibyan & Avashia, 2013). When discovered in the 1980s, the technique – which can produce billions of copies …

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Measuring brain function: how do fMRI scanners work?

In 1977, Dr. Raymond Damadian performed the first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on a live human patient (Edelman, 2014). MRI is a non-invasive medical imaging technique producing detailed pictures of anatomical structures and physiological processes inside the body (McRobbie et al., 2017). MRI scans are considered safer than CT scans and PET scans as …

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My pivotal 2018: from startup founder to indie maker

This year felt longer than usual. So much has happened it’s hard to believe it was only 365 days. It’s been a long time I haven’t written this type of self-reflection article, but 2018 has been such a pivotal year that I wanted to take a moment to look back. Up to 2017, my career …

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Schizophrenia and dendritic spines

Pyramidal neurons are the primary type of cells in the cerebral cortex; they are made of a cell body called soma, a single axon, an apical dendrite, multiple basal dendrites, and dendritic spines (Megias et al., 2001). Dendritic spines are small neuronal protrusions rising from a neuron’s dendrites; they typically receive excitatory input from one …

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The role of the frontal association cortex

The cerebral cortex can be divided into three main parts: the sensory areas, the motor areas, and the association areas. The association cortex is a complex distributed network, receiving information from the primary and secondary sensory and motor areas, as well as the brainstem and the thalamus, processing it, and sending it across multiple pathways …

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Schizophrenia and dopamine

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder causing a range of psychological symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disordered thinking, and abnormal motor behaviour, and which is considered by many as a neurodevelopmental disorder (Murray & Lewis, 1987; Weinberger, 2003). It affects 0.5–1% of the worldwide population, with a common onset in late adolescence to early adulthood (Perälä …

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