Its in your brain . . .
The National Institute of Mental Health published a great fact sheet with some of the latest information from neuro-science which confirms the neuro-biological basis of symptoms of mental illness. Its called: Brain Development During Childhood and Adolescent Fact Sheet. It contrasts what we learned ‘yesterday’ (meaning the ‘80’s and ‘90’s) with today (which is tomorrow’s yesterday)! Much of what was learned in the recent past was developmental and experiential in nature. Patterns of growth and development appear early in one’s life and early experiences shape the brain’s response system. Much of what has come from more recent research is informed by imaging technology and also gene mapping. For example genes are linked to one’s stress response and affect behavior as well as neural development. It’s not just what you inherit genetically, but your own bio-chemistry which helps determine behavior. Brain mapping is becoming another tool in the diagnostic arsenal. We also now know that how one responds to stress and trauma affects cognitive development. In other words, your environment affects your behavior as well as your personal biochemistry.
In a presentation on trauma by Dr. Maria Stamatakos at the recent 2013 Voices for Children conference, held March 27th & 28th, Stamatakos showed structural images of the ‘normal’ brain as contrasted with symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). She also discussed physiological response to trauma in the brain. There are several viable treatment options: therapeutic, psycho-pharmacologic and environmental. Some of the therapeutic treatments include trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Both are used at Pomegranate Health Systems. Stamatakos discussed additional therapies: PCIT, CTG, ARC, TST, SPARCS and CBITS. She outlined the core components of effective treatment and importance of evidence-based treatment (TF-CBT) which was named a model program by SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Stamatakos addressed psychopharmacology- medications which are helpful in situations where there are specific symptoms such as “emotional hyper arousal, irritability, anger outburst, poor concentration and sleep disturbance. These are prescribed with severe symptoms impairing function, associated physiological hyper-arousal, poor response to therapeutic interventions alone and co-morbid disorders” (more than one). She covered each of three classes of medications-when to prescribe, brand names, side-effects and monitoring: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, adrenergic agents and atypical antipsychotics and what function they perform. There were visuals of coronal sections of the brain.
Perhaps you remember a public service ad campaign designed to prevent drug abuse which showed a fry pan with an egg cracked onto the hot surface, frying. The voice over/headline said: ‘this is your brain on drugs’. We know that brain-body-genetic-environment is integrated, and anything one is exposed to or ingests, has the potential to heal or harm. This should be respected. Mental health is a combination of intricate variables over time. As mental health advocates stress, mental illness is not a character flaw, and should be regarded as other biologically-based illnesses are. Healing is possible and with the right treatment, an amazing difference can be made. Brain research is becoming an important new frontier.
Recently President Obama pledged a “bold new research initiative designed to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain. Launched with approximately $100 million in the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative ultimately aims to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury,” according to the release. Read more here:
[Photo credit: Photo-shopped composite clip art images- Pomegranate Health Systems]