News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Putting a Number on Pain

By Tom Ulrich | Vector, Boston Children’s Hospital’s science and clinical innovation blog | July 30, 2014

“How much pain are you in?” It’s a harder question than you think. Tools for assessing patients’ pain—be they children or adults—rely on their perception: a subjective measure that eludes quantification and can change in response to any number of emotional, psychological or physiological factors.

Being able to objectively quantify pain could open the door to better pain management (especially for patients with chronic or neuropathic pain), better anesthetic dosing during surgical procedures, better understanding of addiction (and how to avoid it) and more.

To do so, we need measurable markers: physiologic parameters that reliably and quantitatively change during the experience of pain. But according to pain researcher David Borsook, MD, PhD—of Boston Children’s Hospital’s departments of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine and Radiology—discovering such markers requires a better understanding of the larger context and of events that trigger pain, a perspective he refers to as “systems neuroscience.” Continue reading »

Brain Scientists Learn To Alter And Even Erase Memories

WBUR CommonHealth | By Rachel Gotbaum | July 24, 2014
(part of the Brain Matters: Reporting from the Frontlines of Neuroscience series)

For 32 years, Leslie Ridlon worked in the military. For most of her career she was in army intelligence. Her job was to watch live videotape of fatal attacks to make sure the missions were successful.

“I had to memorize the details, and I have not got it out of my head, it stays there — the things I saw,” she says. “The beheading — I saw someone who got their head cut off — I can still see that.”

Ridlon is now 49 and retired from the military last year, but she finds she cannot work because she suffers from severe post traumatic stress disorder. She has tried conventional therapy for PTSD, in which a patient is exposed repeatedly to a traumatic memory in a safe environment. The goal is to modify the disturbing memory. But she says that type of therapy doesn’t work for her.

“They tried to get me to remember things,” she says. “I had a soldier who died, got blown up by a mortar — he was torn into pieces. So they wanted me to bring that back. I needed to stop that. It was destroying me.” Continue reading »

Spark for a Stagnant Search

The New York Times | Carl Zimmer and Benedict Carey | July 21, 2014

One day in 1988, a college dropout named Jonathan Stanley was visiting New York City when he became convinced that government agents were closing in on him.

He bolted, and for three days and nights raced through the city streets and subway tunnels. His flight ended in a deli, where he climbed a plastic crate and stripped off his clothes. The police took him to a hospital, and he finally received effective treatment two years after getting a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

“My son’s life was saved,” his father, Ted Stanley, said recently. When he himself was in college, he added, “those drugs didn’t exist; I would have had a nonfunctioning brain all the rest of my life.”

The older Mr. Stanley, 84, who earned a fortune selling collectibles, created a foundation to support psychiatric research. “I would like to purchase that happy ending for other people,” he said.

Late on Monday, the Broad Institute, a biomedical research center, announced a $650 million donation for psychiatric research from the Stanley Family Foundation — one of the largest private gifts ever for scientific research. Continue reading »

Cortical Thinning, Functional Connectivity, and Mood-Related Impulsivity in Schizophrenia: Relationship to Aggressive Attitudes and Behavior

By MJ Hoptman, D Antonius, CJ Mauro, EM Parker & DC Javitt | American Journal of Psychiatry | July 2014

Abstract:

Objective: Aggression in schizophrenia is a major societal issue, leading to physical harm, stigmatization, patient distress, and higher health care costs. Impulsivity is associated with aggression in schizophrenia, but it is multidetermined. The subconstruct of urgency is likely to play an important role in this aggression, with positive urgency referring to rash action in the context of positive emotion, and negative urgency referring to rash action in the context of negative emotion.

Method: The authors examined urgency and its neural correlates in 33 patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and 31 healthy comparison subjects. Urgency was measured using the Urgency, Premeditation, Perseverance, and Sensation-Seeking scale. Aggressive attitudes were measured using the Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire. Continue reading »

MGH Psychiatry leads the nation

This week, US News & World Report named MGH the top-ranked hospital for psychiatry in the nation. MGH Psychiatry has received this honor for 17 out of the last 19 years. MGH was also ranked second on the Report’s overall Honor Roll. See the complete rankings on the US News & World Report website.