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

Genetic Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders

By Elise B. Robinson, Benjamin M. Neale, and Steven E. Hyman | Current Opinion in Pediatrics | September 18, 2015

Abstract:

Purpose of review: The recent explosion of genetic findings in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research has improved knowledge of the disorder’s underlying biology and etiologic architecture. This review introduces concepts and results from recent genetic studies and discusses the manner in which those findings can influence the trajectory of ASD research.

Recent findings: Large consortium studies have associated ASDs with many types of genetic risk factors, including common polygenic risk, de novo single nucleotide variants, copy number variants, and rare inherited variants. In aggregate, these results confirm the heterogeneity and complexity of ASDs. The rare variant findings in particular point to genes and pathways that begin to bridge the gap between behavior and biology.

Summary: Genetic studies have the potential to identify the biological underpinnings of ASDs and other neuropsychiatric disorders. The data they generate are already being used to examine disease pathways and pathogenesis. The results also speak to ASD heterogeneity and, in the future, may be used to stratify research studies and treatment trials.

Read the full article here.

A Systematic Review of Dropout From Psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Iraq and Afghanistan Combat Veterans

By Elizabeth M. Goetter, Eric Bui, Rebecca A. Ojserkis, Rebecca J. Zakarian, Rebecca Weintraub Brendel, and Naomi M. Simon | Journal of Traumatic Stress | September 16, 2015

Abstract: 

A significant number of veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet underutilization of mental health treatment remains a significant problem. The purpose of this review was to summarize rates of dropout from outpatient, psychosocial PTSD interventions provided to U.S. Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and Operation New Dawn (OND) veterans with combat-related PTSD. There were 788 articles that were identified which yielded 20 studies involving 1,191 individuals eligible for the review. The dropout rates in individual studies ranged from 5.0% to 78.2%, and the overall pooled dropout rate was 36%, 95% CI [26.20, 43.90]. The dropout rate differed marginally by study type (routine clinical care settings had higher dropout rates than clinical trials) and treatment format (group treatment had higher dropout rates than individual treatment), but not by whether comorbid substance dependence was excluded, by treatment modality (telemedicine vs. in-person treatment), or treatment type (exposure therapy vs. nonexposure therapy). Dropout is a critical aspect of the problem of underutilization of care among OEF/OIF/OND veterans with combat-related PTSD. Innovative strategies to enhance treatment retention are needed.

Read the full article here.

Episodic Future Thinking in Generalized Anxiety Disorder

By Jade Q. Wu, Karl K. Szpunar, Sheina A. Godovich, Daniel L. Schacter, and Stefan G. Hofmann | Journal of Anxiety Disorders | December 2015

Abstract:

Research on future-oriented cognition in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) has primarily focused on worry, while less is known about the role of episodic future thinking (EFT), an imagery-based cognitive process. To characterize EFT in this disorder, we used the experimental recombination procedure, in which 21 GAD and 19 healthy participants simulated positive, neutral and negative novel future events either once or repeatedly, and rated their phenomenological experience of EFT. Results showed that healthy controls spontaneously generated more detailed EFT over repeated simulations. Both groups found EFT easier to generate after repeated simulations, except when GAD participants simulated positive events. They also perceived higher plausibility of negative—not positive or neutral—future events than did controls. These results demonstrate a negativity bias in GAD individuals’ episodic future cognition, and suggest their relative deficit in generating vivid EFT. We discuss implications for the theory and treatment of GAD.

Read the full paper here.

MGH-USC Human Connectome Project Datasets with Ultra-High b-Value Diffusion MRI

By Qiuyun Fan, Thomas Witzel, Aapo Nummenmaa, Koene R.A. Van Dijk, John D. Van Horn, Michelle K. Drews, Leah H. SomervilleMargaret A. Sheridan, Rosario M. Santillana, Jenna Snyder, Trey Hedden, Emily E. Shaw, Marisa O. Hollinshead, Ville Renvall, Roberta Zanzonico, Boris Keil, Stephen Cauley, Jonathan R. Polimeni, Dylan Tisdall, Randy L. Buckner, Van J. Wedeen, Lawrence L. Wald, Arthur W. Toga, and Bruce R. Rosen | NeuroImage | September 10, 2015

Abstract:

The MGH–USC CONNECTOM MRI scanner housed at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is a major hardware innovation of the Human Connectome Project (HCP). The 3T CONNECTOM scanner is capable of producing a magnetic field gradient of up to 300 mT/m strength for in vivo human brain imaging, which greatly shortens the time spent on diffusion encoding, and decreases the signal loss due to T2 decay. To demonstrate the capability of the novel gradient system, data of healthy adult participants were acquired for this MGH–USC Adult Diffusion Dataset (N = 35), minimally preprocessed, and shared through the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging Image Data Archive (LONI IDA) and the WU–Minn Connectome Database (ConnectomeDB). Another purpose of sharing the data is to facilitate methodological studies of diffusion MRI (dMRI) analyses utilizing high diffusion contrast, which perhaps is not easily feasible with standard MR gradient system. In addition, acquisition of the MGH–Harvard–USC Lifespan Dataset is currently underway to include 120 healthy participants ranging from 8 to 90 years old, which will also be shared through LONI IDA and ConnectomeDB. Here we describe the efforts of the MGH–USC HCP consortium in acquiring and sharing the ultra-high b-value diffusion MRI data and provide a report on data preprocessing and access. We conclude with a demonstration of the example data, along with results of standard diffusion analyses, including q-ball Orientation Distribution Function (ODF) reconstruction and tractography.

Read the full paper here.

The Problem With Teens Is That They’re Just Too Rational

By Nancy Shute | NPR | September 9, 2015

Teenagers get dissed for being irrational and making bad decisions, which can lead to very bad things, like drunken driving, risky sex and drug use.

But what if the problem is really that teens are just a little too rational?  Continue reading »