New app puts psychologists a tap away.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY, or CBT, is a type of psychotherapy that teaches patients to identify and manage the thoughts that give rise to negative emotions and unhealthy behaviors. It’s been shown to be highly effective in treating mood and anxiety disorders—but only if you can get the individuals suffering from them in the door.
The expense and time commitment of traditional face-to-face therapy are frequently cited as reasons people don’t seek treatment for mental health issues. Meanwhile, Americans spend more than $500 million on self-help books every year.
While no studies have been published, “anecdotal reports of what happens with patients who get [iPod and MP3] music therapy are pretty staggering,” Dr. Grill says. Nursing homes report that patients receiving music therapy are happier and more sociable. “Patients who haven’t slept through the night in a long time may now sleep through the night,” he notes.
While Alzheimer’s patients “may not be able to remember a list of words you gave them five or 10 minutes ago, they often can give you spectacular details of memories from their youth or young adulthood,” Dr. Grill notes. “Music may tap into old memories — positive experiences from your youth associated with particular music — even better than just trying to remember things.”
Research on stroke patients with damage to parts of the brain that control the production of language has found, oddly enough, that although they can’t speak, they can sing. “There’s an innate quality in music that activates the brain differently for Alzheimer’s patients — who are dealing with the significant challenge of a biological disease attacking the brain — and may enable the activation of networks that haven’t been activated in a long time,” Dr. Grill says.
STANFORD WILL SHINE ANOTHER SPOTLIGHT on the curative potential of stem-cell technology this year with an innovative approach to treating damaged cartilage and osteoarthritis. Already enthused by results from the lead-up work, Jason Dragoo, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery, is preparing to launch a human trial for restoring articular cartilage at the knee joint.
The trial, involving 40 patients, uses cells taken from the fat pad under the knee and concentrates them in the lab to produce therapeutically friendly progenitor cells—also called adipose-derived stem cells. For 20 of the patients, these cells will be used to surgically target distinctly identified defects in the articular cartilage, the movement-aiding tissue at the end of joints. This approach, says Dragoo, is like trying to fix holes in a tire, as opposed to methods for resurfacing “treadwear” all along the cartilage.
M. J. Friedrich
A recent study reported that bacteria in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of undernourished infants from Malawi promote development of kwashiorkor, shedding light on how gut microbes interact with diet and the immune system to contribute to severe childhood malnutrition (Kau AL et al. Sci Transl Med. 2015;7:1-15).
Researchers purified immune-targeted gut microbes from 2 cohorts of human identical twins in which one twin was healthy and the other had kwashiorkor, isolating several types of pathogenic bacteria from gut microbiota of malnurished children.
Investigators also transplanted fecal microbiota samples from healthy and malnourished twins into germ-free mice who were fed either a standard nutritionally sufficient mouse chow diet or a low-nutrient diet typical in Malawi.
Mice fed a low-nutrient “Malawian” diet that received microbiota from a malnourished twin had a high number of immune-targeted gut bacteria from the Enterobacteriaceae family. These mice also lost more weight than animals fed the same diet but who were colonized with microbiota from the healthy co-twins. Mice fed standard nutrient-balanced mouse chow lost less weight and were healthier, regardless of the microbiota they received. Two strains of gut bacteria from the healthy twin ameliorated undernutrition and lethality in mice colonized by microbiota from the malnourished twin.