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Measuring brain waves during sleep could lead to better depression treatments
A team at the University of Basel discovered a connection between antidepressants and REM sleep.
- Researchers at the University of Basel measured the efficacy of antidepressants by measuring brain waves during REM sleep.
- Antidepressants take weeks to begin working, and over 50 percent of users don't find success with the first prescription.
- This research could offer a powerful new diagnostic tool for psychiatrists and doctors.
The National Institutes of Health tested the efficacy of sleeping pills in 2007. On average, these medications only add an additional 11 minutes of sleep. The trade-off—potential side effects include constipation, stomach pain, impairment, memory problems, and more—doesn't seem worth the extra time asleep.
Then there are neurological changes induced by sleeping pills. Sleep aids affect your brain's production of the neurotransmitter GABA. Unfortunately, drugs like Ambien "can actually restrict the deeper brain waves produced during REM sleep, leading to grogginess and forgetfulness the following morning." Those extra 11 minutes are not better minutes; in fact, your sleep cycles are disrupted entirely.
Sleeping disorders affect over one-third of American adults. Roughly 70 million Americans sleep less than seven hours per night. While disorders such as narcolepsy and apnea have their own treatment protocols, insomnia is a major concern. The reasons are varied: screen time, diet, stress, caffeine. As with sleeping pills, caffeine can negatively impact your ability to sleep, as well as getting into a deep sleep.
Add antidepressants to that list—for some. New research from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology has found that by measuring brainwaves during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, researchers can predict how that person will respond to antidepressants, such as Prozac and Fluoxetine.
Prescription mediation is always a gamble. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) take weeks to begin working; over half of patients don't respond to the drugs they're given. Depressed patients want relief as quickly as possible, so cycling through a few medications, each with their own list of side effects (including sleep disruption), can be a frustrating process.
Should you "hack" your sleep pattern? | Vanessa Hill | Big Think
University of Basel's Dr Thorsten Mikoteit led the research. His team studied 37 volunteers suffering from major depression, with 15 in the control group. Everyone's brain waves were measured while asleep. By gazing at these waves, the researchers identified patterns that could predict whether or not the volunteer would benefit from an antidepressant.
Through their observations, the researchers were able to suggest a different medication if they did not seem to respond to the first. After five weeks, 87.5 percent of the patients in the treatment group showed an improved response to medication, compared to only 20 percent in the control group.
It should be noted that this is a pilot study and has not yet been peer reviewed. Still, Mikoteit sees hope in the protocol.
"We have been able to show that by predicting the non-response to antidepressants we were able to adapt the treatment strategy more or less immediately: this enables us to significantly shorten the average duration between start of antidepressant treatment and response, which is vital especially for seriously depressed patients."
Poor sleep is an indicator of numerous health problems, including anxiety and depression. Getting an inside view of sleep patterns could be a game-changer for the hundreds of millions of people that regularly suffer from depression. If this research holds up, doctors could have a powerful new diagnostic tool at their fingertips. The time, money, and health risks associated with faulty prescriptions could be avoided—a win for patients and the health care system overall.
- Long-term withdrawal symptoms of antidepressants - Big Think ›
- Antidepressants Make it Harder to Empathize, Harder to Climax, and ... ›
- New antidepressants work faster, but don't expect miracles - Big Think ›
Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a9734e306f0914bfdcbe79a1e317a7f0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b-wAYtBxn7E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.