Sunday, April 10, 2011

A new class of antidepressants has been identified...

They're called books...  Okay, that's a bit of media sensationalism there, but according to a recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine adolescents who reported reading more print media (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.) were less likely to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD), while adolescents who spent more time spent listening to music had an increased likelihood of a diagnosis of MDD.  The study took advantage of a fairly new technique known as ecological momentary assessment, which basically allows researchers to take a bunch of individual "snapshots" of people's behavior as if they were animals in the wild.  Rather than invite people to come into a university lab or office and fill out a survey where the subjects might over- or under-estimate how much time they spent on a given activity, study participants agree to be called randomly on their cell phones and answer a small, instantaneous survey.  In this particular study, researchers called more than 100 adolescents over a period of about 2 months, calling each participant 60 times and asking whether they had, at that moment, been watching television, playing video games, surfing the internet, listening to music, or reading a book (or magazine, etc.).  The results suggest that the more time adolescents spent listening to music, the more likely they were to be diagnosed with MDD.  Conversely, the more time they spent reading books or other print media, the less likely they were to get such a diagnosis. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean that books have any antidepressant properties (or that music will make you morose or melancholy), rather it is likely that adolescents who are depressed are more apt to spend their time listening to music and less likely to spend it reading books.  Still, it will be interesting to see what comes from this line of research.
And, in case you were wondering, time spent watching tv, surfing the web, or playing video games did not appear to strongly correlate either way with MDD diagnoses.
Primack BA, Silk JS, Delozier CR, Shadel WG, Dillman Carpentier FR, Dahl RE, & Switzer GE (2011). Using ecological momentary assessment to determine media use by individuals with and without major depressive disorder. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 165 (4), 360-5 PMID: 21464384

Saturday, April 2, 2011

You might think that Charles Darwin was obsessed with money and beer

Since he is on a 2 pound coin in England and the 500 Sucres Note in Ecuador (at right) and since there is (apparently) a Darwin beer:'s+ale+is+top+of+the+hops;+SCIENTIST+CELEBRATED.-a0193457529
 I can think of no better tribute to one of the greatest scientists of all time... though, to be fair, I suppose we need some Alfred Russel Wallace guineas and maybe a ginger beer in his honor?