Panel Overwhelmingly Recommends FDA Approve Esketamine for Resistant Depression

On February 12th, an FDA advisory panel recommended overwhelmingly that the agency approve a drug called esketamine for the rapid relief of depression in patients who have not been helped by existing therapies. If approved, the drug will also be used to reduce suicidal thinking in patients in crisis, where it has also shown effectiveness in tests.

Like the closely related experimental drug ketamine, which has been used for years as an anesthetic, esketamine has been shown in multiple clinical trials to dramatically reduce the symptoms of even intractable depression in many patients, often within minutes or hours of its administration. Its effects typically last 1 to 2 weeks, but can be continued in “maintenance” dosing following initial treatment, clinical trials have suggested.

Read entire article HERE.

Schizophrenia study still open

Individuals with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia are invited to participate in a paid online study about the side effects of atypical antipsychotic medications and the impact the side effects have on daily life.

The purpose of the study is to understand how specific adverse events due to treatment with atypical antipsychotics affect the functioning of patients with schizophrenia: both physically and mentally, as well as quality of life from a patient perspective. It will also serve to better understand how patients with schizophrenia feel in response to experiencing adverse events which have a functional impact on them. We are hopeful this information will help developers of such treatment become more aware of such impact from medications.

Patients who have started a new treatment within the past 12 months are invited to participate by clicking on the following link or copying it to the search bar.

(This link is for United States residents only. If you live in Canada or Australia, please contact us for the link specific to your country.)

The honorarium is a $40 Amazon Gift Certificate and the survey takes about 10-30 minutes to complete. (The certificate will be mailed to a valid address of the participant.)

ALL information is strictly confidential. If one chooses to take a break and return to the survey later, it must be completed within 5 days of starting.

For questions about the study or if there is a technical difficulty, please contact Linda or Erin at or call 908-698-1038.


Erin Pilkington

Pillar Patient Advocates LLC

….Supporting you on your healthcare journey


The Latest PTSD Research

The recent National VA Research Week (May 16-20) and PTSD Awareness Month in June are ideal times to assess the state of science regarding posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the often-debilitating psychiatric condition that can arise in the wake of intensely stressful life events such as combat, trauma or disaster.
Part of raising awareness about PTSD is publicizing the federal program devoted exclusively to gathering and disseminating scientific information about the illness: the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (NCPTSD), is a centers of excellence consortium with seven VA academic centers based on areas of special expertise.
NCPTSD has flourished since it was established in 1989, and continues to help policymakers, the medical and caregiving community, patients, and the general public understand the scientific basis for PTSD, circulating that information globally through a variety of educational and research initiatives.
“Research is helping us better understand how to address PTSD, how to prevent people from developing it, and how to treat it,” said NCPTSD Executive Director Paula Schnurr, Ph.D. “One of the most exciting changes in our field is that we have a range of effective treatments, so people who have PTSD have a choice among types of medications and among types of psychotherapies, and they can really see a life that goes beyond PTSD.”
PTSD now fully acknowledged as a serious mental illness.
Read entire article

Brain’s Emotion Center, Depression and PTSD

Connections with Brain’s Emotion Center Tied to Symptoms of Depression and PTSD
Anxiety and depression symptoms in major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder reflect abnormal connections to the same emotion center in the brain, researchers have found.
Although major depression is common among individuals with PTSD, few studies have looked for underlying brain features that may contribute to both disorders. In this study, a research team found that for both disorders, more severe depression symptoms meant fewer connections between different brain regions and the amygdala. The amygdala is crucial for integrating emotional experience.
A NARSAD study looked exclusively at women with depression or PTSD; all of the PTSD patients involved were women who had experienced intimate partner violence. They had not taken any psychiatric medication for at least three weeks before testing, making it less likely the study’s findings stem from medication use. Within this population, depression severity correlated with fewer connections between the amygdala and three other brain regions: the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, important for evaluating risk and moral decisions; the anterior cingulate cortex, associated with decision making as well as regulating emotion and physiological processes like heart rate; and the anterior insula, which helps build the basis for all subjective experiences of the body (likely including emotional experience).
While reduced amygdala connections were linked to depression, the researchers found that more severe anxiety symptoms meant increased connections between the amygdala and other brain regions: the ventromedial prefrontral cortex, associated with fear-based and social aspects of decision making, and the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, thought to regulate diffuse brain areas, especially those needed for processing sadness.
These findings paint a picture of connections to the amygdala as a driving factor behind negative symptoms in both PTSD and depression, with depression symptoms reflecting reduced connections and anxiety symptoms reflecting increased connections. Treatments might be improved, the researchers say, by targeting these brain networks for different symptoms and continuing to study overlap between PTSD and major depressive disorder. The researchers note that future work should explore whether these findings reflect long-lasting traits of people with PTSD and depression, rather than temporary moods brought on by their conditions.
Read entire article at

NIMH director leaves post to run Google mental health initiative

Dr. Thomas Insel, neuroscientist and Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, will step down Nov. 1, after serving in that capacity for 13 years, to join Google Life Sciences (GLS) to spearhead a new effort focusing on mental health.
“The GLS mission is about creating technology that can help with earlier detection, better prevention, and more effective management of serious health conditions. I am joining the team to explore how this mission can be applied to mental illness,” Insel wrote, “That the life sciences team at Google would establish a major exploration into mental health is by itself a significant statement — recognizing the burden of illness from psychosis, mood disorders, and autism as well as the opportunity for technology to make a major impact to change the world for the millions affected. The Google philosophy has been to seek a 10x impact on hard problems. I am looking forward to a 10x challenge in mental health.”
Read entire article at
More about the foray of Google Life Sciences (GLS) into mental health research at

Better Treatment for Mood Disorders

Newly Launched Research Network Seeks Better Treatments for Mood Disorders
From the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA):
Imagine walking into a doctor’s office and getting a treatment that’s been shown to be most effective for your kind of depression or bipolar disorder. This doesn’t happen today. But by pulling together the largest pool of data ever collected, a national team of clinical researchers is seeking to collect enough information about how different treatments work so doctors can provide just that type of care. Led by Massachusetts General Hospital, the team is collaborating with patients and national organizations.
Through the newly established MoodNetwork, the team’s goal is to advance knowledge of which treatment works best for which person and to take a major step forward in personalized care of people who suffer from a mood disorder.
Read entire article HERE.

Schizophrenia Research

Large Study Confirms Major Hypotheses in Schizophrenia Research
Although researchers don’t yet have a good picture of what causes schizophrenia, they do know that both genetics and environment play a role. A small minority of people with the illness have missing or extra chunks of DNA known as copy number variants (CNVs). Researchers have turned to these large spans of altered DNA in the search for gene changes that contribute to schizophrenia.
The largest study of CNVs in schizophrenia so far reports the first strong genetic evidence that molecules involved in neuronal communication with GABA, one of the brain’s major neurotransmitters, may play a role in schizophrenia. The new findings, published in the June 3rd issue of Neuron, are consistent with a large amount of non-genetic research from people with schizophrenia as well as animal models that also point to changes in GABA signaling as underlying the cognitive problems of the illness. The research also confirms previous evidence implicating the other major neurotransmitter, glutamate.
Read the entire article at the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

Jeff Sanders MD PhD from Emory

NAMI Northside Education Meeting Monday, 7:00 PM, Jan. 26, 2015
Dunwoody United Methodist Church 1548 Mount Vernon Rd. Dunwoody, GA 30338
Our speaker Jeff Sanders, MD, PhD is a psychiatrist within Outpatient Psychiatric Services at Emory/Grady Memorial Hospital. His clinical experience includes care of patients with antisocial personality disorder, psychopathy and schizophrenia within correctional settings. He is interested in social impairments in these psychopathologies, including deficits in the ability to form affiliations, to regulate aggression in social contexts and to empathize with others. Dr Sanders’ preclinical research uses state-of-the-art transgenic mouse technology to develop novel treatment strategies for these social disorders.
You won’t want to miss this one! As always, refreshments will be provided. Hope to see you there!

News from

July 2014 – News stories, research updates, blog stories from
Groundbreaking Commitment to Psychiatric Research – After receiving $650 million, The Broad Institute is set to try and find the genetic causes of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Read more.
Employment and Mental Illness: Investing in Programs that Work – In Road to Recovery: Employment and Mental Illness, NAMI explores the state of mental illness and employment in the U. S. Read more.
What’s Love Got to Do with It? – Choosing whether or not to disclose a mental illness in a romantic relationship isn’t easy. Here are some things you should know. Read more.
Did FDA Black Box Warnings Actually Lead to an Increase in Suicides – A new study shows that warning labels on antidepressants may be associated with higher rates of suicide attempts in teens. Read more.
Promise and Patience in Understanding the  Brain – Efforts are underway on both sides of the Atlantic to develop new tools to help address mental illness. Read more.
NAMI Advocacy Update July 2014 -This month in NAMI advocacy: comprehensive legislation, mental health parity, employment, and more. Read more.

Good Mood Foods!

These foods can give you an energy boost, help you burn calories better, and trigger feel-good brain chemicals.
Read more from WebMD.