From Shell shock to PTSD – a century of military psychology

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Image credit U.S. Army Europe Images

In the history of medicine, it’s a rather morbid fact that war often leads to great medical breakthroughs – as the weapons of war change, doctors must innovate in order to meet these new challenges.

When the First World War started 100 years ago today, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) setting out for France envisaged an entirely different war to the one with which they were faced. Trench warfare was a new concept, the use of gas was almost unknown, and this war would involve mechanized weaponry on a scale never before seen.

A new condition

Within months, some of  the highly-trained BEF soldiers started to experience  intense panic and fear accompanied by physical symptoms such as an inability to speak or walk. …

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Mood disorders: Exploring the placebo effect, improving treatment and the promise of pharmacogenetics

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Antidepressant drugs which alleviate symptoms of depression have received much attention in the news recently, showing that the UK is the 7th highest country in the West to prescribe the drugs. The astounding rise in NHS spending on these pharmacological agents is suggested to be due to “medicalization” of normal sadness. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of antidepressants are commonly used to treat moderate to severe depression with new evidence showing one of these drugs, citalopram could slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. However, on the other hand another recent study cautions the use of SSRIs during pregnancy as they are found to be linked to a higher incidence of autism spectrum …

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How do we manage the health impact of the economic crisis in Europe?

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International-Journal-for-Equity-in-Health_european-crisis

An unprecedented economic crisis is affecting Europe, focusing mainly on the southern countries. Improving health and reducing health inequalities in this macro-economic environment is going to be a great challenge, which the new thematic series in International Journal for Equity in Health discusses. In this guest blog, Dr Miguel San Sebastián, one of the series editors, looks at what the first papers can tell us about the challenges faced.

The economic and social crisis that the European population has experienced since 2008 has fuelled interest in the study of its potential health impacts.

With regard to public health, and particularly social epidemiology, the need to deal with the problem of the economic crisis encourages natural experiments. From these it is possible to …

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Microbial monitoring: health forensics for the modern age

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Metadata plot

A new paper published in Genome Biology today uses smartphone tracking and additional observations to piece together a staggering amount of information about the research subjects and their individual microbiomes. In this guest post, Jack A Gilbert, Associate Professor at the University of Chicago and Group Leader at Argonne National Laboratory, delves into this promising new avenue of research and data collection.

At the beginning of September 2013 I weighed about 205lbs (92kg). I decided to do something about my weight, for my health and for the sake of my family and of course I approached this plan as a scientist. For me that meant parameterizing my inputs and outputs so I could control what I was doing to …

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“You like to-may-to, I like to-mah-to”…what’s the problem with studying the Mediterranean diet?

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Wholegrain (Kaldari)

The Mediterranean diet has been linked to many health benefits, from improved longevity to reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression. However, while the positive impact of this dietary pattern is well-documented (see our previous blog), a number of unanswered questions and unresolved controversies remain.

As editors at BMC Medicine, we have encountered differences in opinion during the review and publication process of studies investigating the link between diet and health, with authors and reviewers raising pertinent questions such as:

Should alcohol and dairy products be included in the definition of the Mediterranean diet?

Can the Mediterranean diet be applied to non-Western settings?

How can we measure adherence to this dietary pattern?

To explore these open questions, we invited clinicians and …

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Small microbes, big microbiome

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Microbiome logo

Our own bodies are teeming with microorganisms, not to mention those present in the environment we live in. Every time we touch something we transfer microbial life from one place to another. Understanding the genetic make-up of these microbes and how they interact with one another is crucial to increase our knowledge of all life forms and all environments on the planet.

 

Microbiome research involves identifying and characterising the genetic material of microorganisms found in a particular environment. This relatively young field has seen an explosion of research in the last few years, and is rapidly growing as more is discovered about the uses of microbiome data and methods and protocols are developed.

 

Scientists have been studying the microbial life which exists …

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The global fight against TB: identifying childhood infection and diagnosing complications

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Wikimedia Commons (Jmh649)

Recent estimates suggest that childhood tuberculosis (TB) rates are much higher than previously reported. The predictions, carried out by researchers at the University of Sheffield, Imperial College London and the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, took bacterial behavior and adult infection rates into account across 22 countries with the highest incidence of TB, and suggest that more than 650,000 children develop TB each year. This figure is around 25% higher than current World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, suggesting that health officials may be missing a great opportunity to prevent the spread of infection. Leading the research, Peter Dodd highlighted that:

Children are an often ignored but important part of TB control efforts…our findings highlight

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National healthcare: The modern biomedical lab

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Brownstein et al

In 2009 Obama devoted $19 billion to healthcare innovation—innovation that was in its first instance quite rudimentary, the very digitisation of healthcare data. Now as the digitised healthcare data infrastructure grows both in the US and worldwide, what is the next phase of innovation?

The answer, from someone who works with researchers, is clear: a data dialogue between researchers and clinicians. Initiatives like the Global Alliance for Sharing Genomic and Clinical Data led by David Haussler are making strides toward doing this for treatment and research for cancer.

Last week I attended ISMB in Boston, where I saw one quantitative analyst (quant) who had similar ideas about better healthcare treatment through research and more data for research through healthcare. His …

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The gatekeepers of the future

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The future gatekeepers panel at ESOF2014

The world around us has transformed dramatically in the last 20 years, and the world of science is being shaped by technology. Crowdsourcing and citizen science are made easy by the internet and mobile apps. Article metrics and peer review experiments allow us to challenge processes that have decided science for hundreds of years. Career structures are able to change and diversify thanks to industry’s and technology’s demands. But does this truly affect research and its impacts, and are the gatekeepers for science really changing?

A few weeks ago I attended the EuroScience Open Forum meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark. EuroScience Open Forum, or ESOF, is a pan-European meeting that happens every two years in a different city – …

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Beyond ENCODE – let’s continue the conversation

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As the human genome sequence was completed, so the deep analysis of it began in earnest with the ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project – intended to identify all functional elements in the human genome.

The project involved a worldwide consortium of research groups and the data emerging can be accessed through public databases. BioMed Central has published a selection of the early findings.

ENCODE initiatives lead to modENCODE a project aspiring to identify the functional elements in the genomes of the model organisms Caenorhabditis elegans (nematode) and Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly). The extension of the ‘ENCODE approach’ to other model organisms allows further biological validation of the findings coming from the human genome project.

And building on ENCODE doesn’t …

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