A diagnostic tool for depression (5×8 – 4/18/12)

The biological markers of depression, Alzheimer’s aware, the ‘lottery curse,’ big hearts in Hawley, and more on Levon Helm.


1) THE BIOLOGICAL MARKERS OF DEPRESSION

You people who don’t suffer from depression or know of people who suffer from depression can skip right to #2 today. You may not understand the huge news from the world of science today.

Researchers say a preliminary study has identified certain biological markers in the blood of teens with depression that are absent in healthy counterparts.

They’re not making it up, and they’re not just sad, and it could lead to a diagnostic tool that could identify depression, just as with so many other physical ailments.

Not only could it lead to help for teens who need it, it could muzzle those who dismiss a real illness with “it’s just a phase.”

“Once you have a measurable index of an illness, it’s very difficult to say, ‘Just pull yourself together,’ or ‘Get over it,’ ” study leader Eva Redei, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, tells the Los Angeles Times.


“This is definitely an encouraging study,” said Dr. Andrew Leuchter, a UCLA psychiatrist who is researching ways to improve treatment with genetic testing and was not involved in the new work. Finding a way to intervene with teens would be particularly valuable since a bout of depression early in life makes repeat episodes more likely, and therefore more urgent to treat, he said.

The current study focused on teens and “early onset” depression, but the researchers said they hoped to include adults in future testing.

Redei’s study takes a middle-of-the-road approach to the search for a “biomarker” of depression. Her team did not look for genetic variations that might predispose an individual to depression, nor did it use advanced MRI scans to home in on peculiarities in the way the depressed brain works. Instead, the team focused on the messenger molecules that carry out genetic instructions for producing or inhibiting proteins.

2) ALZHEIMER’S AWARE

Does this ad mock people with Alzheimer’s, or brutally depict their struggle?

The ad was produced in Brussels as part of a campaign to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s. The site, Buzzfeed, says it does no such thing, preferring this treatment of the illness instead.

Awareness? It’ll come eventually. The Alzheimer’s Association expects that by 2050, 16 million people will have it.

This week, a 58-year-old man’s son set out to walk across the country to do his part to raise awareness. His father fell through the cracks between unemployment and Social Security disability.


In April of 2011, my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 58. My parents lost not only their main source of income, they also lost their health insurance when my dad lost his job, and they cannot afford medical care.

What assistance is available to families is usually offered only to those 65 and older; while few services are available to those 60 and older. My dad is now 59 and we’re pretty much on our own. My parents’ resources have been entirely depleted. They were forced to spend their savings and retirement accounts just to survive. My mom is now trying to be the caretaker for my father and keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

I believe the reason there is so little support and assistance available to people in my parents’ situation is because Alzheimer’s, and all forms of dementia, is still thought of as “old person’s” disease. It’s difficult to gain access to the few resources out there when they can’t even afford to pay the mortgage.

Here’s his website. It’s not getting much attention.

3) THE LOTTERY CURSE

In Illinois today, the winner of the big lottery jackpot a few weeks ago will stand before the cameras and be identified.

Chances are he/she will lose the windfall within five years. There’s something you never see mentioned in the lottery ads and news coverage.

Illinois law does not allow lottery winners to be anonymous, even though more jackpot winners nationally are forming trusts to keep it a secret. For everyone else, the win ushers in a life of requests for cash, the Chicago Tribune reports today.


“It’s the lottery curse: you hear about people who win these huge lotteries and end up broke a few years later,” said Richard Lustig, who writes about improving one’s chances of winning.

“They’re bombarded by media people for interviews. They’re preyed on by people looking for money. The winner should decide whether they want to be in the spotlight or not,” Lustig said.

4)THE UNLIKELY STORY OF TOMMY, HIS BIG HEAD AND HIS FAMILY’S BIGGER HEARTS

A woman in Hawley went to the Walmart in Fargo once to pick up a few things, met a pregnant woman, and walked out with a plan to add to her family. The Fargo Forum has the first of a two-part series today on the life of Tommy Greuel, whose head grew faster than the rest of his body….


There was the adoption brokered in the most unlikely of locations. There was the medical mystery of the skull that wouldn’t stop growing, perched precariously atop a body that wouldn’t hold it up and threatening the otherwise-healthy brain inside. There was the bitter battle for custody, and the community that rallied behind a family in its hour of need.

5) ON LEVON HELM

“To anyone who grew up with Levon Helm and the Band, ” Marco Werman wrote last year, “it’s a shock to see him these days, a reminder of our own mortality.” Yeah. He’s right.

Watch Quick Hits: An Interview with Levon Helm on PBS. See more from Sound Tracks.

A vigil is underway for Helm, who is in the final stages of cancer.

Rolling Stone has prepped a gallery of Helm through the years.

Bonus I: . It may soon be illegal for teachers to mention kissing, hand-holding, and other “gateway sexual activities”. (Neatorama)

Bonus II: Cities don’t win in stadium deals, the Modesto Bee says. It’s the story of Sacramento, where an NBA team’s owners are backing out of a deal that put some of their own money into a deal.

Bonus III: Today’s Minnesota moment: The crabapples in bloom at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (submitted by the arboretum)

crapabpples_arboretum.jpg

TODAY’S QUESTION

NASA is delivering its fleet of space shuttles to various sites for public display. The retirement of the shuttles leaves the United States without a vehicle for sending people into space. Today’s Question: What should be the next step for the U.S. space program?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: When Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said Ann Romney hadn’t worked “a day in her life,” it set off a firestorm of controversy about women’s work. Beyond the political headlines, what are the choices working moms (and dads) have to make?

Second hour: Workplace design.

Third hour: Advice columnist Carolyn Hax of the Washington Post.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): “Testing Teachers,” an American RadioWorks education documentary about how we train, hire and evaluate teachers.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Politics talk with NPR political editor Ken Rudin.

Second hour: Roger McGuinn.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - The effects of dementia make it difficult for a person to socialize and communicate. But with iPods and personalized playlists, a social worker has found a way to help many patients open up like they haven’t been able to in years. NPR will have the story.

MPR’s Mark Zdechlik reports Michele Bachmann is still in debt from her unsuccessful presidential campaign. He takes a look at the impact on Bachmann’s fundraising for her congressional re-election.

For 20 years, the Kulture Klub Collaborative in Minneapolis has been pairing accomplished artists with young Minnesotans who have experienced or are experiencing homelessness. Currently, the young people are working with the Mexican-American hip-hop duo Big Quarters, learning about both the creative and business aspects of the music world. Nikki Tundel examines the role of, and reason for, an arts program in the lives of those who don’t have a permanent place to live.