Rise in Youth Suicide After Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why

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From the 2001 Cerebrum essay, “Suicide in the Young” by Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D.  Illustration © Kristina Swarner

On March 31, 2017, a controversial series called, 13 Reasons Why premiered on Netflix. The show tells the story of a young high schooler who commits suicide and leaves behind a series of 13 cassette tapes for the people she held responsible. In the month following the show’s 2017 release, mental health experts, superintendents, and school counselors criticized the series for its glorification of suicide and worried it would lead to an increase in copycat behavior of self-harm among vulnerable individuals. After researchers examined data from the past five years, the show was found to be linked to a spike in suicide rates among US youths aged 10-17.

The National Institutes of Health published the study earlier this week, conducted by researchers at universities, hospitals, and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). They examined whether the show’s release impacted rates of suicide, based on annual and monthly data on suicide-related deaths of individuals between ages 10 and 64 that occurred between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2017—a time span encompassing the period before and after the show’s first 13 episodes. Continue reading

A Healthy Brain Needs a Healthy Body

The heart-brain connection is well established, and studies are finding increasing evidence that cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity contribute to the risk of cognitive decline.

Stroke and dementia are more likely to occur in people with high blood pressure, for example, according to the National Institutes of Health “Mind Your Risks” campaign, which clearly outlines the risks and steps to manage them.

The good new is, many of the steps can easily be incorporated into your daily routines: Continue reading

Sound Health: Shaping Our Children’s Lives Through Music Engagement

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For the second year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts spent a weekend exploring the connections between music, the brain, and humanity. A piece of their ongoing “Sound Health” partnership, the events at the Center this past weekend focused on how important the arts are to children’s development, both experiencing art and practicing and producing it. [See also our report and KC videos from last year’s event.]

The idea partnership came up in conversations between NIH director Francis Collins and renowned soprano and Kennedy Center artistic advisor Renée Fleming, and they led the chorus of brain experts and musical prodigies starting with a conversation and concert on Friday. Collins also announced a new program that will soon offer $5 million in research grants to study the effects of the arts on the brain, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

All the Saturday events are available as webcasts—including a drumming circle led by Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart! They are all worth a watch or two, with engaging scientists talking interspersed with great musicians performing. Together they add up to more than seven hours, so take your time. Many have small sections where the audience can participate; if you really want to get your rhythm on, jump down to the Interactive Drum Circle recording and have at it for a good 60 minutes.

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Neuroscience and Society: The Opioid Epidemic

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Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/index.html

“We’ve moved from an epidemic to a crisis” in opioid abuse in the United States, said Daniel Ciccarone, M.D., MPH, during a panel discussion at AAAS in Washington, DC, this week. Ciccarone, a doctor at University of California, San Francisco, who treats addicted people and does research, described a pattern of intertwined waves involving abuse of prescription pills, heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

For example, while overdose deaths due to prescription pill use are spread relatively evenly across the country, “this is not true for heroin,” Ciccarone said. The Northeast has had troubles with opioid abuse for a generation, while in the Midwest, numbers have jumped just recently. And while older folks (50-64) are using pills in greater numbers, it’s younger people (20-35) driving heroin use.

“Heroin itself is becoming more and more dangerous,” he said, especially when it is laced with synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil (used to tranquilize elephants). People who stop breathing after using these stronger concoctions often don’t respond to emergency treatments like naloxone.

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Sleep Awareness Week Interview with Clifford Saper

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Image: Shutterstock

Who wouldn’t enjoy an extra hour or two of sleep before climbing out of bed and getting ready for work? A good night’s rest, or lack thereof, not only contributes to the following day’s productivity levels and emotions, but also its long-term effects are linked to cognitive and cardiovascular health. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one third of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep each night, and research points sleeping less than seven to eight hours each night to health risks such as stroke, obesity, cancer, and high blood pressure.

For National Sleep Awareness Week (April 23 – 29), we asked sleep expert Clifford B. Saper, M.D., Ph.D., to discuss the importance of sleep hygiene, sleep disorders, and current research at Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, where he conducts his lab research and heads the neurology department. Saper is also a Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member and past Dana Foundation grantee.

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