Thursday, October 9, 2008

Therapy Wins! News Coverage Gets It Totally Wrong. Totally.

Hi! A recent Reuters news story - carried by Yahoo News and some other news sites, reports some animal-model research that truly illustrates how depression can occur from EXPERIENCES, rather than by whatever genetic "illness" model promoted by Big Pharma. Also, smashingly, this animal-model study of depression illustrates how a BEHAVIORAL, rather than a pharmaceutical treatment, can work. Finally, the authors conclude that the pathways involved do NOT notably involve the serotonin pathways that are spoken of in such reverential, hushed tones in the halls of psychiatric academe.

In other words, Big Pharma, and their paid shills, look really wrong on this one.

This is a recent study from the journal Neuron.
Daniela D. Pollak,1 Francisco J. Monje,1 Lee Zuckerman,1 Christine A. Denny,3 Michael R. Drew,1 and Eric R. Kandel. An Animal Model of a Behavioral Intervention for Depression. Neuron 2008; 60: 149-161. October 9, 2008. No PMID identifier yet.

Basically, in short, they use the learned helplessness experimental paradigm that was explicated decades ago: put animals in bad situations, such as put a mouse in a tub of water, with nowhere to swim to, so they are not able to achieve anything for all of their swimming/escape efforts, and they eventually give up swimming when palced in the water yet again.

If, subsequently, you experimentally change the situation so that some effort WOULD result in avoiding the bad situation, such as putting an unseen platform in the water, the animal still does not respond- the animal has learned that effort does not improve things, and therefore stays passive, and depressed.

In this recent study, the authors conditioned a swim respone in the mice - before the mice were ever placed in the water. They classically conditioned the mice to swim at the sound of some tone. Then, they went and kept putting mice in the water until each mouse gave up trying to swim for safety when palced in the water. At that point, the learned helplessness point, the authors THEN rang the tone.

The mice responded as conditioned - they began swimming again.

Thus, experimentally, learned helplessness AKA depression was invoked, and was treated. How? With pills? No - the depression was invoked by circumstances, and was treated by some behavioral training.

Cool! Maybe this success conditioning could work in humans! Maybe successful tehrapy has actually worked in this way, if only we reflect back on successful cases, and reframe the change as some rekindling of hope!

Sure.

But all of that is not patent-able. Plus, does not fit the American Psychiatric Association / Big Pharma model that depression is an inherited, genetic "brain disorder," more specifically, one affecting the serotonin pathways.

SO: How does Reuters Health sell this news story?

The detection of the involvement of some other pathway means that maybe we can make a new drug! There must be a "natural Prozac" causing all of this, and we can make a drug to do the same!

No kidding. Gurgle "mice natural prozac" and this news story will pop up.

Quote in the news story from the lead author:
"This opens up new pathways that may profitable."

With all of the bad side effects of antidepressants, and the widespread recognition of behavioral theories including learned helplessness, why is this story not heralded as yet more strong evidence that we have a great alternative to antidepressants?


Meds vs. Therapy. Therapy wins this one hands-down. Nonetheless, the story targets in on the meds side of the issue. What a shame!
We get experimental

--I have not gotten hold of the actual study, yet. I may have more comments when I look this over. But the portrayal by the media, a large part of the "translation" from bench to bedside, is the upsetting piece.

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