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  1. Summary: EEG tests reveal children on the autism spectrum have lower peak alpha frequency than their peers not on the spectrum. Additionally, the lower the peak alpha frequency, the lower a child’s non-verbal IQ was, the researchers discovered. Researchers believe the peak alpha frequency may not only be a useful biomarker for autism diagnosis, but also a marker to test the severity of the disorder. Source: UCLA. Potential biomarker correlates brain wave frequency with nonverbal IQ. UCLA researchers have discovered that children with autism have a tell-tale difference on brain tests compared with other children. Specifically, the researchers found that the lower a child’s peak alpha frequency — a number reflecting the frequency of certain brain waves — the lower their non-verbal IQ was. This is the first study to highlight peak alpha frequency as a promising biomarker to not only differentiate children with autism from typically developing children, but also to detect the variability in cognitive function among children with autism. BACKGROUND Autism spectrum disorder affects an estimated one in 68 children in the United States, causing a wide range of symptoms. While some individuals with the disorder have average or above-average reasoning, memory, attention and language skills, others have intellectual disabilities. Researchers have worked to understand the root of these cognitive differences in the brain and why autism spectrum disorder symptoms are so diverse. An electroencephalogram, or EEG, is a test that detects electrical activity in a person’s brain using small electrodes that are placed on the scalp. It measures different aspects of brain activity including peak alpha frequency, which can be detected using a single electrode in as little as 40 seconds and has previously been linked to cognition in healthy individuals. METHOD The researchers performed EEGs on 97 children ages 2 to 11; 59 had diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and 38 did not have the disorder. The EEGs were taken while the children were awake and relaxed in dark, quiet rooms. Correlations among age, verbal IQ, non-verbal IQ and peak alpha frequency were then studied. IMPACT The discovery that peak alpha frequency relates directly to non-verbal IQ in children with the disorder suggests a link between the brain’s functioning and the severity of the condition. Moreover, it means that researchers may be able to use the test as a biomarker in the future, to help study whether an autism treatment is effective in restoring peak alpha frequency to normal levels, for instance. Autism spectrum disorder affects an estimated one in 68 children in the United States, causing a wide range of symptoms. NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only. More work is needed to understand whether peak alpha frequency can be used to predict the development of autism spectrum disorder in young children before symptoms emerge. About this neuroscience research article The authors of the study are Shafali Spurling Jeste, UCLA associate professor in psychiatry, neurology and pediatrics and a lead investigator of the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment; Abigail Dickinson and Charlotte DiStefano, postdoctoral fellows at the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment; and Damla Senturk, associate professor of biostatistics at UCLA. Funding: The study was funded by Autism Speaks (Meixner Postdoctoral Fellowship in Translational Research), the National Institutes of Mental Health (K23MH094517), the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (R01 GM111378-01A1) and the National Institute of Health (ACE 2P50HD055784-06). Source: Leigh Hopper – UCLA Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain. Original Research: Abstract for “Peak alpha frequency is a neural marker of cognitive function across the autism spectrum” by Abigail Dickinson, Charlotte DiStefano, Damla Senturk, andShafali Spurling Jeste in European Journal of Neuroscience. Published online July 12 2017 doi:10.1111/ejn.13645 Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article UCLA “Autism Severity Detected With Brain Activity Test.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 25 July 2017. <http://neurosciencenews.com/brain-activity-test-autism-7172/>. UCLA (2017, July 25). Autism Severity Detected With Brain Activity Test. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved July 25, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/brain-activity-test-autism-7172/ UCLA “Autism Severity Detected With Brain Activity Test.” http://neurosciencenews.com/brain-activity-test-autism-7172/ (accessed July 25, 2017). Abstract Peak alpha frequency is a neural marker of cognitive function across the autism spectrum Cognitive function varies substantially and serves as a key predictor of outcome and response to intervention in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), yet we know little about the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie cognitive function in children with ASD. The dynamics of neuronal oscillations in the alpha range (6-12 Hz) are associated with cognition in typical development. Peak alpha frequency is also highly sensitive to developmental changes in neural networks which underlie cognitive function, and therefore it holds promise as a developmentally-sensitive neural marker of cognitive function in ASD. Here, we measured peak alpha band frequency under a task-free condition in a heterogeneous sample of children with ASD (N=59) and age-matched typically developing (TD) children (N=38). At a group level, peak alpha frequency was decreased in ASD compared to TD children. Moreover, within the ASD group, peak alpha frequency correlated strongly with non-verbal cognition. As peak alpha frequency reflects the integrity of neural networks, our results suggest that deviations in network development may underlie cognitive function in individuals with ASD. By shedding light on the neurobiological correlates of cognitive function in ASD, our findings lay the groundwork for considering peak alpha frequency as a useful biomarker of cognitive function within this population which, in turn, will facilitate investigations of early markers of cognitive impairment and predictors of outcome in high risk infants. “Peak alpha frequency is a neural marker of cognitive function across the autism spectrum” by Abigail Dickinson, Charlotte DiStefano, Damla Senturk, andShafali Spurling Jeste in European Journal of Neuroscience. Published online July 12 2017 doi:10.1111/ejn.13645 Feel free to share this Neuroscience News. View the full article
  2. I was first prescribed depression medication five years ago and it’s now part of my self-care routine. It’s good for young people to take control of their mental health I have been on the antidepressant citalopram for the best part of five years now – popping my pill is as much a part of my morning routine as brushing my teeth or drinking a cup of tea. I used to romanticise it, pretending the water I washed it down with was vodka. Nowadays, I think of it more as an important moment of self-care at the beginning of my day – part of how I have learned to take care of myself and my mental health. I am also well aware that I am far from unusual. Last year, the NHS prescribed a record 64.7m items of antidepressants in England. I can see this propensity to prescribe everywhere: I know more people who are on antidepressants than those who aren’t. Related: Number of under-18s on antidepressants in England rises by 12% Related: How do antidepressants actually work? | Dean Burnett Continue reading...View the full article
  3. California law now mandates mental health help for young victims of sexual abuse. Psychological trauma treatment for victims under 14 years old will be paid for by predators after Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 756 into law. The bill, which earned bipartisan support in both the Senate and Assembly, is the first of Senator Henry Stern’s (D-Canoga Park) bills to be signed into law during his freshman legislative season. “SB 756 will assist kids in getting the help they deserve,” Senator Henry Stern said in a statement. “I applaud Governor Brown for signing this important measure into law.” Prior to the passage of this bill, there was a loophole in the law that did not allow young victims of sexual assault to get restitution for their mental health services. There are hundreds of pending cases in Los Angeles County that may be eligible for restitution under this law, according to Stern’s office. “While SB 756 has been characterized as a small fix, in truth, it represents a huge step for victims’ rights and thousands of child victims,” Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten said in a statement. The need for this legislation was highlighted in a 2014 Antelope Valley court case. A youth soccer coach, Renoir Vincent Valenti, was convicted of molesting 14 children and was sentenced to 130 years to life in prison, but the victims were not given any mental health restitution. Both the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and the Crime Victims Action Alliance have expressed support for the legislation. On the Senate floor, the bill passed with 39 “yeses,” no “noes” and one abstain. On the Assembly floor, the bill passed with 74 “yeses,” no “noes” and six abstains. This law will officially go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. View the full article
  4. Summary: Researchers at UCSD have developed a new gesture recognition glove that can wirelessly translate the ASL alphabet into text. The glove can also communicate back by controlling a virtual hand and mimicking gestures. Source: UCSD. Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a smart glove that wirelessly translates the American Sign Language alphabet into text and controls a virtual hand to mimic sign language gestures. The device, which engineers call “The Language of Glove,” was built for less than $100 using stretchable and printable electronics that are inexpensive, commercially available and easy to assemble. The work was published on July 12 in the journal PLOS ONE. In addition to decoding American Sign Language gestures, researchers are developing the glove to be used in a variety of other applications ranging from virtual and augmented reality to telesurgery, technical training and defense. “Gesture recognition is just one demonstration of this glove’s capabilities,” said Timothy O’Connor, a nanoengineering Ph.D. student at UC San Diego and the first author of the study. “Our ultimate goal is to make this a smart glove that in the future will allow people to use their hands in virtual reality, which is much more intuitive than using a joystick and other existing controllers. This could be better for games and entertainment, but more importantly for virtual training procedures in medicine, for example, where it would be advantageous to actually simulate the use of one’s hands.” “The Language of Glove”: a smart glove that wirelessly translates the American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet into text and controls a virtual hand to mimic ASL gestures. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Timothy O’Connor/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. The glove is unique in that it has sensors made from stretchable materials, is inexpensive and simple to manufacture. “We’ve innovated a low-cost and straightforward design for smart wearable devices using off-the-shelf components. Our work could enable other researchers to develop similar technologies without requiring costly materials or complex fabrication methods,” said Darren Lipomi, a nanoengineering professor who is a member of the Center for Wearable Sensors at UC San Diego and the study’s senior author. The ‘language of glove’ The team built the device using a leather athletic glove and adhered nine stretchable sensors to the back at the knuckles — two on each finger and one on the thumb. The sensors are made of thin strips of a silicon-based polymer coated with a conductive carbon paint. The sensors are secured onto the glove with copper tape. Stainless steel thread connects each of the sensors to a low power, custom-made printed circuit board that’s attached to the back of the wrist. The sensors change their electrical resistance when stretched or bent. This allows them to code for different letters of the American Sign Language alphabet based on the positions of all nine knuckles. A straight or relaxed knuckle is encoded as “0” and a bent knuckle is encoded as “1”. When signing a particular letter, the glove creates a nine-digit binary key that translates into that letter. For example, the code for the letter “A” (thumb straight, all other fingers curled) is “011111111,” while the code for “B” (thumb bent, all other fingers straight) is “100000000.” Engineers equipped the glove with an accelerometer and pressure sensor to distinguish between letters like “I” and “J”, whose gestures are different but generate the same nine-digit code. View the full article
  5. Summary: A new study in the BMJ links antidepressant use in pregnant women to a very small increased risk of autism in their offspring. Researchers discovered 4.1% of children exposed to antidepressants while in the womb were diagnosed with ASD, where as only 2.9% of children whose mothers had a history of mental health problems but did not take take medications were diagnosed with autism. Source: Drexel University. A new study found that antidepressant medications taken during pregnancy may be linked to the development of autism in children — although the effect appears to be limited. In looking at a cohort of children born between 2001 and 2011 in Stockholm, Sweden, Drexel University’s Brian Lee, PhD, and Craig Newschaffer, PhD, and their co-authors (including lead author Dheeraj Rai, PhD, of the University of Bristol) found that children born to mothers who had taken anti-depressants at any point during their pregnancy were 45 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism. However, the team’s analysis showed that only 2 percent of autism cases would be prevented if antidepressant use was completely cut off in pregnant women. “Overall, the increase in risk was quite small,” said Lee. “Of children exposed to antidepressants during pregnancy, 4.1 percent had an autism diagnosis. In comparison, children of mothers with a history of a psychiatric disorder but who did not use antidepressants during pregnancy had a 2.9 percent prevalence of autism.” The study was published in The BMJ (formerly The British Medical Journal). It focused on prenatal antidepressant use because these medications can cross through the placenta into where the fetus develops. Past studies have found associations between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism in children, but there has been some concern that those links were the results of other factors. As such, this study sought to use various methods to rule out any “confounders.” This included looking into the use of antidepressants by the child’s father during pregnancy, comparing the children to their siblings, and comparing children with similar characteristics, among other methods. None of these seemed to significantly affect the main finding linking diagnoses to antidepressant use. “The overall effect remained,” Rai said. “We were specifically looking for consistency in the various analyses we did and the results appeared to concur.” “We conducted several analyses that seemed to support the validity of the findings,” Lee added. “For example, because a parental history of a psychiatric disorder is associated with increased risk of autism, we examined whether the father’s use of antidepressants was associated with autism. Because there was no increased risk with fathers’ use of antidepressants, this suggested that the increase with mothers’ use was not entirely due to the underlying psychiatric disorder.” The team found that prenatal antidepressant use seemed to only be linked to autism diagnoses in children who didn’t also have intellectual disabilities. This form of autism has a greater chance of inheritability, according to past studies. Genetic traits were not exclusively looked at for the study, although looking at siblings helped mitigate that potential factor. To better examine it in future studies, the study team suggested looking at larger pools of siblings. And while there was a noticeable increase in autism diagnoses in children whose mothers used the antidepressants, the study team emphasized that more than 95 percent of those women had children who were not diagnosed with autism. “Our advice for pregnant women and clinicians is very clear. They should not base decisions about the use of antidepressants during pregnancy on any one study, especially when the research evidence is conflicting, as in this case where different studies have reached different conclusions,” Rai said. “There could be severe risks of stopping the use of antidepressants during pregnancy, both to the mother and the fetus. So the benefits of these medications for mothers who need them should not be forgotten.” The best course of action is to consult a doctor on medication use during pregnancy. “Balancing benefits and risks of taking medications during pregnancy is a complex and often difficult decision,” he explained. “Our advice would be for women to discuss their concerns with their treating clinicians who will be able to help them weigh the pros and the cons.” Past studies have found associations between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism in children, but there has been some concern that those links were the results of other factors. As such, this study sought to use various methods to rule out any “confounders.” Public domain image. As a next step, larger studies will help develop a consensus on the role that both antidepressants and depression itself plays into the risk of autism. “This may be aided by more studies that could help account for confounding and more studies focusing on the autism group without intellectual disability, which seems to be the key category for which the increase in risk is observed,” Rai said. About this neuroscience research article Source: Frank Otto – Drexel University Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain. Original Research: Full open access research for “Antidepressants during pregnancy and autism in offspring: population based cohort study” by Dheeraj Rai, Brian K Lee, Christina Dalman, Craig Newschaffer, Glyn Lewis, and Cecilia Magnusson in The BMJ. Published online July 19 2017 doi:10.1136/bmj.j2811 Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article Drexel University “Antidepressant Use in Pregnancy Linked to Slightly Increased Autism Risk.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 24 July 2017. <http://neurosciencenews.com/antidepressants-autism-pregnancy-7165/>. Drexel University (2017, July 24). Antidepressant Use in Pregnancy Linked to Slightly Increased Autism Risk. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved July 24, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/antidepressants-autism-pregnancy-7165/ Drexel University “Antidepressant Use in Pregnancy Linked to Slightly Increased Autism Risk.” http://neurosciencenews.com/antidepressants-autism-pregnancy-7165/ (accessed July 24, 2017). Abstract Antidepressants during pregnancy and autism in offspring: population based cohort study Objectives To study the association between maternal use of antidepressants during pregnancy and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in offspring. Design Observational prospective cohort study with regression methods, propensity score matching, sibling controls, and negative control comparison. Setting Stockholm County, Sweden. Participants 254 610 individuals aged 4-17, including 5378 with autism, living in Stockholm County in 2001-11 who were born to mothers who did not take antidepressants and did not have any psychiatric disorder, mothers who took antidepressants during pregnancy, or mothers with psychiatric disorders who did not take antidepressants during pregnancy. Maternal antidepressant use was recorded during first antenatal interview or determined from prescription records. Main outcome measure Offspring diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, with and without intellectual disability. Results Of the 3342 children exposed to antidepressants during pregnancy, 4.1% (n=136) had a diagnosis of autism compared with a 2.9% prevalence (n=353) in 12 325 children not exposed to antidepressants whose mothers had a history of a psychiatric disorder (adjusted odds ratio 1.45, 95% confidence interval 1.13 to 1.85). Propensity score analysis led to similar results. The results of a sibling control analysis were in the same direction, although with wider confidence intervals. In a negative control comparison, there was no evidence of any increased risk of autism in children whose fathers were prescribed antidepressants during the mothers’ pregnancy (1.13, 0.68 to 1.88). In all analyses, the risk increase concerned only autism without intellectual disability. Conclusions The association between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism, particularly autism without intellectual disability, might not solely be a byproduct of confounding. Study of the potential underlying biological mechanisms could help the understanding of modifiable mechanisms in the aetiology of autism. Importantly, the absolute risk of autism was small, and, hypothetically, if no pregnant women took antidepressants, the number of cases that could potentially be prevented would be small. “Antidepressants during pregnancy and autism in offspring: population based cohort study” by Dheeraj Rai, Brian K Lee, Christina Dalman, Craig Newschaffer, Glyn Lewis, and Cecilia Magnusson in The BMJ. Published online July 19 2017 doi:10.1136/bmj.j2811 Feel free to share this Neuroscience News. View the full article
  6. This first call is more than a scheduling exercise. It is an initiation of therapy, a partly scripted, hourlong evaluation to determine how safe the new client is, how desperate and why. The staff members, known as psychological well-being practitioners, decide in that initial call if low-intensity phone therapy is appropriate, or if the person should be moved up the ladder, to group or individual therapy. In one such call at the center in High Wycombe, a city near London, a young man named Patrick confessed, in a barely audible voice, that he had thought about suicide and that “things are not good” at work or at home. “I don’t know what it is — it’s — I’m not very smart, I don’t know,” he said. He was on guard, a little rushed, talking on his lunch break. After the conversation, Rochelle Joseph, the practitioner, explained in an interview: “That is someone, you can hear it, who probably never talked to anyone about this. It may be the first time he’s said those things out loud. This is someone we would recommend” for more intensive follow-up. This so-called stepped care approach is similar to the triage most clinics traditionally do, only it is more rigorously standardized and monitored, saving the high-intensity, face-to-face treatments for more severe problems — a system intended to contain costs. Oliver’s condition was judged serious enough that he got in to see a therapist face to face fairly quickly, within a few weeks. He learned he had obsessive-compulsive disorder. People with O.C.D. have a consuming fear — of germs, say, or, in Oliver’s case, of misbehavior. They escalate that fear by repetitively trying to soothe it, for example by washing their hands or checking that they’ve done nothing wrong. The gold standard treatment for O.C.D. is cognitive behavior therapy, the most commonly studied psychotherapy for mood problems. In this treatment, usually delivered in weekly hourlong sessions over three to six months, people learn techniques to defuse the automatic thoughts and habits that feed their anxiety or depression. The therapy has been available in England for decades, but typically in cities and with long waiting lists. In one exercise, for instance, Oliver wrote down what he thought might have happened after a night out, followed by what he subsequently knew had happened — in different-colored ink. That cognitive, or thought-based, process provided some instantaneous relief, he said. Patients also do simple, real-world experiments, to see if feared consequences materialize. Gemma Szucs, 41, engaged in online sessions of cognitive behavior therapy over 14 weeks through the program in Oxford, for social anxiety so severe that she couldn’t bear boarding a bus because it meant attracting momentary stares from other passengers. She was referred to the program by her general practitioner. One of the behavior experiments she tried was to carry on a loud, pretend conversation on her cellphone in the grocery store, saying things like, “I just got a call from David Cameron, and he wants to talk to you!” she said, referring to the then prime minister. Photo A branch of Healthy Minds in Wycombe operates out of the red building in the center Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times “I had to really build myself up to do this,” she said. “But then when I finally did it, no one batted an eyelid. Nothing. I felt ridiculous for worrying about it at all.” Oliver’s challenge was to work his way through a list of previously routine activities that had become terrifying, like driving (lowest on the list) and jogging in a remote area of the woods (at the top). “It was hard, but I got through it,” he said. “The therapy worked — I came out of the box I was living in.” The program’s services closely track people’s conditions using two standard questionnaires filled out each week of treatment — one for depression and one for anxiety — and log the findings in a government database (clients are anonymous in those reports). This data gathering does not amount to a “controlled” experiment in that there is no matched group of people getting a placebo treatment, or no treatment at all, for comparison. But the data collected show that the recovery rate of those who engage in at least two sessions of therapy has increased to 50 percent today, from an average of about 45 percent a few years back, as high as the most positive lab studies of the therapies, which often have idealized conditions. How long that recovery lasts, and for whom, are unknowns; the program intends to build in longer-term follow-up measures. The projected cost savings countrywide have been difficult to determine, given all the other economic factors in a $3 trillion, diversified economy. But the recovery numbers have given Dr. Clark and Dr. Layard enough ammunition to argue for, and receive, funding from three governments in a row. A Mental Health Waiting List Psychotherapy-for-all has some limitations, and no shortage of critics willing to name them. For instance, the program has delivered mostly one kind of therapy, cognitive behavior therapy. The National Health Service’s guidelines include other treatments, however, including intrapersonal therapy, which focuses on improving relationships, and a short-term form of analysis rooted in Freudian ideas. “If you think C.B.T. is the end-all, then you don’t understand mental health,” said Peter Kinderman, president of the British Psychological Society. “So if the program turns into a C.B.T. monopoly, that’s bad. But I’m an optimist; I think we’ll begin to see multifactorial approaches as the program matures.” Some critics say the program has already altered how general practitioners operate. The services have become so popular that most clients now make an appointment on their own, bypassing G.P.s as the traditional gatekeepers. The trade-off, said Dr. Rachel Jenkins, a professor emeritus at King’s College London, is that primary care doctors “know less about mental health than they did 20 years ago; they’ve become de-skilled.” Photo A mental health campaign supported by Prince William, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry was the London Marathon’s charity of the year this year. Credit Max Mumby/Indigo, via Getty Images The biggest challenges may be those created by runaway demand. Therapists are booked solid; some are juggling 25 clients at a time, and the line to get in the door is long, creating the same complaints about waiting lists that the National Health Service has for many medical services and procedures. The average wait is 31 days for a course of therapy, typically shorter for the online variety and longer for face-to-face treatment. Directors of the local centers have managed this caseload with the tools they have, in part by seeing to it that would-be clients get educational materials or online resources right away, to give them something to study while they wait for an appointment. Sarah Norman, 45, a pediatric nurse who sought help from the Oxford center last year for depression, said she was referred to group therapy because the waiting list for individual therapy was so long. When the group therapy ended after four sessions, she remembered: “I was a bit frustrated. I thought I could have used a couple more sessions.” She did, in time, improve, and is very grateful for the treatment. The same cannot be said with any certainty about the 40 percent of people who the data show were lost to the program after the initial assessment phone call. About two-thirds of them were not depressed or anxious enough to qualify for the therapy, or decided it wasn’t for them, Dr. Clark’s data shows. That leaves about 125,000 men and women who may have needed help but didn’t get it. “These are people we’d like to reach, and we are pushing the services hard to do that,” Dr. Clark said. Expanding the Reach John Pimm, the psychologist who directs the Buckinghamshire center, found in 2013 that he could strikingly raise recovery rates by having his therapists give some patients two or three extra sessions; and by extending call times for phone therapy, working more carefully at the critical junctures, when people begin, or end, therapy. “We have created this program, and now we are playing catch-up,” Dr. Pimm said in an interview in his office in High Wycombe. “We cannot train therapists fast enough, and the low-intensity phone therapists turn over pretty quickly. We have to figure out how to keep them in the job longer.” This is where the online therapy software programs, still relatively new, may play a crucial role. Young men in particular, who can be difficult to bring in for face-to-face therapy, are often willing to work diligently on the computer and by phone. “The online and low-intensity options have been absolutely crucial for us,” said Judith Chapman, who runs the Berkshire service. “And we have gotten good recovery rates with them.” For those outside England trying to improve access to mental health care, these problems pale in the face of untreated emotional problems, which are most common in young people. Oliver is back to work; Andrew Prinsloo is doing well, also working, as are Gemma Szucs and hundreds of thousands more — in most cases, without having to start or increase medications. “For me, honestly, I’m the last person who would try talk therapy,” Oliver said. “I still can’t believe it worked.” Continue reading the main storyView the full article
  7. Summary: A new study confirms those on the autism spectrum are hypersensitive to pain. The new study from UT Dallas researchers also demonstrated people with ASD showed greater neural responses in the anterior cingulate cortex than those not on the spectrum when anticipating a painful stimuli. Source: UT Dallas. New research by a UT Dallas neuroscientist has established a link between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and pain sensitivity. The study, led by Dr. Xiaosi Gu, outlines alternations in pain perception faced by people on the autism spectrum and how those changes can affect them in social functions. “This provides some of the first evidence that links pain perception to social function in ASD. Most experiments on ASD focus either on the social dysfunction aspects or the sensory dysfunction aspects. But very few studies have looked at them both,” said Gu, assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, the study focused on a very specific aspect of sensory processing — pain perception, with a goal of determining what happens in the brains of high-functioning adults with ASD when they anticipate and feel pain sensations. The researchers used a stimulation device to deliver mild electrical shocks to the participants, who decided how much pain they were willing to tolerate. The shocks were delivered while the subjects were inside an MRI scanner, so that researchers could measure brain activity and physiological responses when participants anticipated pain and when they experienced it. One of the areas in the brain known to encode anticipation of pain is the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). As participants waited in the scanner before receiving a pain signal, researchers could see this part of the brain light up. Gu said there were three main findings from the study: It confirmed that people with ASD are hypersensitive to pain, a finding that has been documented in previous studies. In a new finding, the study showed that when people with ASD anticipate painful stimulus, their brains generate greater neural responses in the ACC, compared to those without ASD. In addition, the research indicated that the more brain activity the participants show during pain anticipation, the less they score on an empathy quotient questionnaire. Gu said people with autism often are poor at empathy, which is the ability to understand what another person may be feeling. This result indicates that pain anticipation is related to social impairments faced by those with autism. She said that a withdrawal from interactions may be a way of protecting oneself. One of the areas in the brain known to encode anticipation of pain is the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). As participants waited in the scanner before receiving a pain signal, researchers could see this part of the brain light up. NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the UT Dallas news release. “The risks of encountering pain are part of daily life and are normal for non-ASD individuals, but may be overwhelming for autistic people,” Gu said. “Therefore, one possible explanation of our finding is that to protect themselves, individuals with ASD may not engage in social interactions as much. You reduce the risk of encountering pain or other sensory experiences that are very normal for non-ASD individuals, but not for those with ASD.” Based on the study results, Gu said that therapists and experts who work with people with ASD should consider developing interventions and treatment options to help with sensory processing, particularly pain. About this neuroscience research article Other authors of the paper include researchers from City University of New York, Boston University, the University of Toronto, the Icahn School of Medicine in New York and Rush University in Chicago. Funding: The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health. Source: Phil Roth – UT Dallas Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the UT Dallas news release. Original Research: Abstract for “Heightened brain response to pain anticipation in high-functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder” by Xiaosi Gu, Thomas J. Zhou, Evdokia Anagnostou, Latha Soorya, Alexander Kolevzon, Patrick R. Hof, and Jin Fan in European Journal of Neuroscience. Published online May 25 doi:10.1111/ejn.13598 Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article UT Dallas “Link Between Autism and Pain Sensitivity.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 24 July 2017. <http://neurosciencenews.com/autism-pain-sensitivity-7164/>. UT Dallas (2017, July 24). Link Between Autism and Pain Sensitivity. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved July 24, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/autism-pain-sensitivity-7164/ UT Dallas “Link Between Autism and Pain Sensitivity.” http://neurosciencenews.com/autism-pain-sensitivity-7164/ (accessed July 24, 2017). Abstract Heightened brain response to pain anticipation in high-functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is marked by both socio-communicative difficulties and abnormalities in sensory processing. Much of the work on sensory deficits in ASD has focused on tactile sensations and the perceptual aspects of somatosensation, such as encoding of stimulus intensity and location. Although aberrant pain processing has often been noted in clinical observations of patients with ASD, it remains largely uninvestigated. Importantly, the neural mechanism underlying higher order cognitive aspects of pain processing such as pain anticipation also remains unknown. Here we examined both pain perception and anticipation in high-functioning adults with ASD and matched healthy controls (HC) using an anticipatory pain paradigm in combination with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and concurrent skin conductance response (SCR) recording. Participants were asked to choose a level of electrical stimulation that would feel moderately painful to them. Compared to HC group, ASD group chose a lower level of stimulation prior to fMRI. However, ASD participants showed greater activation in both rostral and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex during the anticipation of stimulation, but not during stimulation delivery. There was no significant group difference in insular activation during either pain anticipation or perception. However, activity in the left anterior insula correlated with SCR during pain anticipation. Taken together, these results suggest that ASD is marked with aberrantly higher level of sensitivity to upcoming aversive stimuli, which may reflect abnormal attentional orientation to nociceptive signals and a failure in interoceptive inference. “Heightened brain response to pain anticipation in high-functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder” by Xiaosi Gu, Thomas J. Zhou, Evdokia Anagnostou, Latha Soorya, Alexander Kolevzon, Patrick R. Hof, and Jin Fan in European Journal of Neuroscience. Published online May 25 doi:10.1111/ejn.13598 Feel free to share this Neuroscience News. View the full article
  8. Summary: A new Nature Neuroscience study provides evidence that necroptosis is linked to cognitive decline and severity of Alzheimer’s disease. The finding that necroptosis is activated in Alzheimer’s provides a plausible mechanism that underlies the neuron loss associated with the disease. Source: Arizona State University. First of its kind study may lead to new era of Alzheimer’s drug discovery and therapeutic targets. Alzheimer’s disease tragically ravages the brains, memories and ultimately, personalities of its victims. Now affecting 5 million Americans, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and a cure for Alzheimer’s remains elusive, as the exact biological events that trigger it are still unknown. In a new study published today, Arizona State University-Banner Health neuroscientist Salvatore Oddo and his colleagues from Phoenix’s Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) — as well as the University of California, Irvine, and Mount Sinai in New York — have identified a new way for brain cells to become fated to die during Alzheimer’s diseases. The research team has found the first evidence that the activation of a biological pathway called necroptosis, which causes neuronal loss, is closely linked with Alzheimer’s severity, cognitive decline and extreme loss of tissue and brain weight that are all advanced hallmarks of the disease. “We anticipate that our findings will spur a new area of Alzheimer’s disease research focused on further detailing the role of necroptosis and developing new therapeutic strategies aimed at blocking it,” said Oddo, the lead author of this study, and scientist at the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center at the Biodesign Institute and associate professor in the School of Life Sciences. The findings appear in the advanced online edition of Nature Neuroscience. Necroptosis, which causes cells to burst from the inside out and die, is triggered by a triad of proteins. It has been shown to play a central role in multiple sclerosis and Lou Gehrig’ disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS), and now for the first time, also in Alzheimer’s disease. “There is no doubt that the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease have fewer neurons,” said Oddo. “The brain is much smaller and weighs less; it shrinks because neurons are dying. That has been known for 100 years, but until now, the mechanism wasn’t understood.” Links with Alzheimer’s Necroptosis was first identified as a result of inflammation, a common malady in Alzheimer’s. Three critical proteins are involved in the initiation of necroptosis, known as RIPK1, RIPK3 and MLKL. The study describes a key event in the process of necroptosis when RIPK1 and RIPK3 form a filamentous structure known as the necrosome. The formation of the necrosome appears to jump-start the process of necroptosis. It activates MLKL, which affects the cell’s mitochondria, eventually leading to cell death. Winnie Liang, TGen assistant professor, director of TGen Scientific Operations and director of TGen’s Collaborative Sequencing Center, said MLKL executes necroptosis to ultimately cause cell death. “In this study, we show for the first time that necroptosis is activated in Alzheimer’s disease, providing a plausible mechanism underlying neuronal loss in this disorder,” said Liang, who contributed to the study’s gene expression analyses. To explore necroptosis, the research team utilized multiple cohorts of human samples obtained from the Brain and Body Donation Program at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute and Mount Sinai VA Medical Center Brain Bank. First, they measured RIPK1, RIPK3 and MLKL in a specific region of the brain that is typically ravaged by cell loss during the advance of Alzheimer’s disease — the temporal gyrus. Results showed that during necroptosis, these markers were increased in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Next, they identified the molecular cascade of necroptosis activation, with RIPK1 activating RIPK3 by binding with it. This protein complex then binds to and activates MLKL. Analysis of mRNA and protein revealed elevated levels of both RIPK1 and MLKL in the postmortem brain tissues of patients with Alzheimer’s when compared with normal postmortem brains. Furthermore, they also demonstrated that necroptosis activation correlated with the protein tau. Intriguingly, necroptosis did not appear to be linked with the other chief physiological characteristic of Alzheimer’s pathology, beta-amyloid plaque. Engines of decline To assess the relationship between necroptotic protein levels and cognitive health, the study revisited the scores of patients whose postmortem brain tissue was evaluated for necroptosis. Results showed a significant association between RIPK1, MLKL and diminished scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), a widely used test measuring cognitive health. Given the established relationship between necroptosis and Alzheimer’s pathology, including cell loss and attendant cognitive deficit, the study sought to inhibit the process to study the dynamic effects on cell death and memory loss. NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only. Given the established relationship between necroptosis and Alzheimer’s pathology, including cell loss and attendant cognitive deficit, the study sought to inhibit the process to study the dynamic effects on cell death and memory loss. With such experiments not possible in people, the team demonstrated in a mouse model of the disease that lowering the activation of the necroptosis pathway reduces cell loss and improves performance in memory-related tasks, offering new hope for human therapeutics to halt or reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s. The results reveal that the inhibition of necroptosis activation through the blockage of RIPK1 prevents cell loss in mice. Compellingly, mice with inhibited activation of necroptosis pathways performed significantly better in tests of spatial memory involving navigation through a water maze. New understanding, new hope The study opens a new window on Alzheimer’s research and offers hope for therapies targeting cell loss in the brain, an inevitable and devastating outcome of Alzheimer’s progression. Oddo stresses that RIPK1, RIPK3 and MLKL are among many potential drug targets, and others will likely follow as the links between necroptosis and Alzheimer’s become clearer. While multiple causes of the disease are likely, understanding more clearly all targets that trigger disease will offer the best hope since neuronal loss has been found in people more than a decade before any symptoms of dementia. “One may not agree as to which molecules trigger Alzheimer’s disease, ” said Oddo, “but everybody agrees that the end result is the neuronal loss. If you can prevent that you may have a beneficial effect.” About this neuroscience research article Source: Joe Caspermeyer – Arizona State University Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain. Original Research: Abstract for “Necroptosis activation in Alzheimer’s disease” by Antonella Caccamo, Caterina Branca, Ignazio S Piras, Eric Ferreira, Matthew J Huentelman, Winnie S Liang, Ben Readhead, Joel T Dudley, Elizabeth E Spangenberg, Kim N Green, Ramona Belfiore, Wendy Winslow & Salvatore Oddo in Nature Neuroscience. Published online July 24 2017 doi:10.1038/nn.4608 Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article Arizona State University “New Brain Death Pathway in Alzheimer’s Identified.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 24 July 2017. <http://neurosciencenews.com/alzheimers-brain-deah-pathway-7162/>. Arizona State University (2017, July 24). New Brain Death Pathway in Alzheimer’s Identified. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved July 24, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/alzheimers-brain-deah-pathway-7162/ Arizona State University “New Brain Death Pathway in Alzheimer’s Identified.” http://neurosciencenews.com/alzheimers-brain-deah-pathway-7162/ (accessed July 24, 2017). Abstract Necroptosis activation in Alzheimer’s disease Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by severe neuronal loss; however, the mechanisms by which neurons die remain elusive. Necroptosis, a programmed form of necrosis, is executed by the mixed lineage kinase domain-like (MLKL) protein, which is triggered by receptor-interactive protein kinases (RIPK) 1 and 3. We found that necroptosis was activated in postmortem human AD brains, positively correlated with Braak stage, and inversely correlated with brain weight and cognitive scores. In addition, we found that the set of genes regulated by RIPK1 overlapped significantly with multiple independent AD transcriptomic signatures, indicating that RIPK1 activity could explain a substantial portion of transcriptomic changes in AD. Furthermore, we observed that lowering necroptosis activation reduced cell loss in a mouse model of AD. We anticipate that our findings will spur a new area of research in the AD field focused on developing new therapeutic strategies aimed at blocking its activation. “Necroptosis activation in Alzheimer’s disease” by Antonella Caccamo, Caterina Branca, Ignazio S Piras, Eric Ferreira, Matthew J Huentelman, Winnie S Liang, Ben Readhead, Joel T Dudley, Elizabeth E Spangenberg, Kim N Green, Ramona Belfiore, Wendy Winslow & Salvatore Oddo in Nature Neuroscience. Published online July 24 2017 doi:10.1038/nn.4608 Feel free to share this Neuroscience News. View the full article
  9. Summary: A simple eye test may be a useful tool in helping to diagnose ASD, a new study reports. Researchers measured eye movement in those on the autism spectrum and found they continually missed a specific target. The researchers suggest sensory motor control in the cerebellum that is usually responsible for eye control could be impaired in those with ASD. Source: University of Rochester Medical Center. A new study out in European Journal of Neuroscience could herald a new tool that helps physicians identify a sub-group of people with Autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The test, which consists of measuring rapid eye movements, may indicate deficits in an area of the brain that plays an important role in emotional and social development. “These findings build upon a growing field of research that show that eye movement could serve as a window into a part of the brain that plays a role in a number of neurological and development disorders, such as Autism,” said John Foxe, Ph.D., director of the University of Rochester Medical Center Del Monte Neuroscience Institute and co-author of the study. ASD is characterized by a wide range of symptoms that can vary in severity from person to person. This unpredictability not only presents a challenge for diagnosis, but also how best to devise a course of treatment. Identifying the specific phenotype of the disorder is, therefore, an essential first step to providing effective care. Eye movements and the mechanisms by which the brain controls and processes what we choose to look at have been a major focus of neuroscience researchers for decades. The rapid eye movements we make when we shift our attention from one object to another, known as saccades, are essential to navigating, understanding, and interacting with the world around us. In healthy individuals, these saccades are rapid, precise, and accurate, redirecting the line of sight from one point of interest to another. The potential relevance of eye movement in individuals with Autism is the area of the brain that controls these actions, a densely-packed structure of neurons known as the cerebellum. Traditionally considered to play a role in motor control, the cerebellum is now known to be essential to emotion and cognition via its connections to the rest of the brain. There is growing evidence that the structure of the cerebellum is altered in a sub-population of individuals with ASD. In a series of experiments, the authors of the current study tracked the eye movements of individuals with ASD. The participants were asked to track a visual target that appeared in different locations on the screen. The experiment was designed in a manner that often caused the participant’s focus to “overshoot” the intended target. In healthy individuals, the brain would correctly adjust eye movements as the task is repeated. However, the eye movements of individuals with ASD continued to miss the target suggesting that the sensory motor controls in the cerebellum responsible for eye movement were impaired. The potential relevance of eye movement in individuals with Autism is the area of the brain that controls these actions, a densely-packed structure of neurons known as the cerebellum. NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the University of Rochester Medical Center news release. The inability of the brain to adjust the size of eye movement may not only be a marker for cerebellum dysfunction, but it may also help explain the communication and social interaction deficits that many individuals with ASD experience. “These finding suggest that assessing the ability of people to adapt saccade amplitudes is one way to determine whether this function of the cerebellum is altered in ASD,” said Edward Freedman, Ph.D. an associate professor in the URMC Department of Neuroscience and co-author of the study. “If these deficits do turn out to be a consistent finding in a sub-group of children with ASD, this raises the possibility that saccade adaptation measures may have utility as a method that will allow early detection of this disorder.” About this neuroscience research article Funding: The study was funded with support from the Nathan Gantcher Foundation and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Source: Mark Michaud – University of Rochester Medical Center Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the University of Rochester Medical Center news release. Original Research: The study will appear in European Journal of Neuroscience. Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article University of Rochester Medical Center “Eye Test Could Help Diagnose Autism.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 24 July 2017. <http://neurosciencenews.com/autism-eye-test-7160/>. University of Rochester Medical Center (2017, July 24). Eye Test Could Help Diagnose Autism. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved July 24, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/autism-eye-test-7160/ University of Rochester Medical Center “Eye Test Could Help Diagnose Autism.” http://neurosciencenews.com/autism-eye-test-7160/ (accessed July 24, 2017). Feel free to share this Neuroscience News. View the full article
  10. A bill introduced last week by Reps. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas, and Doris Matsui, D-California, would promote incentive payments for behavioral health providers who purchase and adopt electronic health records. The proposed bill would apply to community mental health centers, public or private psychiatric hospitals, accredited residential or outpatient mental health treatment facilities, accredited substance abuse treatment sites, clinical psychologists and clinical social workers. The bipartisan legislation is part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Center project to promote not only the adoption of certified EHR systems, but to use the technology to improve the coordination and quality of care through health information exchange. While meaningful use has been successful in increasing EHR adoption, the representatives said that behavioral health providers were excluded from the program and lack the funds to implement full EHRs. The proposed project would allow congress to avoid expanding meaningful use to cover mental health providers. “This is another step forward in our work to put mental health on a level playing field with physical health care,” said Matsui in a statement. “By encouraging the use of EHR technology by behavioral health providers, we can improve care coordination and behavioral health integration. That helps ensure patients receive the treatment they need in the right place at the right time.” The CMS Innovation Center has been considering potential payment and service delivery models focused on behavioral health, as well as telemedicine. CMS will hold a Behavioral Health Payment and Care Delivery Innovation Summit to address workforce challenges in the mental health field and reimbursement for the use of telehealth. Twitter: @JessieFDavis Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com Like Healthcare IT News on Facebook and LinkedIn View the full article
  11. [unable to retrieve full-text content]Scientists lend insight into the interplay between attachment style and how people manage and perceive friendship networks. View the full article
  12. Medical scholars have long researched and debated the best methods to treat people with mental health problems. A recent Exchange episode explored how the philosophy of wilderness therapy – the idea that camping in a natural setting can be a treatment for patients struggling with mental health problems. But when gauging the benefits of wilderness therapy, it may be useful to examine the success of more common methods used to treat mental health: medication and talk therapy. In 2010, The Exchange’s Laura Knoy and psychiatrist Daniel Carlat discussed changes in mental health treatment and the use of medication and talk therapy for people struggling with depression, behaviour disorders, ADHD, and more. NHPR's Laura Knoy speaks with a psychiatrist about the benefits and drawbacks of talk therapy and medication. (Originally broadcast 6/3/2010) Carlat asserted that medication was seen as an easy way out for treating mental health. For patients, medication made them feel better and more in control. Doctors found it easier to prescribe medication rather than schedule a talk therapy. And for health insurers, medication was seen as a money maker. But Carlat, author of the book Unhinged: the Trouble with Psychiatry - A Doctor’s Revelations about a Profession in Crisis, argued that the heavy emphasis on medication caused his profession to go astray. Rather than taking the time to explore why patients experience problems, psychiatry focused on the biochemistry of mental health and the ever-growing number of drugs promising cures. This led to the issue of patients being treated for their symptoms through medication, while root problems were often overlooked. Indeed, studies over the last 20 to 30 years (from when this Exchange episode aired) found that while medication was very effective in the short term, some talk therapy techniques were actually more effective in the long term because they gave patients the psychological tools they needed to ward off future problems in response to stresses that occurred in their lives. Carlat goes further into detail on the debate between the effectiveness of medication and talk therapy and addressed questions. This Exchange episode brought to light concerns that many people continue to have regarding mental health treatment and its effectiveness. Carlat heavily advocated for strong communication and collaboration between a patient’s practitioners, so that they are all on the same page in terms of how the patient is being treated. He suggested a healthy balance between drugs and talk therapy is the best way to address mental health problems. Furthermore, he noted that we still have a long way to go in terms of understanding how the brain works in association with mental health. View the full article
  13. Queen Elizabeth II was so worried about the welfare of Princess Diana that she asked a trusted adviser to check on the princess’s mental health as her marriage to Prince Charles fell apart. The British monarch asked Harry Herbert, her racing manager, to speak to Diana in the weeks before her separation with Charles in 1992, news.com.au reported. Speaking to the makers of a new documentary to air on HBO at 10 p.m. ET, Herbert revealed the extent of the Queen’s “deep concern” for Diana’s welfare. Daily Emails and Alerts - Get the best of Newsweek delivered to your inbox “That was a bad time for Diana. You know, the light had gone out, if you like,” Herbert says in the program. “I had a talk to the Queen about it at Balmoral [the Queen’s Scottish residence]. The Queen wanted to talk to me about it because she was so worried about Diana.” He said that the Queen was keen to know “how Diana was feeling” and that it was a “sad discussion” because “that was everything at its worst.” Upon visiting Diana at Buckingham Palace, Herbert discovered that “although things weren’t particularly easy,” she found solace in her sons, the princes William and Harry. “She was, you know, very emotional. And suddenly these two boys came thundering round the corner in their dressing gowns, this was before bed, and just watching her face light up. “Going from sad chat to suddenly, boof. You know, I’ll never forget that moment, and them, you know, crawling all over her and things flying everywhere. “And through all the difficulty of other stuff at that time, you could see ... the most important thing in her life were her boys.” Elsewhere in the documentary, William and Harry speak of their regret over the “short” last phone call they had with their mother while she was away in Paris. “Harry and I were in a desperate rush to say goodbye, you know, ‘see you later’ ... if I’d known now, obviously, what was going to happen, I wouldn’t have been so blasé about it and everything else,” William said in the film. Prince Harry said: “It was her speaking from Paris, I can’t really necessarily remember what I said, but all I do remember is probably regretting for the rest of my life how short the phone call was.” View the full article
  14. Judy Baseman, Appleton Area School District superintendent, has worked in the district for more than 20 years. She began her new role on July 1.(Photo: Danny Damiani/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)Buy Photo APPLETON - Of the challenges facing the Appleton Area School District, the three greatest are closing opportunity gaps, recruiting staff and helping students who are struggling with mental health, said Superintendent Judy Baseman. "We have students who are performing very, very well, and we have students who haven't reached their full potential. I believe that's an ongoing concern that we really need to take on with as many resources as we can with as much community support as we can because we need to close those gaps," Baseman said in reference to the opportunity gaps. While she's only led the state's sixth-largest public school district for a few weeks, Baseman, 59, has served in various capacities throughout her 22 years in Appleton. She led several major initiatives, including Foster Elementary School's transition to a conversion charter school and, more recently, the district's community-based 4-year-old kindergarten program. RELATED:Baseman named Appleton superintendent RELATED:Appleton board names superintendent finalists RELATED:Lee Allinger: The educator who almost wasn't The opportunity gap refers to barriers keeping low-income and minority students from the achievement and access to resources of their more affluent peers. It's a term that encompasses more than high test scores, which is the primary focus of the phrase "the achievement gap." The district's birth to five program is already making connections with families to close that gap, by stressing the importance of developing a child's vocabulary and literacy skills to parents, Baseman said. Furthermore, the district partnered with ThedaCare, Ascension Wisconsin and other local organizations to provide a free bag to families whose babies are born in Fox Cities hospitals. The Take 5 to Help Me Thrive cloth bag includes two books, a booklet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a questionnaire and resources to help parents promote literacy with their child. In terms of staff retention, Baseman said fewer young people are going into education. With a shrinking pool of candidates, it's more difficult to attract promising candidates to the Fox Cities. "We go to Chicago for job fairs, and we go to Minneapolis or Madison, but if people don't know what the Appleton area is all about, they aren't necessarily going to want to come and interview for a position here because they just don't know what it's like," she said. The district held its first recruitment fair in February, and leaders are also working with the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and Industry on the issue. The third challenge Baseman cited was youth mental health. "Our students are facing more and more challenges in that area and as a district we want and need to be able to support them overcoming those challenges. We see it not only with some of our middle and high school students, but also with our younger students as well," she said. Encouraged by results in Hortonville, the district will implement the Sources of Strength program in its three high schools during the 2017-18 year. Wellness screenings will also be given to all freshmen and juniors unless their parents opt them out. In past years, only freshmen were screened, and their parents had to elect to have them screened. While those issues are daunting, Baseman said she's confident in the skills of her district leadership team and educators. The full leadership team met for the first time last week. "All of the new team members are on board, so our district leadership team met this morning for the first time together. It was very exciting and energizing," she said. Baseman replaces Lee Allinger, who spent 10 years as superintendent and retired on June 30. During the search for superintendent candidates, community leaders, district staff and school board members made it known how highly they value a leader who began as a teacher. Baseman began her career as a music teacher, working with vocal ensembles and teaching general classroom music. Her time in the classroom "had a tremendous impact" on the leader she is today, she said. Motivating large musical groups, setting the vision for their performances and fostering an environment of collaboration are foundations she built in the classroom and fostered as an administrator. "When you're a teacher of musical groups, ... you have to build collaboration and teamwork, and you have to help kids understand why their part is so important to the whole. In the same way, as a principal and a leader you have teachers who are critical to whatever it is you're trying to do as a school or an organization, so you provide those individuals with encouragement and reinforce the concept of a team approach," she said. The rest of the interview, published below, has been edited for length and clarity. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin: What are your goals for the district this school year and beyond? Judy Baseman: Well the first thing I want to do is really build on the foundation of trust that we have in our district. For me, that means taking a look at how can we keep the visibility going. Lee (Allinger, former superintendent) was very well-respected and known for being very visible in the community and being present at school events, so I fully intend to maintain that and make sure that my calendar is filled with visits to the schools and community events and so on. In order to keep that culture of trust going there's that communication piece as well. Communication is an ongoing challenge especially for a district our size, so one of the things I really want to focus on is that clarity of message, really making sure that our constituents, our stakeholder groups know the reasoning behind decisions. What are we planning? How are we going to respond when situations come to us? Getting out in front with the message as much as we can and that also in turn builds the culture of trust. What do you think are the district's three greatest strengths and how do you plan to build on them? I think our greatest strength is really our staff. Our teachers are phenomenal. We have such high-quality folks who are dedicated to the children that they serve, and we've been able to build upon that and continue to provide excellent, excellent staff for our students. Another strength we have is our community partnerships. Our various community organizations that have stepped forward to help our career-based learning effort has been phenomenal. The many business partnerships that we have at both the district and school levels are a huge support to our efforts to prepare our students for their future. We also have our local post-secondary institutions: Fox Valley Technical College, UWFox, Lawrence University. We also have wonderful partnerships with some of our various nonprofits, the Community Foundation (for the Fox Valley Region), of course the Appleton Education Foundation. The many groups that have supported innovative ideas by our teachers just really have done an awesome job making this a community effort to provide such a high-quality learning organization for our kids. The other thing that we really pride ourselves on is our students and the high achievement we have in our district. For an urban district, we are really quite high-achieving, and we look to our students to give them as many opportunities as we can and they respond to those opportunities. How is your style similar to Lee Alliger's? How is it different? I had the privilege of working alongside Lee in the district for 10 years and I learned so much from his leadership and working with him. He also gave me many opportunities to lead really big things at the district level, and so I would say what I've done in that role is what people can expect moving forward. When there are big projects, I'm someone who listens a lot to stakeholder groups along the way. I was in charge of the community-based 4K initiative and one of the things I did was work with a team of people and then we took the time to hold focus groups, gather input as we were planning our implementation and we listened a lot along the way, but once we had the information we developed our action plan and we moved forward. So that style is something I will continue to use... I am very committed to keeping our district strong with excellent achievement and am very passionate about having that happen for the kids, as Lee was. We'll give it our best effort and that will continue about who I am, that dedication to keeping this district strong and really known for its excellent, high-quality public schools. You mentioned that you were offered opportunities to lead projects as an assistant superintendent. Is that something you hope to continue? Absolutely, part of what Lee showed us is the ability to build the capacity of the people that you work with, and that is definitely something I will be continuing... What do you see as your role in working with lawmakers as it concerns public education? We have good connections with our area legislators and we've done a great job of making connections whether it be in-person meetings out at our schools, making sure they understand the day-to-day environment in our schools and what our kids need to be successful. We've also made contact via email and phone when something comes up for a vote or is being considered in the Legislature. We are right there giving our viewpoint, and because we've developed a good rapport with our legislators, they take our calls and often will seek out that information from us up front, so I've already made those connections, and again, Lee has done a great job of a smooth handoff by helping make those connections with those individuals. Jen Zettel: 920-996-7268, or jzettel@postcrescent.com; on Twitter @jenzettel Read or Share this story: http://post.cr/2uVTsKW View the full article
  15. Recently an utterly human response from a CEO to his employee who was taking time off to cope with mental-health issues took the Internet by storm. It prompted thousands of retweets, garnered dozens of headlines and even inspired a call-out from Shery... View the full article