Tuesday, September 30, 2014

At the Royal Society to find out what causes psychosis.. (yeah right)

Yesterday evening I took (another) outing to the hugely impressive Royal Society with the hope of finding out a bit more about   psychotic disorders and their causes.

A fair amount of interest
The speaker was  Dr James Kirkbride  who is carrying out research around the topic. James spoke about the subject, the challenges and a number of questions were fielded.

 Psychosis has multiple causes and is characterised by a loss of contact with reality it can range  from minor hallucinations through to disorders such as schizophrenia, the symptoms are wide-ranging and diverse.  .

Psychosis is a major problem for those suffering the affects and for the economy. In the UK the cost is reckoned to be something like £12 Bn per year in total including costs  of lost working hours and support to sufferers.

The research being undertaken is looking at environmental and social causes.

Here's some points I noted:

 Ethnic grouping suggests that immigrants are more prone to suffer, in the UK this is seen in Sub Saharan African and Afro Caribbean West Indians there are also statistically significant more women from Pakistan and Bangladesh  than would be expected.

This grouping might be connected with the environmental conditions of immigrants as the numbers of Psychosis cases in their original country are similar to the UK norm, also the immigrant groups affected in other nations vary (i.e. the immigrant groups similarly  affected in Italy are from different countries).
A rapt audience listens to the speaker


Heavy use of recreational drugs (and heavy alcohol use) can cause an increase in the incidence of  psychosis.

The biggest factor appears to be inheritance.




The 'urban environment' is also a risk factor but cultural cohesion and support  within the community can help reduce this risk.

Psychosis can result in reduced Life expectancy  by as much as 10 years.

Various questions were asked including:

Q  How is the incidence measured?
A  Large data sets and deprivation indices are used as well as UK census data.

Q Is psychosis seen in animals?
A Experiments have been conducted with rates where they were living in 'tower blocks'

Q Does ethnic factor remain across successive generations?
A Difficult to tell using UK census data.

Q What additional data do we have regarding the links from cannabis and other drugs?
A THC (in some cannabis) has an effect on pathways in the brain.

Q is there a climatic factor?
A Some believe that Vitamin D deficiency can exacerbate the effect.

Q Has  the incidence of  psychosis increased 
A it has broadly remained at the same as a percentage of the population -although as a result of changes in reporting particular 'flavours' (perhaps designed to limit stigma) the diagnostic trends may have altered.

Q does abuse increase likelihood of  psychosis?
A Helen Fisher has done work around this

and for me what was very enlightening was that for those suffering from  Psychosis who were hearing voices scans of brain activity showed that the same areas of the brain were active as those responding to 'real'  aural stimuli.

It was good to hear from James that treatments do show some benefits to sufferers some of whom are able to return to work and near normal functionality.





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