Two psychiatric advocacy organizations are pushing NBC to cancel a popular reality show, despite assurances from the network that young children on the show are not being psychologically harmed.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) want NBC to pull “The Baby Borrowers” from its lineup. The show tests the mettle of five teenage couples by placing them various family situations, including caring for infants and toddlers from other families.
APA and AACAP fear that having inexperienced caretakers care for young children could leave the children psychologically damaged.
"A child's sense of security should not be gambled with," said AACAP President Robert Hendren, DO. adding he fears the children on the show could become distressed after a prolonged separation from their parents.
“Since the program is meant to reveal whether the “borrowers” are competent to care for these children, at least some of the children will have been exposed to incompetent and confused caregivers.” the APA said in a press statement.
An NBC executive, however, said in a statement that the show’s producers “took all necessary precautions” to ensure the children’s safety.
Richard McKerrow, executive producer of “The Baby Borrowers,” said in a statement that all babies, their parents, and teenage couples on the show received extensive psychological screenings. He added that the teen couples were shadowed by nannies around the clock, and were observed on closed-circuit television by producers and the babies’ parents.
“The parents and the children who have participated … have reported no ill effects and are proud to have taken part in a series that promotes the importance of parenting and encourages people to think about when they become a parent and with whom,” McKerrow said.
Recent findings from an animal study of brain changes during voluntary cocaine use might explain why substance addiction often is chronic, researchers say.
Investigators from the University of California, San Francisco, studied changes in neuronal communication among rats trained to self-administer cocaine or natural rewards such as food or sucrose.
The researchers also studied how the expectation of receiving cocaine influenced brain changes by comparing rats that self-administered cocaine with rats that received equal amounts of the drug involuntarily.
The researchers found that:
• Neuronal communication—called long-term potentiation (LTP)—increased similarly among rats that sought cocaine, food, or sucrose, but the cocaine-induced LTP increase persisted for up to 3 months of abstinence. By contrast, the LTP increase in response to natural rewards dissipated within 3 weeks of abstinence.
• Rats that received cocaine involuntarily showed no LTP change, suggesting that cocaine alone does not alter the brain’s reward and motivational system.
The lingering LTP increase in rats that sought cocaine suggests that reversing the “memory trace” associated with drug reward can be difficult, the investigators say.
“These important distinctions will help us better understand how addiction develops, and why drugs can overshadow other natural rewards and become the mainstay of an addicted person’s life,” said lead investigator Billy Chen, PhD, of UCSF’s Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center.
The findings appear in the July 30 issue of Neuron.
Gariane Gunter, MD, the newly crowned Mrs. United States, says she will spend her reign fighting to increase awareness of mental health issues and eliminate the stigma of mental illness.
“This incredible opportunity gives me a platform to educate the public on issues I feel most strongly about,” said Dr. Gunter, a third-year psychiatry resident at Palmetto Health in South Carolina.
“The public needs to know that mental illnesses are real and that treatment works. People often do not have the resources to get the help they need. I am honored to be their voice.”
Dr. Gunter plans to introduce and teach “Breaking the Silence: Teaching the Next Generation About Mental Illness,” a National Alliance on Mental Illness anti-stigma program, to fifth-graders in her hometown. She says she also will travel across the country to promote the importance of seeking psychiatric treatment.
Mental health advocacy groups are applauding the U.S. Senate’s approval of legislation aimed at preserving psychiatric care accessibility for Medicare beneficiaries.
The Senate passed the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act 69-30. President Bush opposed the bill but is expected to sign it into law because the margin of passage is sufficient to override a presidential veto.
“This legislation will end a system that forces medically vulnerable patients, including psychiatric patients, to pay 2½ times more out-of-pocket costs for mental health services than for other Medicare Part B services,” said American Psychiatric Association President Nada Stotland, MD, MPH.
The APA, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and other mental health advocacy organizations supported the bill, which would reduce the 50% coinsurance beneficiaries pay for outpatient mental health services to 20%, the same rate charged for other Medicare Part B services.
A genetic variation associated with Alzheimer’s disease amplifies the negative effects of stress on cognitive functioning and might accelerate age-related cognitive decline by as much as 8 years, new findings suggest.
Researchers led by Brian Lee, MHS, and Brian Schwartz, MD (Johns Hopkins University) studied 962 adults ages 50 to 70 for cognitive performance, salivary cortisol, and an apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype that increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The investigators assessed the adults’ language, processing speed, eye-hand coordination, executive functioning, verbal memory/learning, visual memory, and ability to copy a complex visual design.
Compared with normally functioning older adults, the investigators found higher cortisol levels in participants with worsened cognitive abilities. Cognitive dysfunction was most pronounced among patients with high cortisol levels and at least 1 copy of the epsilon-4 form of the APOE allele.
The findings appear in the American Journal of Psychiatry online edition. The National Institute on Aging and National Institutes of Health Division of Research Resources supported the study.