Wild thoughts

Most people feel sleepy, grumpy, or dopey when they haven’t gotten enough hours of sleep. A new study in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry puts forth a theory on why sometimes less sleep can also lead us to be more depression-y and anxious-y. Their research takes aim at a common symptom of those conditions known as repetitive negative thoughts (RNT), which is basically your mind being a jerk and not letting you stop thinking about bad things. Using eye-tracking technology, they showed volunteers positive, negative, and neutral images, and found that volunteers fixated on the negative images longer and more intensely than the neutral and positive ones. They blame a lack of cognitive resources caused by not enough sleep for their inability to filter negative thoughts.

A hissing in your ear that sounds like ‘SSRI’

Here’s some news that’s not exactly music to the ears of the 60 percent of tinnitus sufferers with depression; a study published in Cell Reports identified that SSRIs may exacerbate symptoms of tinnitus. The scientists focused on how neurons in mice’s sensory processing centers were affected by serotonin, and found that when those neurons get their drug fix they reach Tommy Boy levels of excitement. Unfortunately, that translates into increased sensitivity to sound, which is not great when you’ve already got a bunch of sounds in your ears to begin with. The research may mean that tinnitus patients will have to turn to other antidepressant types, which are generally recognized as less safe/side-effect-laden than SSRIs.

Broccoli bumming you out?

There may be a reason for that. Forbes reports on a study of vegetarian and vegan men in the UK that found these men scored higher on depression scales and were more likely to be depressed than their carnivorous counterparts. Among several possible explanations, researchers theorize that lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and folate (whatever that is)—all previously linked to depression—may be the culprits. So remember: asparagus bad, giant turkey leg good. InsightCity regrets deeply not reaching out to Arby’s for sponsorship prior to running this article. Here’s a description of their Meat Mountain sandwich. This writer’s status: conflicted. Related FastPoll™ below!

Super Prozac is on the way

When depression sufferers get put on an SSRI regimen (the most common type of antidepressant), it can be a bit tedious. These meds can take a while to be effective, which is not ideal for obvious reasons. Imagine having a stiff back for months, finally realizing you can take something for it, and then taking that medicine for days before getting any relief. Fortunately, new research could lead to faster, more effective antidepressants. Rockefeller University scientists described how SSRIs initiate action on nerve cells for the first time, which means innovators will be able to design better SSRIs on account of the whole now-we-actually-know-how-it-works thing. Here’s some more drugs we’ve been giving people for years even though we don’t know exactly what they’re doing.

Eh, what’s up bot?

Feeling blue but don’t have the time/money/energy to go see a professional therapist? Or do you just hate interacting with people? Woebot may be just the “fully automated conversational agent” (AKA chatbot) you’re looking for. Chatbots are popping up all over, but this one has some research to back up its claims of being able to reduce depression. For $39 a month, Woebot will check in on you once a day and ask some simple, judgement free questions about how you’re doing. If you cancel your Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Showtime subscriptions, you can easily pay for this service and an extra latte or two. If you watch all of those, that might be a major source of the problem. This writer does what he can to help, free of charge.

4. Which came first, the crazy or the cats?

It has been hypothesized that the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, whose primary host is the housecat, can mess with the mind. Studies show that infected mice lose their fear of cats, making them even more susceptible to cat consumption, which in turn infects the cat. Previous studies have suggested that having a cat for a pet could be linked to mental disorders like schizophrenia as well as depressive disorders (and popular culture has confirmed this bias with the crazy cat lady stereotype) due to exposure to the t. gondii infection. Well crazy people, a new study came out that says you can’t blame the cat. Meee-aaahhhh-oooow, what’s that sound? A collective sigh of relief from the ~500 million domesticated cats.