New anatomical study of the human precuneus with geometric models

Emiliano Bruner, a paleoneurologist at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), has just published a paper on the morphology of the precuneus in adult humans, which concludes that the variations in its length, height and thickness in the cerebral cortex are independent, suggesting that different cortical areas are involved in its growth, as well as in the differences between individuals that can be observed.

These differences are apparently related to the development of the cortical surface of the brain itself, and not to a deformation of the cranial cavity due to spatial constraints on the cranium. In the paper, this evidence is discussed within the framework of possible anatomical correspondences between human brain areas and the same areas described in other primates, whose functions and similarities still remain to be clarified.

To conduct this analysis, magnetic resonance scans of 50 individuals of both sexes and spatial models of cerebral geometry were used.

More developed in humans

The precuneus is the most medial region of the superior parietal lobules. It is particularly variable in its shape and size among adult individuals, and is much more highly developed in humans than in other primates. “The corresponding areas are also better developed in our species when we compare ourselves with other extinct hominids,” states Bruner.

At the cognitive level, the precuneus is principally involved in integrating the somatic information of the body with visual information, coordinating the body at the physical, chronological and social levels, and generating a virtual space involved in the imagination and the capacity for simulation.

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Study examines Medicaid and adults on the autism spectrum

While much attention has been paid to the increasing prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among U.S. children and adolescents, less is known about the population of adults with ASD. Medicaid is an important health care coverage provider for individuals with autism, including adults. Using administrative data from the Medicaid Analytic eXtract (MAX), researchers from Drexel University’s A.J. Drexel Autism Institute found a substantial increase in the percent of adults receiving services for autism in the Medicaid population from 2008-2012.

“An increasing number of adults will be relying on Medicaid, often through home and community-based services waiver programs, for key services, such as support for community integration and for maintaining employment, into the future,” said Whitney Schott, Ph.D., an assistant researcher professor in the Autism Institute and lead author on the study.

There was higher prevalence of ASD among younger adults (ages 18-24) over the 2008-2012 time period than other adults. Prevalence was lowest among older adults (ages 41-64).

“These results underline the importance of identifying effective and efficient service delivery models within Medicaid to serve the growing number of adults with ASD,” said Schott.

Researchers examined Medicaid administrative claims data from 2008-2012, including the population of adults with autism as well as a random sample of adults without autism, in order to identify the administrative prevalence of autism by age category. They looked at individuals that were enrolled in Medicaid for at least nine out of 12 months per year, in order to get a better sense of true administrative prevalence.

“Little is known about the age composition of the adult population with autism,” said Schott. “Our research provides key information about the distribution of autism across adult ages over the period 2008-2012, showing that prevalence is higher and growing more quickly among younger adults (ages 18-24) compared to older adults.”

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It’s Tough to Change the Minds of ‘Vaccine-Hesitant’ Parents, Study Finds

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 14, 2020 — When parents have concerns about the safety of childhood vaccinations, it can be tough to change their minds, as a new study shows.

The study involved “vaccine-hesitant” parents — a group distinct from the staunch “anti-vaxxer” crowd. They have worries about one or more routine vaccines, and question whether the benefits for their child are worthwhile.

Even though those parents are not “adamantly” opposed to vaccinations, it can still be hard for pediatricians to allay their concerns, said Jason Glanz, lead researcher on the study.

So Glanz and his colleagues looked at whether giving parents more information — online material “tailored” to their specific concerns — might help.

It didn’t. Parents who received the information were no more likely to have their babies up to date on vaccinations than other parents were, the study found.

The news was not all bad. Overall, more than 90% of babies in the study were all caught up on vaccinations.

So it may have been difficult to improve upon those numbers, according to Glanz, who is based at Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Institute for Health Research in Aurora.

But, he said, it’s also possible the customized information reinforced some parents’ worries.

“It might have done more harm than good,” Glanz said.

That’s because among vaccine-hesitant parents, those who were directed to general information that was not tailored, had the highest vaccination rates — at 88%.

The findings were published online Oct. 12 in Pediatrics.

Childhood vaccination rates in the United States are generally high. But studies show that about 10% of parents either delay or refuse vaccinations for their kids — generally over safety worries.

Routine childhood vaccines have a long history of safe use, Glanz said, but some parents have questions. They may have heard that certain ingredients in vaccines are not safe, or worry that their baby is being given “too many” immunizations in a short time.

And during a busy pediatrician visit, Glanz said, it can be hard to address all those questions.

So his team tested a web-based tactic to augment routine checkups. They randomly assigned 824 pregnant women and new parents to one of three groups: One received standard vaccine information from their pediatrician; another was directed to the study website for additional, but general, information on immunizations; and the third received tailored information from the website.

That tailoring was done with the help of a survey that asked parents about their vaccine beliefs and concerns.

In the end, however, the targeted messaging flopped. It made no difference among parents overall: Across the three groups, between 91% and 93% of babies were up to date on vaccinations at 15 months of age.

And among the 98 parents who were deemed vaccine-hesitant, the tactic seemed to backfire: Only 67% of those babies were up to date compared to 88% of those whose parents received general vaccine information. The rate was 75% in the standard-care group.

Dr. Edgar Marcuse, an emeritus professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, wrote an editorial published with the study.

Like Glanz, he speculated that the targeted content may have “fanned the flames of doubt,” rather than quelling them.

It’s also possible, Marcuse said, that these types of questions are better addressed face-to-face than by “one-way” communication.

The question of how to sway vaccine-hesitant parents is always important, Marcuse said. And it has an added layer now, he noted, as health experts may encounter a wary public if and when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

That vaccine would be brand-new, with only short-term data to back it up. But for routine childhood vaccinations, Marcuse said, the evidence supporting their effectiveness and safety is “overwhelming.”

Both he and Glanz urged parents to take any vaccine concerns to their doctor, rather than relying on what they find online.

Social media can be an especially powerful source of misinformation, Glanz noted.

“Your pediatrician is the best source of vaccine information — much better than social media,” he said.

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New study shows which medical procedures pose COVID-19 risk to health-care providers

Autopsy, airway suctioning and cardiopulmonary resuscitation are among the list of medical procedures that pose a risk of spreading COVID-19 from a patient to their health-care provider by creating aerosols, according to new research published in the journal BMJ Open Respiratory Research by an international team of experts including occupational health, preventive medicine and infectious disease specialists.

The team, led by University of Alberta medicine professor Sebastian Straube, carried out a systematic review of public health guidelines, research papers and policy documents from around the globe to determine which procedures are classified as aerosol-generating.

“What we sought to do was to understand which procedures generate aerosols and therefore require a higher grade of personal protective equipment,” said Straube, who also heads the preventive medicine division of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

“Where there is 80 percent agreement from a number of different source documents, we are reasonably confident that, yes, the classification of these procedures as aerosol-generating is accurate.”

Straube recommended that further research be done on the short list of procedures for which they found no consensus, such as taking throat swabs.

The team of 19 Canadian, British, American and other researchers includes renowned Oxford University primary care expert Trisha Greenhalgh and first author Tanya Jackson, Straube’s research associate. They came together to share their expertise at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic and have published rapid reviews on the efficacy of respirator masks versus standard surgical masks, eye protection and shoe covers.

“We are providing a summary of the evidence to inform policy-making decisions and guideline development,” Straube said.

An aerosol is a suspension of fine solid or liquid particles in air, Straube said. “Larger particles settle in a reasonably short distance, and are referred to as ‘droplets’ in the infection control context,” the paper states. “Smaller particles can travel as aerosols on air currents, remaining in the air for longer and distributing over a wide area.”

Straube said the goal is to prevent health-care workers from becoming infected with COVID-19, both to protect them from severe disease as individuals and to maintain staffing levels in health-care systems during the pandemic.

Health-care workers who perform aerosol-generating procedures should wear filtering facepiece respirators, known as N-95 masks in North America, Straube said, along with other personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, gowns and eye protection.

“PPE is typically displayed at the bottom rung of the hierarchy of hazard controls,” Straube said.

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Having a baby later in life may increase longevity, study suggests

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Women who have kids later on in life may live longer, according to the findings of a recent study.

Following the birth of a woman’s last child, certain measurements may be linked with her projected lifespan, according to a study published Wednesday in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

More specifically, leukocyte telomere length – telomeres “are repeating DNA-protein complexes that protect the ends of chromosomes and have proven to be critical for maintaining genomic stability,” per a news release on the findings – may play a role in a woman’s longevity. A woman’s age at the birth of her last child may affect telomere length, ultimately impacting long-term health, the researchers said.

Longer telomeres are thought to be beneficial for long-term health, while shorter ones can signify “various chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some neurologic conditions, and various cancers,” past studies have suggested, according to the news release.

CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK AT VERMONT APPLE ORCHARD SICKENS DOZENS OF MIGRANT WORKERS

At least one previous study has suggested that a woman’s age at the birth of her last child affected telomere length, said researchers. The study published Wednesday was larger, including more than 1,200 perimenopausal and postmenopausal women of “various ethnicities and backgrounds.”

“In addition, unlike previous studies, this study took into consideration sociodemographic factors related to childbearing patterns and health decisions,” per the release.

The researchers who conducted the new study found that a woman’s age at the birth of her final child “is positively associated with telomere length, meaning that women who delivered their last child later in life were likely to have longer telomeres, a biomarker of long-term health and longevity.”

THE CORONAVIRUS CAN SURVIVE ON SKIN FOR THIS MANY HOURS, STUDY SUGGESTS

However, “more research is needed to determine whether older maternal age at last birth causes telomeres to lengthen or whether telomere length serves as a proxy for general health and corresponds with a woman’s ability to have a child at a later age,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director, in a statement.

The findings were also limited to women who had one or two live births or those who had used birth control orally, they said.

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Same-gender couples interact better than heterosexual couples: study

Same-gender couples have higher-quality interactions with one another than heterosexual couples in Southern California, a new UC Riverside study finds.

The study also holds that couples with two men have the smallest social networks.

Researcher Megan Robbins says the recently published study is the first to compare same- and different-sex couples’ social networks and daily interactions with one another.

Past research shows that same-gender couples enjoy strengths including appreciation of individual differences, positive emotions, and effective communication. But research hasn’t compared the quality of their daily interactions—inside and outside the couple dynamic—to those of heterosexual couples.

“The comparison is important because there is so much research linking the quality of romantic relationships and other social ties to health and well-being, yet it is unclear if this applies similarly or differently to people in same-gender romantic relationships because they have been historically excluded from past research,” said Robbins, who is an associate professor of psychology at UCR. Reasons for potential differences include the stigma sexual minorities face, and also their resilience.

For the study, Robbins and her team recruited same-gender and different-gender couples throughout Southern California. The couples had to be in a married or “married-like” committed relationship; living together for at least a year; and have no physical or mental health conditions that impeded their daily functioning.

Among those who applied to be in the study, 78 couples were found to be eligible, 77 of which provided enough data to be used. Twenty-four of the couples were woman-woman; 20 were man-man, and 33 were man-woman.

Participants met with the researchers on two separate Fridays, a month apart, completing surveys. They received text or email prompts several times in the days following the in-person meetings. In the text/email prompts, participants were asked whether they had an interaction with their partner, a family member, or a friend in the past 10 minutes, then asked to rate the quality of the social interaction using a five-point scale—one being unpleasant; three, neutral; five, pleasant.

In terms of social networks, the study found couples in man-man relationships had smaller social networks than woman-woman and man-woman couples. On the other end of the results spectrum, women in relationships with men were most likely to have the largest social networks.

Robbins said the finding is consistent with previous research showing men with men experience the least acceptance among family members.

“We hypothesized that one model for how the social life of people in same-gender couples might differ from those in different-gender couples was a honing model, where people in same-gender couples reduce their social networks down to only those people who are supportive. We found some support for this by learning that the men with men had the smallest social networks in our sample,” Robbins said.

The quality of interactions with families was reported to be greatest by same-gender couples. There was no difference for interaction quality with friends.

In terms of the quality of interactions with their partners, the study found same-gendered relationships had better-quality interactions than found in different-gendered relationships.

Robbins said that may be due to greater similarity between partners when they share a gender identity, and greater equality within the couple, compared to people in different-sex couples.

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Study identifies brain cells most affected by epilepsy and new targets for their treatment

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological diseases. It is caused by a malfunction in brain cells and is usually treated with medicines that control or counteract the seizures.

Scientists from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen and Rigshospitalet have now identified the exact neurons that are most affected by epilepsy. Some of which have never been linked to epilepsy before. The newfound neurons might contribute to epileptogenesis—the process by which a normal brain develops epilepsy—and could therefore be ideal treatment targets.

“Our findings potentially allows for the development of entirely new therapeutic approaches tailored towards specific neurons, which are malfunctioning in cases of epilepsy. This could be a breakthrough in personalized medicine-based treatment of patients suffering from epileptic seizures,” says Associate Professor Konstantin Khodosevich from Biotech Research & Innovation Center (BRIC), Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.

A major step towards more effective drugs

It is the first time a study investigates how every single neuron in the epileptic zone of the human brain is affected by epilepsy. The researchers have analyzed more than 117,000 neurons, which makes it the largest single cell dataset for a brain disorder published so far.

Neurons have been isolated from tissue resected from patients being operated as part of the Danish Epilepsy Surgery Programme at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen.

“These patients continue to have seizures despite the best possible combination of anti-seizure drugs. Unfortunately, this is the case for 30-40% of epilepsy patients. Active epilepsy imposes serious physical, cognitive, psychiatric and social consequences on patients and families. A more precise understanding of the cellular mechanism behind epilepsy could be a major step forward for developing drugs specifically directed against the epileptogenic process compared to the current mode of action reducing neuronal excitability in general throughout the brain’ says associate professor Lars Pinborg, head of the Danish Epilepsy Surgery Program at Rigshospitalet.

From ‘neuronal soup’ to single cell analysis

The study from the Khodosevich Group differs from previous work by using single cell analysis. Earlier studies on neuronal behavior in regards to epilepsy have taken a piece of the human brain and investigated all the neurons together as a group or a ‘neuronal soup.” When using this approach, diseased cells and healthy cells are mixed together, which makes it impossible to identify potential treatment targets.

“By splitting the neurons into many thousands of single cells, we can analyze each of them separately. From this huge number of single cells, we can pinpoint exactly what neurons are affected by epilepsy. We can even make a scale from least to most affected, which means that we can identify the molecules with the most promising potential to be effective therapeutic targets,” says Khodosevich.

Next step is to study the identified neurons and how their functional changes contribute to epileptic seizures. The hope is to then find molecules that can restore epilepsy related neuronal function back to normal and inhibit seizure generation.

Expanding knowledge on underlying mechanisms of epilepsy

The study confirms expression from key genes known from a number of previous studies, but is also a dramatic expansion of knowledge on the subject. Previously, gene expression studies have identified a couple of hundred genes that changes in epilepsy.

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Shall You Dance? Study Finds Dancing Helps Seniors Avoid Falls

THURSDAY, Oct. 1, 2020 — Preventing falls in older age could be as fun as dancing them away, new research shows.

Researchers found a 31% reduction in falls and a 37% reduction in fall risk for those aged 65 and older when reviewing clinical trials on “dance-based mind-motor activities” from around the world.

“We were positively surprised by the consistency of our results,” said study author Michèle Mattle, a movement scientist and doctoral candidate at the University of Zurich, in Switzerland.

“Although previous research in the field of falls prevention and exercise was suggesting that interventions, including multitasking activities, are promising falls-prevention strategies, it was unclear if dance-based mind-motor activities would lead to comparable results,” she said.

Dance-based mind-motor activities are those that have upright movements that emphasize balance and use music or an inner rhythm, such as breathing, according to the study. They include instructions or choreography, as well as social interaction. Tai chi meets those criteria, in addition to a variety of dance-based activities, including ballroom and folk dancing.

Though dance was often suggested as a good fall-prevention activity for older adults, there was not previously evidence for that, Mattle said. The review only found an association between dance and mobility, balance and lower body strength, not a cause-and-effect relationship. It also concluded there is a need for more high-quality trials on dance.

Tai chi is an activity that has been studied more often, but it’s not as popular in Europe, Mattle said, where many people engage in ballroom and folk dances. The 29 trials reviewed in the study were from many countries on several different continents. They included trials from the United States and Canada, as well as countries throughout Asia, Europe and South America.

“Our findings now lay an important base for the further development of public health strategies in the field of falls prevention that are accessible for cultures that are not familiar with tai chi but have a cultural bond toward different dance styles,” Mattle said.

Impaired balance and gait are important risk factors for falls in older adults, Mattle explained. The ability to multitask with two movements at once, such as talking while walking, can diminish with age. Many falls happen during walking when something unexpected happens and the person needs to react quickly, Mattle said. Balance training helps a person react faster when losing control.

“The movements in dance-based mind-motor [activities] are intentional, focused and involve the constant attention control for the shifting of body weight,” Mattle said, calling it good training for keeping dynamic balance in unexpected situations and for enhancing reaction time.

The findings were published online Sept. 25 in JAMA Network Open.

Falls are the leading cause of accidental death and injury in people over 65, said Dr. Allison Mays, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Cedars Sinai, in Southern California. Mays is involved in another study that looks at the impact of exercise classes on older adults.

Causes of falls can range from reaction time slowed by aging, vision changes that affect balance, blood pressure changes and medication, Mays said.

“Falls are not normal, even in older adults,” Mays said. “It always should deserve a conversation with your physician.”

In addition to death and injury, falls can increase fear of future falls, which can cause a person to limit activities. The number one change an older person can make to prevent falls is exercise, Mays said.

Walking is a good activity for those who are just starting to be regularly physically active, Mays said. A person’s doctor can suggest other exercise classes designed for seniors that are still available even in the time of COVID-19 on YouTube or Zoom.

Both the type of exercise and consistency matter, Mays said. To prevent falls, a class should challenge a person’s balance and require shifting weight. In the trials reviewed in this study, they saw a good degree of adherence, Mays noted, with people attending their classes 80% of the time. Having something that’s both healthy and fun makes a difference, she said.

Though tai chi has a strong base of evidence for use in falls prevention, it’s a great idea to build evidence around other physical activities, Mays suggested.

“Not everyone wants to do a traditional exercise class, and so if you can get benefits from flamenco, then that’s wonderful. It provides more options, more evidence behind different activities that are going to benefit our patients,” Mays said. “I was very pleased to see that we’re building evidence around dance and other fun activities as a way to help older adults prevent falls.”

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Study: Sleep apnea treatment reduces heart problems in patients with prediabetes

A new study found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment at night can lower daytime resting heart rates in patients with prediabetes who have obstructive sleep apnea, reducing their risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study, published Oct. 1 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, was conducted by Esra Tasali, MD, Director of the Sleep Research Center at the University of Chicago Medicine, and Sushmita Pamidi, MD, a sleep physician-scientist at McGill University in Montreal.

The discovery could potentially help the 1 billion people worldwide with obstructive sleep apnea, in which the prevalence of prediabetes and diabetes is over 60 percent. Furthermore, the vast majority of patients with obstructive sleep apnea are undiagnosed.

The study’s findings are especially timely, given that people with diabetes or cardiovascular problems are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

“Any way we can improve cardiovascular health is more important than ever these days,” Tasali said.

This randomized controlled trial studied people with prediabetes, a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetic. Those who used CPAP treatment for two weeks had a drop in their resting heart rate by four to five beats per minute, compared to those who received placebo. Notably, with optimal CPAP treatment, their heart rates were not only lower at night, but also during the day.

“That’s significant,” Tasali said, noting that a drop of even one beat per minute in resting heart rate can lower the mortality rate and future risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

“A four- to five-beat-per-minute drop in heart rate that we observed is comparable to what you would get from regular exercise,” she added. “Our breakthrough finding is the carryover of the lowered resting heart rate into the daytime and the cardiovascular benefit of that.”

Resting heart rate is key to a person’s health and well-being. A high resting heart rate signals increased stress to the heart. It is a strong predictor of heart problems and death, the doctors said. Prior research has shown that in middle-aged people, every beat-per-minute increase in resting heart rate is associated with a 3% higher mortality rate.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder that causes people to repeatedly stop breathing at night, decreasing oxygen intake and disrupting their sleep. It is a serious health concern, increasing the risk of cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack. It makes people sleepy during the day and heightens their “fight or flight” stress hormones, elevating their resting heart rate all day and night.

Doctors use CPAP to treat obstructive sleep apnea. It keeps a person’s airway open and oxygen levels steady during the night, thus lowers their heart rate. However, Pamidi isn’t encouraging people to go online and buy the machine. Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical diagnosis that must be made by a doctor after a sleep study.

“Our recent findings urge people who have prediabetes, diabetes or sleeping problems to be screened for sleep apnea,” Pamidi said.

Today, about 80% of sleep apnea cases are undiagnosed. An estimated 50% to 70% of people with prediabetes or diabetes have sleep apnea.

“The majority of patients don’t make a connection as to how their sleep can affect their hearts. With regards to their sleep apnea, patients just think how sleepy they are the next day,” Tasali said. “I always explain to my patients that sleep apnea can also be harmful to their cardiovascular health.”

This study is the first to examine the impact of optimal CPAP treatment on daytime resting heart rate,” said Pamidi. Before joining McGill, she was a clinical fellow and then faculty at UChicago Medicine’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.

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Mental Health Issues Double the Odds of Dying With COVID-19, Study Finds

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 30, 2020 — People suffering from a psychiatric disorder could be more than twice as likely to die if they become infected with COVID-19, a new study suggests.

Folks diagnosed with any type of psychiatric problem — anxiety or depression, dementia, psychosis — were up to 2.3 times more likely to die in the hospital from COVID-19, researchers found.

“Those who had COVID who had a prior psychiatric diagnosis had a higher mortality,” said lead researcher Dr. Luming Li. She’s an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and medical director of clinical operations at the Yale New Haven Health System.

Li and her colleagues tracked the health of 1,685 patients hospitalized at Yale New Haven Health, a five-hospital system in Connecticut, between February and April. Of those patients, 28% had received a psychiatric diagnosis prior to hospitalization.

People who’d struggled with a mental problem were more likely to die, particularly early in their illness:

  • 36% of COVID-19 patients with a psychiatric diagnosis died within two weeks of hospitalization, compared with 15% of those with no such diagnosis.
  • 41% of patients with mental illness died within three weeks, compared with 22% of those without.
  • The four-week mortality rate was 45% for those with a diagnosed psychiatric condition and 32% for those without.

The findings were published online Sept. 30 in JAMA Network Open.

These results are “not entirely surprising, because we know individuals with psychiatric illness have shorter life expectancy and are more prone to illness in general,” said Brittany LeMonda, a senior neuropsychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Potential explanations for this difference include both the biological and the behavioral.

People with psychiatric problems have basic differences in their brain chemicals that can alter the way their bodies respond to an infection, Li said.

For example, they tend to have higher levels of stress hormones that promote inflammation and weaken the immune system.

“If there’s already differences in your biology because of the prior psychiatric diagnosis, that might make you more vulnerable to respond to the stress that’s being caused by COVID on multiple body organs,” Li said.

However, LeMonda added, it’s also true that people struggling with a mood disorder, Alzheimer’s or psychosis are less able to care for their health properly.

“Individuals with psychiatric illness tend to make poorer health decisions,” LeMonda said. “They’re more likely to have a poor diet, not exercise, have interrupted sleep. They’re more likely to engage in negative coping strategies like smoking cigarettes or consuming alcohol, using drugs. All these things can not only increase inflammation, but also reduce our immune system and make us more prone to illness in general.”

The mentally ill are also more likely to be homeless or living in a shelter, which increases their risk of contracting COVID-19, LeMonda added.

When the researchers controlled for other factors that influence COVID’s death risk — health problems like obesity or diabetes, hospital location, and demographics — people with psychiatric problems still had a 50% increased risk of dying from their coronavirus infection.

Because people with mental illness don’t care for themselves in normal times, it’s also much less likely that they will adhere to practices like wearing masks and social distancing in the age of COVID-19, LeMonda noted.

Public health officials face a dual challenge with these folks — both treating their mental illness and impressing upon them the need to avoid COVID-19 infection.

“It’s a larger public health issue to try not only to educate, but also provide mental health treatment that would theoretically help to reduce the rate of illness,” LeMonda said.

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