Health & Medicine

Our sciences are contributing in many ways to health and medicine, including investigating a potential treatment for the symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome; working on gene therapy treatments for central nervous system disorders, including stroke; recognizing the link between satisfying martial relationships for good health; and developing cost effective treatments for autism. 

Brain Injury Treatments

Promising human research trials using the hormone progesterone in severely brain-injured patients showed an almost 60% reduction in mortality compared to standard care, and several larger clinical studies are now underway. These discoveries have developed from behavioral neuroendocrinology research showing that female rats recover more readily from brain injury than do males. 1-5 

Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology »

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Treatments

Developmental psychobiologists are investigating the essential nutrient choline as a potential treatment for symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome. Research on rats has shown that extra choline given during, or even after, alcohol exposure can significantly reduce some alcohol-related deficits, particularly memory deficits. These basic science findings have led to two current clinical trials examining whether choline supplementation can improve cognitive functioning in humans with or at risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. 6,7

International Society for Developmental Psychobiology »

Addiction Treatments

Behavior analysts were first to characterize the reinforcing effects of drugs, revolutionizing the scientific investigation and treatment of addictive disorders. Based on this knowledge, successful interventions to treat stimulant, opiate, nicotine, and alcohol addiction have been designed to facilitate major lifestyle changes that strengthen behavior that is incompatible with addictive behavior. Contingency management approaches explicitly arrange incentives for maintaining abstinence. 8,9

Association for Behavior Analysis International »

Central Nervous System Disorder Treatments

Behavioral neuroscientists are currently working on gene therapy treatments for central nervous system disorders, including stroke, based on accumulated evidence that stress-related hormones can accelerate brain cell death. Researchers also are using information about the impact of stress on the brain to develop strategies for reducing stress. 10

Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology » 

Behavioral neuroscientists are currently working on gene therapy treatments for central nervous system disorders, including stroke, based on accumulated evidence that stress-related hormones can accelerate brain cell death. Researchers also are using information about the impact of stress on the brain to develop strategies for reducing stress. (Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology) 10

Slowing Brain Degeneration

Increased understanding of the influence of sex hormones on the brain may lead to new treatments for neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders in both men and women. Behavioral neuroendoscientists study how sex-related hormones affect brain cell changes and hormonal involvement in brain disorders such as depression and Alzheimer's disease. Research with rodents has demonstrated that some forms of the sex hormone estrogen have positive effects on learning and slow brain degeneration. 11,12

Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology »

Asthma Treatment

In a NIH-funded study of heart rate variability in biofeedback therapy for asthma, biofeedback researchers found that all participants receiving the treatment avoided an asthma exacerbation over a 3-4 month period, took less asthma medication, and exhibited fewer symptoms compared to those who didn’t receive the treatment. Asthma affects approximately 10% of the population and accounts for approximately 5000 deaths annually in the U.S., 1.2 million emergency department visits, and 445,000 hospital days. The economic burden is estimated to be $5.1 billion. 13

Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback » 

Reduced Disability/Improved Outcome

NIMH-funded research has demonstrated that in people with schizophrenia, cognitive remediation treatment improves cognitive functioning and, when added to other evidence-based treatments for schizophrenia, resulted in increased amount of time worked (approximately 25%) and better social skills acquisition (approximately 30% improvement). Cognitive impairment is a strong predictor of poorer functioning, and commonly used medications do little to treat this deficit. Cognitive rehabilitation is a cost-effective method to reduce disability and improve treatment outcomes. 14-18

Society for Research in Psychopathology »

Maximizing Function in Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia researchers studying negative symptoms (disturbances in motivation and emotion) and social cognition (mental processes related to interacting with others) have identified factors that predict continued poor community functioning in people with schizophrenia and are developing psychosocial and pharmacological treatments to maximize functioning. Schizophrenia is among the top six leading causes of disability in the world. Despite effective treatments for psychotic symptoms, the majority of people with schizophrenia experience major social, educational, and occupational difficulties. 19,20

Society for Research in Psychopathology »

Prevention & Treatment of Mental Illnesses

By understanding how hormones affect the brain during adolescence, progress can be made toward improving prevention and treatment of disorders that arise during this critical period. Behavioral neuroendocrinologists study how sex-related hormones affect adolescent brain development in humans and animals, specifically examining changes in social behaviors and social cognition associated with mental illnesses that often emerge in adolescence and disproportionately affect women (eating disorders and depression) or men (schizophrenia). 21-23 

Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology » 

Improved Outcomes After Brain Tumor

Neuropsychological research has led to the development of neuropsychological interventions like cognitive remediation that can reduce educational costs among children who survive brain tumors. Approximately 66% of children with brain tumors survive longer than 5 years after diagnosis, making amelioration of residual disease and treatment effects critical to ongoing behavioral, cognitive, and educational functioning. 24

National Academy of Neuropsychology » 

Better Treatments for ADHD

Accurate diagnosis and use of evidence-based treatment increases the probability of positive outcomes for the approximately 5 million American children with ADHD. ADHD is common, but because it is often associated with other disorders, it can be difficult to diagnose and complex to treat. Neuropsychologists have developed assessments to identify both co-occurring conditions and specific deficits, resulting in more comprehensive treatment, targeted interventions, and thus improvements in multiple aspects of quality of life and potential cost savings. 25

National Academy of Neuropsychology »

Cost Effective Treatments for Autism

Cost savings due to Early and Intensive Behavioral Interventions (EIBI) for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders have been estimated at $1.5 million to $2.5 million per child across ages 3-55 years and over $208K per child for 18 years of education. Developed through Behavior Analysis research, EIBI is a widely accepted, evidence-based treatment that helps children with autism spectrum disorders attain intellectual, academic, communication, social, and daily living skills, often within the normal range. 26-30

Association for Behavior Analysis International »

Concussion Evaluation & Recovery

Identifying boxers who are still symptomatic following concussion improves safety by preventing premature return to activity. Returning to boxing prior to full neuropsychological/neurological recovery increases the risk of cumulative concussions and long-term brain damage and associated costs. Neuropsychological tests are the most sensitive method for detecting neurological dysfunction in active amateur boxers. 31,32

National Academy of Neuropsychology »

Optimize Medical Treatment & Expenditures

Identifying people with schizophrenia who do well without ongoing pharmaceutical treatment may diminish the presence of potentially life shortening medication side effects and optimize medical expenditures. Schizophrenia affects millions and results in billions of dollars in medical expenses, particularly the cost of long-term antipsychotics that are currently the standard of care. In a 20-year longitudinal study, brain scientists found that a subgroup of patients not continuously treated with antipsychotics functioned well compared to continuously medicated patients. 33,34

Society for Research in Psychopathology » 

Health Improvements

Psychologists have discovered ways to improve health and well-being and decrease health care utilization through inexpensive and easily administered strategic writing exercises. Expressive writing about painful or stressful experiences helps people focus and make sense of their circumstances and has even been associated with significant health changes including decreased number of doctor visits and stronger antibody responses to viruses and vaccines. 35,36

Society for Text & Discourse »

Effective Parenting Interventions

Increased understanding of the environmental and biological bases of parenting provides direction for developing interventions to improve the quality of human parent-child relationships. Animal research in behavioral neuroscience has demonstrated that young animals separated from their mothers grow up to be more impulsive and active, and less socially appropriate and attentive to their own young; but that these deficits can be eliminated through additional stroking during the separation period. 37

Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology » 

Improving Marriage & Health

Hostility during marital conflict has been associated with poorer health, including coronary artery calcification, poorer immune functioning, slower wound healing, and greater inflammation. Recognizing the link between satisfying marital relationships for good health, social psychologists have demonstrated that couples given brief assignments directing them to write about their conflicts from a neutral perspective maintained their level of marital quality over time, compared to couples not given the writing exercise who showed a drop in marital quality. 38-42

Society of Experimental Social Psychology »

References 

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