Friday, January 29, 2016

Parenting This Week: Schizophrenia and Postpartum Depression

Two promising developments this week...schizophrenia research goes CSI and postpartum depression screening gets a thumbs up. 

First, a new study finds a gene that might play a role in schizophrenia. 

After perusing the genomes of more than 60,000 people, researchers discovered those with schizophrenia were more likely to show a variation in a gene linked to the pruning of synaptic connections in the brain, the pre-frontal lobe to be precise. Much of this neural housecleaning occurs from adolescence through early adulthood, the same period when schizophrenia tends to emerge. 

The media and the experts hail this as a landmark study. But I didn't need them to tell me. I already knew it because Benedict Carey at the New York Times covered it and did so with nuance. Even more than his usual. Then there was this other clue:

Photo credit: Kayana Szymczak for The New York Time
The lead researchers stepped out of their lab coats for this totally glam photo. To my knowledge, they have not yet signed off to star in a new CSI spin-off or their own reality show.

Am I being dramatic? If so I'm right in step with the media.

The Washington Post headline declared "Scientist Open The 'Black Box' of Schizophrenia with Way Dramatic Genetic Discovery. Just to clarify, there is no flight data recorder involved, just postmortem brain tissue that admittedly does lend a certain CSI flavor. The lead researcher first used the term "black box." But still. Way to pump up the drama, WashPo.

Science Daily, no stranger to pumping up the drama by confusing correlation and correlation, reported the study represented "the first time that the origin of this devastating psychiatric disease has been causally linked to specific gene variants and a biological process."  Hold your horses, SciDay. This is not causal evidence. Not yet anyhow. It could be that schizophrenia causes this pruning or that another factor cause both. It's too early for such strong language. 


I could go on and on with the dramatic claims and reports but you get the point. 

Second, experts recommend screening women for postpartum depression. Finally. 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded all adults should be screened for depression, including postpartum and pregnant women. You can find their recommendations in a paper published in JAMA. Or you can save yourself some time and tears by checking out coverage at NPR, CNN, New York Times or another content distributor. It's anyone's guess as to when women will routinely be screened. 

Congratulations. You've survived another week in the Parenting Media.  

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