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Bipolar News

July 11, 2005

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NAMI StigmaBusters Alert: July 1, 2005

Contact: smarch@nami.org

Boos For Cruise

Protests have grown steadily since actor Tom Cruise, while promoting the movie, "The War of the Worlds," first criticized actress Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants for postpartum depression.

On June 24, Cruise finally crossed a line when in a TODAY Show television interview, he declared: "There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance."  In an Entertainment Weekly interview, he also compared psychiatry to Nazism.

Along with the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and National Mental Health Association (NMHA), NAMI condemned Cruise’s remarks in a formal statement released to the news media. He is entitled to his personal point of view, but not false facts -- particularly when they perpetuate stigma around the nature of mental illness and treatment.

Some StigmaBusters have called for a symbolic boycott of the new movie. Realistically, there’s little hope of making a dent in the millions of dollars in profits it is expected to rake in. But every individual can make a choice based on personal conscience—and write letters to editors condemning the irresponsibility of his remarks.

Cruise also has spread his views as part of a Paramount Studios publicity tour for the movie. Don’t let the studio off the hook. Please contact its head to make the following points:

  • Mental illnesses involve biological brain disorders, no matter what Tom Cruise says. Medication and proper therapy often make a difference between life and death.
  • It is irresponsible for Paramount Studios and Mr. Cruise to use a movie publicity tour to promote an ideological view that deters people with mental illness from getting the care they need—and adds to stigma.
  • Paramount Studio should help undo the damage. Support legitimate mental health organizations and public awareness campaigns around mental illnesses.

Contact:
Brad Grey
Chairman & CEO
Paramount Studios
5555 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, California 90038
323-956-5000
323-862-1204 (fax)

Brad.Grey@paramountstudios.com

Batman Begins, Stigma Returns

"Batman Begins," could have been a great movie, except for one horribly stigmatizing.phpect of its plot that is based on violent stereotypes.

One of the villains is a corrupt psychiatrist. He is part of a conspiracy to put hallucinogens into Gotham City’s water supply, which when vaporized, will cause people to have psychotic episodes -- during which they will start tearing each other apart, causing the city to destroy itself. For the first wave of violence, inmates in the insane asylum are unlocked and sent into the streets.

The ending suggests a second movie to come, with the Joker as a villain.

Please write the studio:

  • They ruined a great story by criminalizing mental illness and perpetuating violent stereotypes.
  • They have undermined the US Surgeon General’s and President Bush's call for an end to stigma and support for recovery.
  • In the next Batman movie—if there is one—please instead portray a hero with a mental illness; shown not for terror or comedy; but as an example of courage and recovery.

Contact:
Barry Meyer
Chairman and CEO
Warner Brothers Entertainment
Building 2, Executive Suite
4000 Warner Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91522
818-954-6000
818-954-6794 (fax)

barry.meyer@warnerbros.com

Mood Lighting: Penn Researchers Determine Role of Serotonin in Modulating Circadian Rhythm.

AScribe Health News Service; 7/7/2005

Byline: University of Pennsylvania Health System

PHILADELPHIA, July. 7 (AScribe Newswire) -- Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have determined how serotonin decreases the body's sensitivity to light and that exposure to constant darkness leads to a decrease in serotonin levels in the brain of fruit flies. These findings suggest that serotonin may play a role in maintaining circadian rhythm, as well as modulating light-related disorders such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Senior author Amita Sehgal, PhD, Professor of Neuroscience at Penn and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator, and colleagues report their findings in the July 7 issue of Neuron.

The body's 24-hour (circadian) clock controls cycles of wakefulness and sleep, as well as the rhythm of other physiological functions, such as body temperature and blood pressure. Although the body functions on roughly a 24-hour schedule, this cycle is capable of being reset by environmental disturbances. In Sehgal's lab, fruit flies provide the model system for examining entrainment, the synchronization of the internal clock to the environment.

"In humans, a light pulse in the early evening delays rhythm-if it stays light later, you stay up later," says Sehgal. "Disturbances in the late evening advance the body clock-an early dawn leads to an early rise." Entrainment was tested in flies by exposing them to a pulse of light during the dark period. Closely resembling the body clock adjustment seen in humans, Sehgal's flies reset their body clock following the "night-time" disturbances. However, this adjustment was lessened when the flies were treated with serotonin prior to the test.

Sehgal speculates that serotonin is acting to protect the body clock from being over-responsive to light disturbances. "You do not want your clock to be so supersensitive to light that small fluctuations are going to throw it out of whack," she explains. "Serotonin appears to modulate the response of the body clock to light."

In flies, a protein called cryptochrome drives the response of the body clock to light. Under normal circumstances, light excites cryptochrome located within the brain, which in turn, interacts directly with the clock protein to reset the clock. Sehgal and colleagues discovered that serotonin works by attaching to the serotonin 1B receptor, altering the activity of another protein, GSK3b, which further changes the cascade of events leading to the resetting of the clock.

Sehgal points to the clinical implications for understanding the interaction between GSK3b and serotonin. Lithium, a drug commonly prescribed to treat bipolar disorder, targets GSK3b. "Lithium resets the clock in all organisms that have been examined," explains Sehgal. "Assuming that the mechanism works the same way for mammals, the implication would be that antidepressants other than Lithium can also affect the clock." Sehgal and colleagues also studied the role of serotonin in dark adaptation, the experience of increased sensitivity to light following long periods of darkness. After seven days in constant darkness, flies demonstrated significantly reduced levels of serotonin compared to flies exposed to the normal light-dark cycle. Interpreting the relationship of serotonin as it influences circadian rhythm, Sehgal suggests, "In situations of dark adaptation, you may become more sensitive to light because serotonin goes down."

The reduction of serotonin levels in flies kept in constant darkness may provide scientists with insight into the etiology and treatment of SAD, a mood disorder related to reduced sunlight during winter. "People with seasonal affective disorder will respond to medications such as Prozac to increase serotonin," says Sehgal. "Patients also respond to light therapy. We now believe that light is also increasing serotonin-perhaps this is why both of these treatments are effective."

By identifying the mechanism of interaction between serotonin and the body clock, as well as the environmental factors influencing the levels of serotonin in the brain, Sehgal and colleagues hope to be able to shed light on the possible role of circadian activity on affective disorders. The interplay of serotonin, light, and the circadian system suggests a close relationship between circadian regulation and mental health.

Sehgal's co-authors are Quan Yuan, Fangju Lin, and Xiang Zhong Zheng, all from Penn and HHMI. The research was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

PENN Medicine is a $2.7 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three owned hospitals [Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, which is consistently ranked one of the nation's few "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center]; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.

Contact Information:

Karen Kreeger, Penn Media Relations; (000)-000-0000 karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu

This news release was originally issued by the University of Pennsylvania Health System and is distributed by AScribe, The Public Interest Newswire. Questions or comments regarding the information contained in this release should be addressed solely to the originating organization.

COPYRIGHT 2005 AScribe

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