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1.  Developing a Consensus-based Definition of “Kokoro-no Care” or Mental Health Services and Psychosocial Support: Drawing from Experiences of Mental Health Professionals Who Responded to the Great East Japan Earthquake 
PLoS Currents  2015;7:ecurrents.dis.cfcbaf509711641ab5951535851e572e.
Objectives: In this survey, we aimed to build consensus and gather opinions on ‘Kokoro-no care’ or mental health services and psychosocial support (MHSPSS) after a disaster, among mental health professionals who engaged in care after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Methods: We recruited mental health professionals who engaged in support activities after the Great East Japan Earthquake, which included local health professionals in the affected areas and members of mental health care teams dispatched from outside (n = 131). Adopting the Delphi process, we proposed a definition of ‘Kokoro-no care’, and asked the participants to rate the appropriateness on a 5-point Likert scale. We also solicited free comments based on the participants’ experiences during the disaster. After Round 1, we presented the summary statistics and comments, and asked the participants to re-rate the definition that had been modified based on their comments. This process was repeated twice, until the consensus criterion of ≥ 80% of the participants scoring ≥ 4 on the statement was fulfilled. Results: In Round 1, 68.7% of the respondents rated the proposed definition ≥ 4 for its appropriateness, and 88.4% did so in Round 2. The comments were grouped into categories (and subcategories) based on those related to the definition in general (Appropriate, Continuum of MHSPSS, Cautions in operation, Alternative categorisation of care components, Whether the care component should be categorised according to the professional involved, Ambiguous use of psychology, and Others), to mental health services (Appropriate, More specification within mental health services, More explicit remarks on mental health services, and Others), and to psychosocial support (Whether the care component should be categorised according to the professional involved, Raising concerns about the terms, and Others), and others. Conclusion: We achieved a consensus on the definition of ‘Kokoro-no care’, and systematically obtained suggestions on the concept, and practical advice on operation, based on the participants’ experiences from the Great East Japan Earthquake. This collective knowledge will serve as reference to prepare and respond to future disasters.
PMCID: PMC4322093
2.  311 disaster and mental health countermeasures 
European Journal of Psychotraumatology  2014;5:10.3402/ejpt.v5.26515.
On 11 March 2011, a devastating earthquake struck off the coast of Japan, causing blustering tsunami that swept over the northeast coast of the country. Many struggled to evacuate from their homes, schools, and workplaces as 8- to 9-m-tall tsunami rapidly reached the coast within half an hour after the earthquake (Emergency Disaster Response Headquarters). The officials reported a record-breaking magnitude of 9.0 Mw, which made this earthquake the most devastating earthquake in the Japan's history. It had not been long since the previous massive earthquake had hit Kobe in 1995, killing 6,434 people (Japan Meteorological Agency). The author presents the outline of the initial mental-health-care responses at various levels. It has focused on the comprehensive strategies and policies that were intended to cover all the affected areas but has not described the individual countermeasures and reactions in each prefecture and city. The psychological effects of the atomic plant accident in Fukushima has not been mentioned in detail, because the scope of the physiological effect of the accident has not been settled yet and the society is not necessarily ready to deal with the accident as a psychological matter rather than a sociopolitical one. A number of psychiatric professionals are deeply concerned with the psychological and prolonged impact of the accident, including those who are in the Fukushima prefecture and conducting heroic efforts to care for the residents.
PMCID: PMC4265175  PMID: 25511720
earthquake; tsunami; mental health policy; emergency response; psychosocial support; disaster
3.  Mental Health Distress and Related Factors Among Prefectural Public Servants Seven Months After the Great East Japan Earthquake 
Journal of Epidemiology  2014;24(4):287-294.
To develop an empirically informed support measure for workers, we examined mental health distress and its risk factors among prefectural public servants who were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and faced a demanding workload in the midterm of the disaster.
We conducted a self-administered health survey of all public servants in the Miyagi prefectural government two and seven months after the Great East Japan Earthquake (3743 workers, 70.6% of all employees). We calculated odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for mental distress (defined as K6 score ≥10) in the domain of disaster-work-related stressors, work-related stressors, and disaster-related stressors.
Among those with better levels of workplace communication, the only factor that increased the risk of mental distress was not taking a non-work day each week (adjusted OR 2.55, 95% CI 1.27–5.14). Among those with poorer levels of workplace communication, in addition to not taking a non-work day each week (adjusted OR 3.93, 95% CI 3.00–5.15), handling residents’ complaints (adjusted OR 1.55, 95% CI 1.00–2.42), having dead or missing family members (adjusted OR 2.87, 95% CI 1.53–5.38), and living in a shelter more than two months after the disaster (adjusted OR 2.80, 95% CI 1.32–5.95) increased the risk of mental distress.
All workers should be encouraged to take a non-work day each week. Among workers with poor workplace communication, special attention should be given to those who handle residents’ complaints, have lost a family member(s), and are living in a shelter for a prolonged period of time.
PMCID: PMC4074633  PMID: 24857952
mental health; disaster; worker; cross-sectional study; risk factors
4.  Sleep Dissolves Illusion: Sleep Withstands Learning of Visuo-Tactile-Proprioceptive Integration Induced by Repeated Days of Rubber Hand Illusion Training 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85734.
Multisensory integration is a key factor in establishing bodily self-consciousness and in adapting humans to novel environments. The rubber hand illusion paradigm, in which humans can immediately perceive illusory ownership to an artificial hand, is a traditional technique for investigating multisensory integration and the feeling of illusory ownership. However, the long-term learning properties of the rubber hand illusion have not been previously investigated. Moreover, although sleep contributes to various aspects of cognition, including learning and memory, its influence on illusory learning of the artificial hand has not yet been assessed. We determined the effects of daily repetitive training and sleep on learning visuo-tactile-proprioceptive sensory integration and illusory ownership in healthy adult participants by using the traditional rubber hand illusion paradigm. Subjective ownership of the rubber hand, proprioceptive drift, and galvanic skin response were measured to assess learning indexes. Subjective ownership was maintained and proprioceptive drift increased with daily training. Proprioceptive drift, but not subjective ownership, was significantly attenuated after sleep. A significantly greater reduction in galvanic skin response was observed after wakefulness compared to after sleep. Our results suggest that although repetitive rubber hand illusion training facilitates multisensory integration and physiological habituation of a multisensory incongruent environment, sleep corrects illusional integration and habituation based on experiences in a multisensory incongruent environment. These findings may increase our understanding of adaptive neural processes to novel environments, specifically, bodily self-consciousness and sleep-dependent neuroplasticity.
PMCID: PMC3894989  PMID: 24465671
5.  Lessons learned about psychosocial responses to disaster and mass trauma: an international perspective 
European Journal of Psychotraumatology  2013;4:10.3402/ejpt.v4i0.22897.
At the 13th meeting of the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies in 2013, a symposium was held that brought together international researchers and clinicians who were involved in psychosocial responses to disaster. A total of six disasters that occurred in five countries were presented and discussed. Lessons learned from these disasters included the need to: (1) tailor the psychosocial response to the specific disaster, (2) provide multi-dimensional psychosocial care, (3) target at-risk population groups, (4) proactively address barriers in access to care, (5) recognise the social dimensions and sources of resilience, (6) extend the roles for mental health professionals, (7) efficiently coordinate and integrate disaster response services, and (8) integrate research and evaluation into disaster response planning.
PMCID: PMC3873118  PMID: 24371515
Disasters; mental health; psychosocial; trauma; disaster planning
6.  Memory suppression trades prolonged fear and sleep-dependent fear plasticity for the avoidance of current fear 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:2227.
Sleep deprivation immediately following an aversive event reduces fear by preventing memory consolidation during homeostatic sleep. This suggests that acute insomnia might act prophylactically against the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) even though it is also a possible risk factor for PTSD. We examined total sleep deprivation and memory suppression to evaluate the effects of these interventions on subsequent aversive memory formation and fear conditioning. Active suppression of aversive memory impaired retention of event memory. However, although the remembered fear was more reduced in sleep-deprived than sleep-control subjects, suppressed fear increased, and seemed to abandon the sleep-dependent plasticity of fear. Active memory suppression, which provides a psychological model for Freud's ego defense mechanism, enhances fear and casts doubt on the potential of acute insomnia as a prophylactic measure against PTSD. Our findings bring into question the role of sleep in aversive-memory consolidation in clinical PTSD pathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC3714646  PMID: 23863955
7.  Potential impact of propofol immediately after motor vehicle accident on later symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder at 6-month follow up: a retrospective cohort study 
Critical Care  2012;16(5):R196.
Critically injured patients are at risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Propofol was recently reported to enhance fear memory consolidation retrospectively. Thus, we investigated here whether administration of propofol within 72 h of a motor vehicle accident (MVA) affects the subsequent development of PTSD symptoms.
We examined data obtained from a prospective cohort study of MVA-related injured patients, admitted to the intensive care unit of a general hospital. We investigated the effect of propofol administration within 72 h of MVA on outcome. Primary outcome was diagnosis of full or partial PTSD as determined by the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) at 6 months. Secondary outcomes were diagnosis of full or partial PTSD at 1 month and CAPS score indicating PTSD at 1 and 6 months. Multivariate analysis was conducted adjusting for being female, age, injury severity score (ISS), and administration of ketamine or midazolam within 72 h of MVA.
Among 300 patients recruited (mean ISS, 8.0; median Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score, 15.0; age, 18 to 69 years), propofol administration showed a higher risk for full or partial PTSD as determined by CAPS at 6 months (odds ratio = 6.13, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.57 to 23.85, P = 0.009) and at 1 month (odds ratio = 1.31, 95% CI: 0.41 to 4.23, P = 0.647) in the multivariate logistic regression. Multivariate regression analysis showed a trend toward adverse effects of propofol on PTSD symptom development at 6 months after MVA (β = 4.08, 95% CI: -0.49 to 8.64, P = 0.080), but not at 1 month after MVA (β = -0.42, 95% CI: -6.34 to 5.51, P = 0.890).
These findings suggest that using propofol in the acute phase after MVA might be associated with the development of PTSD symptoms 6 months later. However, since the design of this study was retrospective, these findings should be interpreted cautiously and further study is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3682298  PMID: 23075426
8.  Disturbances in equilibrium function after major earthquake 
Scientific Reports  2012;2:749.
Major earthquakes were followed by a large number of aftershocks and significant outbreaks of dizziness occurred over a large area. However it is unclear why major earthquake causes dizziness. We conducted an intergroup trial on equilibrium dysfunction and psychological states associated with equilibrium dysfunction in individuals exposed to repetitive aftershocks versus those who were rarely exposed. Greater equilibrium dysfunction was observed in the aftershock-exposed group under conditions without visual compensation. Equilibrium dysfunction in the aftershock-exposed group appears to have arisen from disturbance of the inner ear, as well as individual vulnerability to state anxiety enhanced by repetitive exposure to aftershocks. We indicate potential effects of autonomic stress on equilibrium function after major earthquake. Our findings may contribute to risk management of psychological and physical health after major earthquakes with aftershocks, and allow development of a new empirical approach to disaster care after such events.
PMCID: PMC3475992  PMID: 23087814
9.  Development of disaster mental health guidelines through the Delphi process in Japan 
The mental health community in Japan had started reviewing the country’s disaster mental health guidelines before the Great East Japan Earthquake, aiming to revise them based on evidence and experience accumulated in the last decade. Given the wealth of experience and knowledge acquired in the field by many Japanese mental health professionals, we decided to develop the guidelines through systematic consensus building and selected the Delphi method.
After a thorough literature review and focus group interviews, 96 items regarding disaster mental health were included in Delphi Round 1. Of 100 mental health professionals experienced in disaster response who were invited to participate, 97 agreed. The appropriateness of each statement was assessed by the participants using a Likert scale (1: extremely inappropriate, 9: very appropriate) and providing free comments in three rounds. Consensus by experts was defined as an average score of ≥7 for which ≥70% of participants assigned this score, and items reaching consensus were included in the final guidelines.
Overall, of the 96 items (89 initially asked and 7 added items), 77 items were agreed on (46 items in Round 1, and 19 positive and 12 negative agreed on items in Round 2). In Round 2, three statements with which participants agreed most strongly were: 1) A protocol for emergency work structure and information flow should be prepared in normal times; 2) The mental health team should attend regular meetings on health and medicine to exchange information; and 3) Generally, it is recommended not to ask disaster survivors about psychological problems at the initial response but ask about their present worries and physical condition. Three statements with which the participants disagreed most strongly in this round were: 1) Individuals should be encouraged to provide detailed accounts of their experiences; 2) Individuals should be provided with education if they are interested in receiving it; and 3) Bad news should be withheld from distressed individuals for fear of causing more upset.
Most items which achieved agreement in Round 1 were statements described in previous guidelines or publications, or statements regarding the basic attitude of human service providers. The revised guidelines were thus developed based on the collective wisdom drawn from Japanese practitioners’ experience while also considering the similarities and differences from the international standards.
PMCID: PMC3484075  PMID: 22747882
Disaster mental health; Delphi process; Guidelines development; Consensus building
10.  Brief Measure for Screening Complicated Grief: Reliability and Discriminant Validity 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31209.
Complicated grief, which is often under-recognized and under-treated, can lead to substantial impairment in functioning. The Brief Grief Questionnaire (BGQ) is a 5-item self-report or interview instrument for screening complicated grief. Although investigations with help-seeking samples suggest that the BGQ is valid and reliable, it has not been validated in a broader population.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A questionnaire was mailed to a randomly selected sample (n = 5000) residing in one of 4 areas of Japan. The BCQ was examined for responders who were bereaved more than 6 months and less than 10 years (n = 915). Non-specific psychological distress was assessed with the K6 screening scale. Multiple group confirmatory factor analysis supported a uni-dimensional factor structure and the invariance of parameters across gender and age. Cronbach's alpha was sufficiently high (alpha = .75) to confirm internal consistency. Average Variance Extracted (0.39) was higher than the shared covariance (0.14) between BGQ and K6, suggesting discriminant validity.
The results of this study support the reliability and validity of the BGQ in the Japanese population. Future studies should examine predictive validity by using structured interviews or more detailed scales for complicated grief.
PMCID: PMC3279351  PMID: 22348057
11.  Morphologic Alterations in the Corpus Callosum in Abuse-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies in children with maltreatment-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have demonstrated smaller corpus callosum area, with the greatest magnitude of change in posterior portions of the corpus callosum. The purpose of this study was to measure corpus callosum area in adult female patients with childhood abuse-related PTSD and comparison subjects. MRI was used to measure the midsagittal area of the corpus callosum as well as subregions of the corpus callosum in 9 female subjects with abuse-related PTSD and 9 healthy female subjects. No differences were found in total area of the corpus callosum or in individual subregions, but the subregion/total area ratio was significantly smaller in posterior midbody in PTSD compared with the healthy subjects. These results suggest that relatively smaller areas of the posterior midbody of the corpus callosum are associated with childhood abuse related PTSD in adults; these findings are consistent with findings in children with abuse-related PTSD.
PMCID: PMC3229094  PMID: 18091198
Posttraumatic stress disorder; corpus callosum; abuse-related; magnetic resonance imaging
12.  An N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor agonist facilitates sleep-independent synaptic plasticity associated with working memory capacity enhancement 
Scientific Reports  2011;1:127.
Working memory (WM) capacity improvement is impacted by sleep, and possibly by N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) agonists such as D-cycloserine (DCS), which also affects procedural skill performance. However, the mechanisms behind these relationships are not well understood. In order to investigate the neural basis underlying relationships between WM skill learning and sleep, DCS, and both sleep and DCS together, we evaluated training-retest performances in the n-back task among healthy subjects who were given either a placebo or DCS before the task training, and then followed task training sessions either with wakefulness or sleep. DCS facilitated WM capacity enhancement only occurring after a period of wakefulness, rather than sleep, indicating that WM capacity enhancement is affected by a cellular heterogeneity in synaptic plasticity between time spent awake and time spent asleep. These findings may contribute to development, anti-aging processes, and rehabilitation of higher cognition.
PMCID: PMC3216608  PMID: 22355644
13.  Prevalence of Mental Disorders and Suicidal Thoughts Among Community-Dwelling Elderly Adults 3 Years After the Niigata-Chuetsu Earthquake 
Journal of Epidemiology  2011;21(2):144-150.
Japan is located in an area prone to natural disasters, and major earthquakes have occurred recently in rural areas where the proportion of elderly adults is high. Although elderly persons are vulnerable members of communities at a time of disaster, the prevalence of mental disorders among this population has yet to be reported in Japan. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of mental disorders and suicidal thoughts among community-dwelling elderly persons 3 years after an earthquake and to identify risk factors associated with their quality of life (QOL).
Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 496 community-dwelling persons aged 65 years or older in areas of Japan where 2 major earthquakes had occurred during a 3-year period. The main outcome was diagnosis of a mental disorder or suicidality.
During the 3-year period after the earthquake, 1.6% of men and 5.5% of women had received a diagnosis of major depression. There were no cases of posttraumatic stress disorder. Women were more likely than men to report suicidality (7.8% vs 3.8%, P = 0.075).
The prevalence of mental disorders was lower than that reported in previous studies. Despite the low prevalence of mental disorders, the percentage of community-dwelling elderly persons with subclinical mental health symptoms was high. The results indicate that appropriate public health and medical interventions are warranted after a natural disaster.
PMCID: PMC3899506  PMID: 21325733
prevalence; mental disorders; suicidality; older adults; natural disasters
14.  Right Prefrontal Activity Reflects the Ability to Overcome Sleepiness during Working Memory Tasks: A Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Study 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12923.
It has been speculated that humans have an inherent ability to overcome sleepiness that counteracts homeostatic sleep pressure. However, it remains unclear which cortical substrate activities are involved in the ability to overcome sleepiness during the execution of cognitive tasks. Here we sought to confirm that this ability to overcome sleepiness in task execution improves performance on cognitive tasks, showing activation of neural substrates in the frontal cortex, by using a modified n-back (2- and 0-back) working memory task and functional near-infrared spectroscopy. The change in alertness was just correlated with performances on the 2-back task. Activity in the right prefrontal cortex changed depending on alertness changes on the 2- and 0-back tasks independently, which indicates that activity in this region clearly reflects the ability to overcome sleepiness; it may contribute to the function of providing sufficient activity to meet the task load demands. This study reveals characteristics of the ability to overcome sleepiness during the n-back working memory task which goes beyond the attention-control function traditionally proposed.
PMCID: PMC2944865  PMID: 20886073
15.  Posttraumatic growth, posttraumatic stress disorder and resilience of motor vehicle accident survivors 
Although some previous studies have suggested that posttraumatic growth (PTG) is comprised of several factors with different properties, few have examined both the association between PTG and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and between PTG and resilience, focusing on each of the factors of PTG. This study aimed to examine the hypothesis that some factors of PTG, such as personal strength, relate to resilience, whereas other factors, such as appreciation of life, relate to PTSD symptoms among Japanese motor vehicle accident (MVA) survivors.
This cross-sectional study was performed with 118 MVA survivors at 18 months post MVA. Data analyzed included self-reporting questionnaire scores on the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI), the Impact of Event Scale- Revised (IES-R), and the Sense of Coherence (SOC) scale, which is one of the most widely used scales for measuring resilience. Correlations between scores on the PTGI and IES-R, the PTGI and SOC scale, and the IES-R and SOC scale were established by calculating Spearman's correlation coefficients.
PTGI was positively correlated with both SOC and PTSD symptoms, in spite of an inverse relationship between SOC and PTSD symptoms. Relating to others, new possibilities, and personal strength on the PTGI were correlated positively with SOC, and spiritual change and appreciation of life on the PTGI were positively correlated with PTSD symptoms.
Some factors of PTG were positively correlated with resilience, which can be regarded as an outcome of coping success, whereas other factors of PTG were positively correlated with PTSD symptoms, which can be regarded as signifying coping effort in the face of enduring distress. These findings contribute to our understanding of the psychological change experienced by MVA survivors, and to raising clinicians' awareness of the possibility that PTG represents both coping effort coexisting with distress and outcome of coping success.
PMCID: PMC2914073  PMID: 20573276
16.  Sleep Deprivation Influences Diurnal Variation of Human Time Perception with Prefrontal Activity Change: A Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Study 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8395.
Human short-time perception shows diurnal variation. In general, short-time perception fluctuates in parallel with circadian clock parameters, while diurnal variation seems to be modulated by sleep deprivation per se. Functional imaging studies have reported that short-time perception recruits a neural network that includes subcortical structures, as well as cortical areas involving the prefrontal cortex (PFC). It has also been reported that the PFC is vulnerable to sleep deprivation, which has an influence on various cognitive functions. The present study is aimed at elucidating the influence of PFC vulnerability to sleep deprivation on short-time perception, using the optical imaging technique of functional near-infrared spectroscopy. Eighteen participants performed 10-s time production tasks before (at 21:00) and after (at 09:00) experimental nights both in sleep-controlled and sleep-deprived conditions in a 4-day laboratory-based crossover study. Compared to the sleep-controlled condition, one-night sleep deprivation induced a significant reduction in the produced time simultaneous with an increased hemodynamic response in the left PFC at 09:00. These results suggest that activation of the left PFC, which possibly reflects functional compensation under a sleep-deprived condition, is associated with alteration of short-time perception.
PMCID: PMC2797606  PMID: 20049334

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