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1.  Acupuncture and moxibustion for stress-related disorders 
Acupuncture and moxibustion, which medical doctors are licensed by the government of Japan to perform, can improve the psychological relationship between doctors and patients, especially when it is disturbed by a “game”, a dysfunctional interpersonal interaction that is repeated unintentionally. This advantage is due to the essential properties of acupuncture and moxibustion. Acupuncture and moxibustion are helpful in treating somatoform disorders, especially musculoskeletal symptoms. In Japan, a holistic acupuncture and moxibustion therapy called Sawada-style has been developed. This is based on fundamental meridian points that are considered to have effects on central, autonomic nervous, immune, metabolic, and endocrine systems to regulate the whole body balance. In addition, some of the fundamental points have effects on Qi, blood, and water patterns associated with major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, eating disorders, and somatoform disorders. The fixed protocol of Sawada-style would be suitable for large-scale, randomized, controlled studies in the future. Recent systematic reviews indicate that electroacupuncture would be a useful addition to antidepressant therapy for some symptoms accompanying fibromyalgia. Acupuncture and moxibustion are also recommended for irritable bowel syndrome, instead of Western drug therapy. Surprisingly, the dorsal prefrontal cerebral cortex, which is associated with a method of scalp acupuncture applied for gastrointestinal disorders, has been found to be activated in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. It is quite possible that regulation of this cortical area is related to the effect of scalp acupuncture. This acupuncture method can be effective not only for irritable bowel syndrome but also for other stress-related gastrointestinal disorders.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-8-7
PMCID: PMC3903561  PMID: 24456818
Acupuncture; Moxibustion; Stress; Fibromyalgia; Functional gastrointestinal disorder; Irritable bowel syndrome; Autonomic nervous system; Hypothalamo-pituitary adrenal axis; Sawada-style holistic therapy
2.  Kampo medicine for palliative care in Japan 
Kampo medicines are currently manufactured under strict quality controls. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan has approved 148 Kampo formulas. There is increasing evidence for the efficacy of Kampo medicines, and some are used clinically for palliative care in Japan. The specific aim of this review is to evaluate the clinical use of Kampo medicines in palliative care in the treatment of cancer. The conclusions are as follows: Juzentaihoto inhibits the progression of liver tumors in a dose-dependent manner and contributes to long-term survival. Hochuekkito has clinical effects on cachexia for genitourinary cancer and improves the QOL and immunological status of weak patients, such as postoperative patients. Daikenchuto increases intestinal motility and decreases the postoperative symptoms of patients with total gastrectomy with jejunal pouch interposition, suppresses postoperative inflammation following surgery for colorectal cancer, and controls radiation-induced enteritis. Rikkunshito contributes to the amelioration of anorectic conditions in cancer cachexia-anorexia syndrome. Goshajinkigan and Shakuyakukanzoto reduce the neurotoxicity of patients with colorectal cancer who undergo oxaliplatin and FOLFOX (5-fluorouracil/folinic acid plus oxaliplatin) therapy. Hangeshashinto has the effect of preventing and alleviating diarrhea induced by CPT-11(irinotecan) and combination therapy with S-1/CPT-11. O’rengedokuto significantly improves mucositis caused by anticancer agents.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-8-6
PMCID: PMC3901338  PMID: 24447861
Kampo medicine; Palliative care; Cachexia; Chemotherapy
3.  Effects of Kampo on functional gastrointestinal disorders 
This article reviews the effectiveness of Kampo (traditional Japanese herbal medicine) in the treatment of functional gastrointestinal disorders, especially functional dyspepsia (FD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The results of four randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) suggested the usefulness of rikkunshito in relieving the subjective symptoms of patients with FD. Rikkunshito significantly improved not only gastric symptoms, such as epigastiric discomfort, but also extra-gastric symptoms, such as general fatigue, when compared with control drugs. The therapeutic effects of rikkunshito were more evident when it was prescribed to patients with “kyosho”, i.e., low energy. Two RCTs suggested the efficacy of keishikashakuyakuto for IBS.
Basic research studies have demonstrated that these Kampo medicines have multiple sites of action to improve subjective symptoms. For example, rikkunshito improves gastric motility dysfunction, including impaired adaptive relaxation and delayed gastric emptying, gastric hypersensitivity, and anorexia via facilitation of ghrelin secretion. It also exhibits anti-stress effects, i.e., it attenuates stress-induced exacerbation of gastric sensation and anorexia, as well as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis and sympathetic activation. Keishikashakuyakuto exhibited not only an antispasmodic effect on intestinal smooth muscle, but also antidepressant-like effects. Case series suggest that other Kampo prescriptions are also effective for FD and IBS. However, further studies are necessary to evaluate their efficacy.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-8-5
PMCID: PMC3906900  PMID: 24447839
Kampo; Rikkunshito; Keishikashakuyakuto; Functional dyspepsia; Irritable bowel syndrome
4.  Acupuncture therapy: mechanism of action, efficacy, and safety: a potential intervention for psychogenic disorders? 
Scientific bases for the mechanism of action of acupuncture in the treatment of pain and the pathogenic mechanism of acupuncture points are briefly summarized. The efficacy and safety of acupuncture therapy is discussed based on the results of German clinical trials. A conclusion on the role for acupuncture in the treatment of psychogenic disorders could not be reached.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-8-4
PMCID: PMC3996195  PMID: 24444292
Acupuncture therapy; Action mechanism; Polymodal receptor; Efficacy; Safety; Randomized controlled trials; Systematic review; Psychogenic disorders
5.  The role of traditional Japanese medicine (Kampo) in the practice of psychosomatic medicine: the usefulness of Kampo in the treatment of the stress-related symptoms of women, especially those with peri-menopausal disorder 
A serious problem currently plaguing the medical field is the widening gap between academic medicine, which studies the features and causes of illness, and the medical care that patients desire. An example of this gap can be observed in the practice of psychotherapy, which is effective only for certain patients. Kampo medicine that combines the advantages of Western medicine with those of traditional Japanese medicine is currently undergoing a revival in the healthcare sector. The therapeutic policies underlying Kampo medicine are based on the physical constitution and current symptoms of each patient. For this reason, Kampo medicine is referred to as “tailor-made medicine” and has properties similar to “mind and body” or psychosomatic medicine. Some women exhibit multiple undefined stress-related symptoms during the peri-menopausal period. In order to accurately diagnose and provide patient-specific treatment, physicians should not only investigate the various stress factors in patients’ lives but should also provide a Sho, or a Kampo diagnosis. The therapeutic approach in Kampo medicine is aimed at harmonizing the mind, body, and spirit; this practice involves the use of narrative and holistic medication that treats the entire being of the patient, resulting in an increased number of specialized treatment plans.
There are many Kampo prescriptions tailored to treat women who exhibit various stress-related symptoms. Both Kampo and psychosomatic medicine are based on the principles of narrative-based medicine, and by integrating these two medical systems, an ideal system can be devised to better cope with the various needs of patients. This new medical system established by integrating and harmonizing Western and Eastern medicine can be used for the treatment of women with stress-related symptoms.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-7-16
PMCID: PMC4016593  PMID: 24148283
Kampo medicine; Stress-related symptoms; Undefined symptoms; Pre-menopausal disorder; Tailor-made medicine
6.  Neuroimaging studies of alexithymia: physical, affective, and social perspectives 
Alexithymia refers to difficulty in identifying and expressing one’s emotions, and it is related to disturbed emotional regulation. It was originally proposed as a personality trait that plays a central role in psychosomatic diseases. This review of neuroimaging studies on alexithymia suggests that alexithymia is associated with reduced neural responses to emotional stimuli from the external environment, as well as with reduced activity during imagery, in the limbic and paralimbic areas (i.e., amygdala, insula, anterior/posterior cingulate cortex). In contrast, alexithymia is also known to be associated with enhanced neural activity in somatosensory and sensorimotor regions, including the insula. Moreover, neural activity in the medial, prefrontal, and insula cortex was lowered when people with alexithymia were involved in social tasks. Because most neuroimaging studies have been based on sampling by self-reported questionnaires, the contrasted features of neural activities in response to internal and external emotional stimuli need to be elucidated. The social and emotional responses of people with alexithymia are discussed and recommendations for future research are presented.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-7-8
PMCID: PMC3621096  PMID: 23537323
Alexithymia; fMRI; PET; Neuroimaging study; Interoception; Psychosomatic medicine; Emotional awareness
7.  The alexithymic brain: the neural pathways linking alexithymia to physical disorders 
Alexithymia is a personality trait characterized by difficulties in identifying and describing feelings and is associated with psychiatric and psychosomatic disorders. The mechanisms underlying the link between emotional dysregulation and psychosomatic disorders are unclear. Recent progress in neuroimaging has provided important information regarding emotional experience in alexithymia. We have conducted three brain imaging studies on alexithymia, which we describe herein. This article considers the role of emotion in the development of physical symptoms and discusses a possible pathway that we have identified in our neuroimaging studies linking alexithymia with psychosomatic disorders. In terms of socio-affective processing, alexithymics demonstrate lower reactivity in brain regions associated with emotion. Many studies have reported reduced activation in limbic areas (e.g., cingulate cortex, anterior insula, amygdala) and the prefrontal cortex when alexithymics attempt to feel other people’s feelings or retrieve their own emotional episodes, compared to nonalexithymics. With respect to primitive emotional reactions such as the response to pain, alexithymics show amplified activity in areas considered to be involved in physical sensation. In addition to greater hormonal arousal responses in alexithymics during visceral pain, increased activity has been reported in the insula, anterior cingulate cortex, and midbrain. Moreover, in complex social situations, alexithymics may not be able to use feelings to guide their behavior appropriately. The Iowa gambling task (IGT) was developed to assess decision-making processes based on emotion-guided evaluation. When alexithymics perform the IGT, they fail to learn an advantageous decision-making strategy and show reduced activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a key area for successful performance of the IGT, and increased activity in the caudate, a region associated with impulsive choice. The neural machinery in alexithymia is therefore activated more on the physiologic, motor-expressive level and less in the cognitive-experiential domains of the emotional response system. Affects may play an important role in alleviating intrinsic physiologic reactions and adapting to the environment. Deficient development of emotional neural structures may lead to hypersensitivity to bodily sensations and unhealthy behaviors, a possible mechanism linking alexithymia to psychosomatic disorders.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-7-1
PMCID: PMC3563604  PMID: 23302233
Affect; Alexithymia; Emotional dysregulation; Neuroimaging; Psychosomatic disorders
8.  Alexithymia as a prognostic risk factor for health problems: a brief review of epidemiological studies 
The number of articles on alexithymia has been steadily increasing since the word “alexithymia” was coined in the 1970s to denote a common characteristic that is observed among classic psychosomatic patients in whom therapy was unsuccessful. Alexithymia, a disorder of affect regulation, has been suggested to be broadly associated with various mental and physical health problems. However, most available evidence is based on anecdotal reports or cross-sectional observations. To clarify the predictive value of alexithymia for health problems, a systematic review of prospective studies was conducted. A search of the PubMed database identified 1,507 articles on “alexithymia” that were published by July 31, 2011. Among them, only 7 studies examined the developmental risks of alexithymia for health problems among nonclinical populations and 38 studies examined the prognostic value of alexithymia among clinical populations. Approximately half of the studies reported statistically significant adverse effects, while 5 studies demonstrated favorable effects of alexithymia on health outcomes; four of them were associated with surgical interventions and two involved cancer patients. The studies that showed insignificant results tended to have a small sample size. In conclusion, epidemiological evidence regarding alexithymia as a prognostic risk factor for health problems remains un-established. Even though alexithymia is considered to be an unfavorable characteristic for disease control and health promotion overall, some beneficial aspects are suggested. More prospective studies with sufficient sample sizes and follow-up period, especially those involving life course analyses, are needed to confirm the contribution of alexithymia to health problems.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-6-21
PMCID: PMC3546882  PMID: 23244192
Systematic review; Prospective study; Epidemiology
9.  Vis Medicatrix naturae: does nature "minister to the mind"? 
The healing power of nature, vis medicatrix naturae, has traditionally been defined as an internal healing response designed to restore health. Almost a century ago, famed biologist Sir John Arthur Thomson provided an additional interpretation of the word nature within the context of vis medicatrix, defining it instead as the natural, non-built external environment. He maintained that the healing power of nature is also that associated with mindful contact with the animate and inanimate natural portions of the outdoor environment. A century on, excessive screen-based media consumption, so-called screen time, may be a driving force in masking awareness of the potential benefits of nature. With global environmental concerns, rapid urban expansion, and mental health disorders at crisis levels, diminished nature contact may not be without consequence to the health of the individual and the planet itself. In the context of emerging research, we will re-examine Sir J. Arthur Thomson's contention that the healing power of the nature-based environment - green space, forests and parks in particular - extends into the realm of mental health and vitality.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-6-11
PMCID: PMC3353853  PMID: 22472137
10.  Importance and usefulness of evaluating self-esteem in children 
Self-esteem is the "feeling of self-appreciation" and is an indispensable emotion for people to adapt to society and live their lives. For children, in particular, the environment in which they are raised contributes profoundly to the development of their self-esteem, which in turn helps them to adapt better to society. Various psychologists have provided definitions of self-esteem, and examined methods of objectively evaluating self-esteem. Questionnaire-style assessment methods for adult include Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and Janis-Field Feeling of Inadequacy Scale, and these for children include Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory, Pope's 5-Scale Test of Self-Esteem for children, and Kid- KINDL®. Other methods include Ziller Social Self-Esteem Scale and Implicit Association Test. The development of children's self-esteem is heavily influenced by their environment, that is, their homes, neighborhoods, and schools. Children with damaged self-esteem are at risk of developing psychological and social problems, which hinders recovery from low self-esteem. Thus, to recover low self-esteem, it is important for children to accumulate a series of successful experiences to create a positive concept of self. Evaluating children's self-esteem can be an effective method for understanding their past and present circumstances, and useful to treat for children with psychosomatic disorders.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-6-9
PMCID: PMC3337795  PMID: 22433387
Self-esteem; Psychosomatic disorder; Pope's 5-Scale Test of Self-Esteem for Children; Quality of life; Mental health
11.  Functional near-infrared spectroscopy studies in children 
Psychosomatic and developmental behavioral medicine in pediatrics has been the subject of significant recent attention, with infants, school-age children, and adolescents frequently presenting with psychosomatic, behavioral, and psychiatric symptoms. These may be a consequence of insecurity of attachment, reduced self-confidence, and peer -relationship conflicts during their developmental stages. Developmental cognitive neuroscience has revealed significant associations between specific brain lesions and particular cognitive dysfunctions. Thus, identifying the biological deficits underlying such cognitive dysfunction may provide new insights into therapeutic prospects for the management of those symptoms in children. Recent advances in noninvasive neuroimaging techniques, and especially functional near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), have contributed significant findings to the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience in pediatrics. We present here a comprehensive review of functional NIRS studies of children who have developed normally and of children with psychosomatic and behavioral disorders.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-6-7
PMCID: PMC3337812  PMID: 22433235
Development; Children; Cognitive neuroscience; Near-infrared spectroscopy
12.  Psychosomatic problems and countermeasures in Japanese children and adolescents 
In Japan there are a number of children and adolescents with emotion-related disorders including psychosomatic diseases (orthostatic dysregulation, anorexia nervosa, recurrent pains), behavior problems and school absenteeism. According to our previous report, the Japanese children had significantly higher score of physical symptoms and psychiatric complaints than did the Swedish children, and these were more strongly influenced by school-related stress than by home-related stress. To enforce countermeasures for psychosomatic problems in children, the Japanese Society of Psychosomatic Pediatrics (established in 1982) have started several new projects including multi-center psychosomatic researches and society-based activities. In this article, we present an outline of our study on mental health in Japanese children in comparison with Swedish children. Countermeasures including clinical guidelines for child psychosomatic diseases are reviewed and discussed.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-6-6
PMCID: PMC3362750  PMID: 22433184
Psychosomatic disease; Orthostatic dysregulation; Anorexia nervosa; School absenteeism; Migraine
13.  Clearance of fear memory from the hippocampus through neurogenesis by omega-3 fatty acids: a novel preventive strategy for posttraumatic stress disorder? 
Not only has accidental injury been shown to account for a significant health burden on all populations, regardless of age, sex and geographic region, but patients with accidental injury frequently present with the psychiatric condition of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Prevention of accident-related PTSD thus represents a potentially important goal. Physicians in the field of psychosomatic medicine and critical care medicine have the opportunity to see injured patients in the immediate aftermath of an accident. This article first briefly reviews the prevalence and associated factors of accident-related PTSD, then focuses on a conceptual model of fear memory and proposes a new, rationally hypothesized translational preventive intervention for PTSD through promoting hippocampal neurogenesis by omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. The results of an open-label pilot trial of injured patients admitted to the intensive care unit suggest that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation immediately after accidental injury can reduce subsequent PTSD symptoms.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-5-3
PMCID: PMC3045887  PMID: 21303552
14.  Why Japanese workers show low work engagement: An item response theory analysis of the Utrecht Work Engagement scale 
With the globalization of occupational health psychology, more and more researchers are interested in applying employee well-being like work engagement (i.e., a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption) to diverse populations. Accurate measurement contributes to our further understanding and to the generalizability of the concept of work engagement across different cultures. The present study investigated the measurement accuracy of the Japanese and the original Dutch versions of the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (9-item version, UWES-9) and the comparability of this scale between both countries. Item Response Theory (IRT) was applied to the data from Japan (N = 2,339) and the Netherlands (N = 13,406). Reliability of the scale was evaluated at various levels of the latent trait (i.e., work engagement) based the test information function (TIF) and the standard error of measurement (SEM). The Japanese version had difficulty in differentiating respondents with extremely low work engagement, whereas the original Dutch version had difficulty in differentiating respondents with high work engagement. The measurement accuracy of both versions was not similar. Suppression of positive affect among Japanese people and self-enhancement (the general sensitivity to positive self-relevant information) among Dutch people may have caused decreased measurement accuracy. Hence, we should be cautious when interpreting low engagement scores among Japanese as well as high engagement scores among western employees.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-4-17
PMCID: PMC2990723  PMID: 21054839
15.  Lessons learned in the development of process quality indicators for cancer care in Japan 
In Japan, attention has increasingly focused on ensuring the quality of care, particularly in the area of cancer care. The 2006 Basic Cancer Control Act reinforced efforts to ensure the quality of cancer care in a number of sectors, including the role of government in ensuring quality. We initiated a government-funded research project to develop quality indicators to measure the quality of care for five major cancers (breast, lung, stomach, colorectal, and liver cancer) in Japan, and palliative care for cancers in general. While we successfully developed a total of 206 quality indicators, a number of issues have been raised regarding the concepts and methodologies used to measure quality. Examples include the choice between measuring the process of care versus the outcome of care; the degree to which the process-outcome link should be confirmed in real-world measurement; handling of exceptional cases; interpretation of measurement results between quality of care versus quality of documentation; creation of summary scores; and the optimal number of quality indicators for measurement considering the trade-off between the measurement validity versus resource limitations. These and other issues must be carefully considered when attempting to measure quality of care, and although many appear to have no correct answer, continuation of the project requires that a decision nevertheless be made. Future activities in this project, which is still ongoing, should focus on the further exploration of these problems.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-4-14
PMCID: PMC2990721  PMID: 21054836
16.  Health literacy and health communication 
Health communication consists of interpersonal or mass communication activities focused on improving the health of individuals and populations. Skills in understanding and applying information about health issues are critical to this process and may have a substantial impact on health behaviors and health outcomes. These skills have recently been conceptualized in terms of health literacy (HL). This article introduces current concepts and measurements of HL, and discusses the role of HL in health communication, as well as future research directions in this domain. Studies of HL have increased dramatically during the past few years, but a gap between the conceptual definition of HL and its application remains. None of the existing instruments appears to completely measure the concept of HL. In particular, studies on communication/interaction and HL remain limited. Furthermore, HL should be considered not only in terms of the characteristics of individuals, but also in terms of the interactional processes between individuals and their health and social environments. Improved HL may enhance the ability and motivation of individuals to find solutions to both personal and public health problems, and these skills could be used to address various health problems throughout life. The process underpinning HL involves empowerment, one of the major goals of health communication.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-4-18
PMCID: PMC2990724  PMID: 21054840
17.  Matrix analysis and risk management to avert depression and suicide among workers 
Suicide is among the most tragic outcomes of all mental disorders, and the prevalence of suicide has risen dramatically during the last decade, particularly among workers. This paper reviews and proposes strategies to avert suicide and depression with regard to the mind body medicine equation hypothesis, metrics analysis of mental health problems from a public health and clinical medicine view.
In occupational fields, the mind body medicine hypothesis has to deal with working environment, working condition, and workers' health. These three factors chosen in this paper were based on the concept of risk control, called San-kanri, which has traditionally been used in Japanese companies, and the causation concepts of host, agent, and environment. Working environment and working condition were given special focus with regard to tackling suicide problems. Matrix analysis was conducted by dividing the problem of working conditions into nine cells: three prevention levels (primary, secondary, and tertiary) were proposed for each of the three factors of the mind body medicine hypothesis (working environment, working condition, and workers' health). After using these main strategies (mind body medicine analysis and matrix analysis) to tackle suicide problems, the paper talks about the versatility of case-method teaching, "Hiyari-Hat activity," routine inspections by professionals, risk assessment analysis, and mandatory health check-up focusing on sleep and depression. In the risk assessment analysis, an exact assessment model was suggested using a formula based on multiplication of the following three factors: (1) severity, (2) frequency, and (3) possibility.
Mental health problems, including suicide, are rather tricky to deal with because they involve evaluation of individual cases. The mind body medicine hypothesis and matrix analysis would be appropriate tactics for suicide prevention because they would help the evaluation of this issue as a tangible problem.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-4-15
PMCID: PMC2994806  PMID: 21054837
18.  Work-related stress and psychosomatic medicine 
This article introduces key concepts of work-related stress relevant to the clinical and research fields of psychosomatic medicine. Stress is a term used to describe the body's physiological and/or psychological reaction to circumstances that require behavioral adjustment. According to the Japanese National Survey of Health, the most frequent stressors are work-related problems, followed by health-related and then financial problems. Conceptually, work-related stress includes a variety of conditions, such as overwork, unemployment or job insecurity, and lack of work-family balance. Job stress has been linked to a range of adverse physical and mental health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Stressful working conditions can also impact employee well-being indirectly by directly contributing to negative health behaviors or by limiting an individual's ability to make positive changes to lifestyle behaviors, such as smoking and sedentary behavior. Over the past two decades, two major job stress models have dominated the occupational health literature: the job demand-control-support model and the effort-reward imbalance model. In both models, standardized questionnaires have been developed and frequently used to assess job stress. Unemployment has also been reported to be associated with increased mortality and morbidity, such as by cardiovascular disease, stroke, and suicide. During the past two decades, a trend toward more flexible labor markets has emerged in the private and public sectors of developed countries, and temporary employment arrangements have increased. Temporary workers often complain that they are more productive but receive less compensation than permanent workers. A significant body of research reveals that temporary workers have reported chronic work-related stress for years. The Japanese government has urged all employers to implement four approaches to comprehensive mind/body health care for stress management in the workplace: focusing on individuals, utilizing supervisory lines, enlisting company health care staff, and referring to medical resources outside the company. Good communications between occupational health practitioners and physicians in charge in hospitals/clinics help employees with psychosomatic distress to return to work, and it is critical for psychosomatic practitioners and researchers to understand the basic ideas of work-related stress from the viewpoint of occupational health.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-4-4
PMCID: PMC2882896  PMID: 20504368
19.  The ventro-medial prefrontal cortex: a major link between the autonomic nervous system, regulation of emotion, and stress reactivity? 
Recent progress in neuroscience revealed diverse regions of the CNS which moderate autonomic and affective responses. The ventro-medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) plays a key role in these regulations. There is evidence that vmPFC activity is associated with cardiovascular changes during a motor task that are mediated by parasympathetic activity. Moreover, vmPFC activity makes important contributions to regulations of affective and stressful situations.
This review selectively summarizes literature in which vmPFC activation was studied in healthy subjects as well as in patients with affective disorders. The reviewed literature suggests that vmPFC activity plays a pivotal role in biopsychosocial processes of disease. Activity in the vmPFC might link affective disorders, stressful environmental conditions, and immune function.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-2-21
PMCID: PMC2590602  PMID: 18986513
20.  Application of ecological momentary assessment in stress-related diseases 
Many physical diseases have been reported to be associated with psychosocial factors. In these diseases, assessment relies mainly on subjective symptoms in natural settings. Therefore, it is important to assess symptoms and/or relationships between psychosocial factors and symptoms in natural settings. Symptoms are usually assessed by self-report when patients visit their doctors. However, self-report by recall has an intrinsic problem; "recall bias". Recently, ecological momentary assessment (EMA) has been proposed as a reliable method to assess and record events and subjective symptoms as well as physiological and behavioral variables in natural settings. Although EMA is a useful method to assess stress-related diseases, it has not been fully acknowledged, especially by clinicians. Therefore, the present brief review introduces the application and future direction of EMA for the assessment and intervention for stress-related diseases.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-2-13
PMCID: PMC2475521  PMID: 18616833
21.  Effects of antidepressant treatment on heart rate variability in major depression: A quantitative review 
Background
The literature measuring effects of antidepressant and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for major depression on heart rate variability (HRV) in medically well individuals was reviewed.
Methods
Fourteen studies evaluating HRV were included. Twenty three pre-post or within group comparisons were available. Treatment impact on measures of HRV was pooled over studies. We examined different classes of antidepressants, and for short and long electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings separately.
Results
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) were associated with declines in most measures of HRV and significant increase in heart rate (HR) in studies with short recording intervals. No significant changes were found for longer recording times.
Treatment effects with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were more variable. Short-recording studies revealed a significant decrease in HR and an increase in one HRV measure. In two 24-hour recording studies no significant changes were observed. No relationship between ECT and HRV has been established in the literature. The effects of other drugs are reported.
Limitations
Few studies measure the effects of treatment of depression on HRV. Existing studies have generally used very small samples, employing a variety of measurements and methodologies.
Conclusion
We confirm that TCAs are associated with a large decrease in HRV and increase HR. However, data for SSRIs is not clear. Although the effect of SSRIs on HRV is weaker than for TCAs, evidence shows that SSRIs are associated with a small decrease in HR, and an increase in one measure of HRV. The use of TCAs in depression leads to changes in HRV that are associated with increased risk of mortality.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-2-12
PMCID: PMC2478652  PMID: 18590531
22.  Somatic awareness in the clinical care of patients with body distress symptoms 
The purpose of this paper is to provide primary care physicians and medical specialists with an experiential psychosomatic framework for understanding patients with body distress symptoms. The framework relies on somatic awareness, a normal part of consciousness, to resolve the dualism inherent in conventional multidisciplinary approaches. Somatic awareness represents a guiding healing heuristic which acknowledges the validity of the patient's physical symptoms and uses body sensations to identify the psychological, physiological, and social factors needed for symptom self-regulation. The experiential approach is based on psychobiologic concepts which include bodily distress disorder, central sensitization, dysfunctional breathing, and contextual nature of mood.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-2-6
PMCID: PMC2288613  PMID: 18291028
23.  The empathic brain and its dysfunction in psychiatric populations: implications for intervention across different clinical conditions 
Empathy is a concept central to psychiatry, psychotherapy and clinical psychology. The construct of empathy involves not only the affective experience of the other person's actual or inferred emotional state but also some minimal recognition and understanding of another's emotional state. It is proposed, in the light of multiple levels of analysis including social psychology, cognitive neuroscience and clinical neuropsychology, a model of empathy that involves both bottom-up and top-down information processing underpinned by parallel and distributed computational mechanisms. The predictive validity of this model is explored with reference to clinical conditions. As many psychiatric conditions are associated with deficits or even lack of empathy, we discuss a limited number of these disorders including psychopathy/antisocial personality disorders, borderline and narcissistic personality disorders, autistic spectrum disorders, and alexithymia. We argue that future clinical investigations of empathy disorders can only be informative if behavioral, dispositional and biological factors are combined.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-1-22
PMCID: PMC2206036  PMID: 18021398
24.  Clinical application of somatosensory amplification in psychosomatic medicine 
Many patients with somatoform disorders are frequently encountered in psychosomatic clinics as well as in primary care clinics. To assess such patients objectively, the concept of somatosensory amplification may be useful. Somatosensory amplification refers to the tendency to experience a somatic sensation as intense, noxious, and disturbing. It may have a role in a variety of medical conditions characterized by somatic symptoms that are disproportionate to demonstrable organ pathology. It may also explain some of the variability in somatic symptomatology found among different patients with the same serious medical disorder. It has been assessed with a self-report questionnaire, the Somatosensory Amplification Scale. This instrument was developed in a clinical setting in the U.S., and the reliability and validity of the Japanese and Turkish versions have been confirmed as well.
Many studies have attempted to clarify the specific role of somatosensory amplification as a pathogenic mechanism in somatization. It has been reported that somatosensory amplification does not correlate with heightened sensitivity to bodily sensations and that emotional reactivity exerts its influence on somatization via a negatively biased reporting style. According to our recent electroencephalographic study, somatosensory amplification appears to reflect some aspects of long-latency cognitive processing rather than short-latency interoceptive sensitivity.
The concept of somatosensory amplification can be useful as an indicator of somatization in the therapy of a broad range of disorders, from impaired self-awareness to various psychiatric disorders. It also provides useful information for choosing appropriate pharmacological or psychological therapy. While somatosensory amplification has a role in the presentation of somatic symptoms, it is closely associated with other factors, namely, anxiety, depression, and alexithymia that may also influence the same. The specific role of somatosensory amplification with regard to both neurological and psychological function should be clarified in future studies. In this paper, we will explain the concept of amplification and describe its role in psychosomatic illness.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-1-17
PMCID: PMC2089063  PMID: 17925010
25.  Age and gender differences of psychogenic fever: a review of the Japanese literature 
Background
Psychogenic fever is one of the most common psychosomatic diseases. Patients with psychogenic fever have acute or persistent body temperature above normal range in psychologically stressful situations. In spite of numerous case reports on psychogenic fever, there are few epidemiological studies. Therefore, our goal was to investigate the age distribution and gender differences of psychogenic fever in Japan.
Methods
To achieve this goal, we searched Medline and Ichushi WEB, a Japanese medical database, and added other publications that were not included in these databases. Thus, we reviewed 195 Japanese cases of psychogenic fever published in 62 papers.
Results
Psychogenic fever patients ranged from 3 to 56 years old, with the highest number of cases occurring in 13 year-olds in both sexes. The male: female ratio of 1: 1.19 suggested a slight predominance of female cases. Psychogenic fever accounted for 18% of fever cases of unknown origin in children and 2–6% of the psychosomatic diseases of pediatric patients. Patients with psychogenic fever were not only found in pediatrics departments, but also in psychosomatic medicine, psychiatry, internal medicine, anesthesiology, dentistry, and obstetrics/gynecology departments.
Conclusion
The age of psychogenic fever patients ranged from 3 to 56 years old and the male: female ratio was 1:1.19. Psychogenic fever is seen especially in adolescence in Japan.
doi:10.1186/1751-0759-1-11
PMCID: PMC1888691  PMID: 17511878

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