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Scientists pinpoint how depression causes brain signals to go haywire – and how they can be rerouted – Euronews

Researchers at Stanford University have identified the “backward” brain signals that dim joyful emotions in depressed patients.

Researchers in the United States have finally discovered how severe depression causes an abnormal brain signal – and how powerful magnetic pulses can quickly relieve patients.

In recent decades, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has become a widespread practice around the world to treat and cure depression and other mental health conditions, but until now doctors and scientists did not fully comprehend how exactly the technique was affecting the brain.

To understand how doctors came to embrace a technique they didn’t quite master, let’s first go back to 1938, when an Italian man with paranoid schizophrenia was the first person to be given what became known as electroshock therapy (electroconvulsive therapy or ECT) with complete resolution of his symptoms.

Over time, the use of ECT expanded beyond schizophrenia to other conditions, including epilepsy, and doctors started to notice that for a few days after their seizures, patients often felt euphoric or very happy.

“And psychiatrists had the idea that, okay, what if we induced seizures for people who are very, very depressed: could that help them feel better? And that actually led to one of the most effective treatments to this day for depression, which is electroconvulsive therapy,” said Dr Anish Mitra, a postdoctoral fellow in psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford University.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – which is different to TMS – is a procedure done under general anaesthesia in which small electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. It is known to provide rapid and significant improvements for several mental health conditions, including major depressive disorder (clinical depression), one of the most severe forms of mental disorder.

But the electroconvulsive therapy was “burdensome,” said Mitra. It required general anaesthesia and attracted a significant amount of stigma. This led doctors to explore whether it was possible to only stimulate one part of the brain without having to give people such a generalised seizure.

And that’s how transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) came about in the 1980s. TMS is different to ECT, in that instead of using electric currents to induce a seizure, it works with magnetic pulses to stimulate the brain in a non-invasive way.

Still, it wasn’t quite clear exactly how TMS helped depressive patients. The leading hypothesis was that it changed the flow of neural activity in the brain, but Mitra remained sceptical – and intent on solving the mystery in the hope of unlocking more effective treatments. 

Brain signals travelling the wrong way

To source where depression was flowing in the brain, Mitra and his team recruited 33 patients who had been hospitalised with major depressive disorder.

Twenty-three of the patients received Stanford Neuromodulation Therapy (SNT) – an accelerated form of transcranial magnetic stimulation – and 10 received a sham version of it. Then they compared data from these patients with that of 85 healthy subjects without depression.

When examining brain scans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a non-invasive imaging technique used to measure and map brain activity, they found an intriguing connection.

In the brain of healthy subjects, the scientists tracked information travelling from a part of the brain that interprets sensory information, called the anterior insula, to another part that assigns a value to that sensory information, called the anterior cingulate cortex.

But in three-quarters of the participants with severe depression, “the way in which the brain was processing emotional signals became really abnormal,” Mitra told Euronews Next, adding that for them, “it was the value system – the anterior cingulate cortex – that was kind of driving things – instead of the sensory information”.

In other words, who’s the sender and who’s the receiver in the brain network seemed to really matter in terms of whether someone is depressed.

‘Depression filter’

The insight was fascinating for Mitra’s team because typically, individuals with depression are unable to experience joy or pleasure from activities that would typically make them happy, “and so you could imagine this [abnormal flow] was a kind of filter: The brain was kind of setting its reward centre to say nothing will make you happy”.

Scientists think that the transcranial magnetic stimulation probably allows resetting this abnormal flow, and once a normal directional flow is restored, the “depression filter” is turned off, Mitra said.

Not all individuals with depression exhibit the same abnormal pattern of neural activity discovered, however, and the reversed brain flow might be less common in milder cases of depression. 

However, whenever present, the abnormal neural activity can serve as a valuable biomarker and ultimately determine the most appropriate treatment for patients experiencing depression.

“The fact that we can look for this biomarker and maybe predict for whom it is going to work and not waste time matters a lot,” said Mitra, adding that an efficient diagnosis and prognosis are essential in providing timely and effective interventions for depressed patients.

The exact location of people’s emotional response networks can differ from person to person, and the identified biomarker could also help doctors determine which part of the brain they should aim at when performing transcranial magnetic stimulation.

The use of brain imaging to study how signals travel through the brain is a relatively new concept, Mitra said, but there are already significant amounts of data and brain imaging available worldwide from individuals who have and haven’t gotten better with depression.

Correlating these existing datasets can draw new valuable conclusions, “such as ‘oh, this type of depression [as seen in the brain images] responds really well to Prozac,” he explained.

While he finds the results exciting, there are still many pending questions.

“We only have access to this tiny fraction of the world’s data on what the brain looks like in depression. So I think this is exciting in terms of a lead for people to follow and see where it takes us,” he said.

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Minister Mliswa-Chikoka submits CV to contest councillor post after primaries defeat – – New

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By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent

IN a rare climbdown Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs Minister, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, who recently lost in Zanu PF parliamentary primary elections, has filed her curriculum vitae (CV) for consideration as Hurungwe Rural District councillor courtesy of the newly-introduced women’s quota.

The novel system is designed to increase the number of female politicians in the male-dominated lower-tier devolved government structure.

According to a leaked list seen by, the outgoing Hurungwe West MP becomes the latest high-profile sitting legislator to swallow her pride and submit her name to contest for councillorship.

The minister surrendered her party rights to retain the parly seat to little-known but seasoned activist, Chinjai Kambuzuma via an election result that shocked the body politick.

Mliswa-Chikoka, who doubles as party provincial chairman, was not picking calls when contacted her to confirm the development.

In her unenviable league are defeated Zanu PF Hurungwe women’s quota lawmaker, Goodluck Kwaramba, Sanyati Proportional Representation MP Josephine Shava and Mhangura MP Precious Chinhamo-Masango.


Kwaramba was beaten by Nyembezi Nyamukurira in recently-held Zanu PF internal polls while Shava, who is facing criminal charges of ballot papers robbery, lost to Andrew Kani. Chinhamo-Masango failed to retain the right to represent the former mining settlement of Mhangura after suffering heavy defeat at the hands of former Lands Minister, Douglas Mombeshora.

Kwaramba told she decided to serve the party in a lesser role.

“I don’t really see it as demoting myself, but since l failed to retain the right to keep my parliamentary seat l thought l would be useful in the role of councillor considering that l have the qualifications and experience which are qualities that lack in most women,” said Kwaramba.

In a bid to scrap political survival and remain relevant, provincial Women’s League deputy political commissar, Joylene Munduna who lost to Supa Madiro in Magunje constituency, has also offered her services as rural councillor.

In Zvimba constituency, ldah Kamushinda, who challenged Local Government Deputy Minister, Marian Chombo in Zvimba North, threw her candidature in the ring for consideration as Zvimba Rural District Council official.

Beleaguered Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi’s personal assistant and district coordinating committee (DCC) member, Denica Makota is also eyeing a seat in council while Phillipa Matunja who was walloped by Francis Mkwangwarirwa in primaries also wants a bite of the cherry.

Zvimba DCC Women’s Affairs executive, Zandile Maseko is wishful of a return as councillor after failing to make the grade in just-ended dog-eat-dog internal voting.

In Sanyati, Enia Tshuma hopes to land a councillor post courtesy of the new selection criteria meant to promote female participation in politics.

Perennial campaigner, Magrene Chidarikire submitted her CV for consideration for a Chinhoyi Municipality position after humiliation at the mercy of Women’s Affairs Deputy Minister, Jennifer Mhlanga.

Young Women for Economic Development (ED) executive member, Auxillia Chemhuru, who contested and lost to Joseph James in Chinhoyi Ward 8 local authority Zanu PF primary elections and Ruth Chikukwa, popularly known as Boko Haram, are also in the race to secure seats in Chinhoyi Municipality chambers courtesy of the quota system.

Effervescent Makonde RDC sitting councillor Martha Paul confirmed to this publication she cherishes another stint in council after losing to party provincial administration secretary, Misheck Nyarubero while National Youth League external relations secretary, Valerie Makonza put her name up for nomination as councillor.

This publication gathered CVs were sent  to the provincial command for onward transmission to Zanu PF Headquarters in Harare for vetting before polls are held to put candidates in ranking order.

Harmonised elections tallies will have a bearing on the number of female candidates each political party will second to various local authorities.

According to sources, an estimated 74 women’s quota councillor posts are up for grabs across Mashonaland West out of 185 CVs received from Zanu PF aspirants.

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CCC Masvingo councillor acquitted on incitement charge – – New

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By Staff Reporter

CITIZENS Coalition for Change (CCC) councillor for Masvingo ward 7, Richard Musekiwa has been acquitted on charges of inciting public violence and convening a ward feedback meeting without notifying the police.

Musekiwa was  acquitted Tuesday at Masvingo magistrate courts following a full trial and was represented by lawyer Collins Maboke.

The charges against Musekiwa arose after a resident was assaulted during a ward feedback meeting he had convened.

According to the State Musekiwa had breached the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act.

“Verifications were done through the police and indications were that they (police) had not authorised the meeting and this led to the arrest of the councillor,” reads part of the State outline.

However during the trail his lawyer argued that Musekiwa, as a councillor, was empowered by the Urban Councils Act to convene such meetings.

“The meeting was done at his private place of  residence and it was a statutory meeting in terms of section 101 of the Urban Councils Act,” Maboke said.

Magistrate Godwin Chizhande acquitted Musekiwa as a result of lack of merit in the State’s case.

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US actor Danny Masterson found guilty on two rape counts – BBC

Actor Danny Masterson arrives at Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 with wife Bijou Phillips Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A jury in Los Angeles has found US actor Danny Masterson guilty on two out of three counts of rape.

The star of That ’70s Show, a TV series, faces up to 30 years in prison. He was led from court in handcuffs.

Three women, all former members of the Church of Scientology, accused the actor of sexual assault at his Hollywood home from 2001-03.

Prosecutors argued Masterson had relied on his status as a prominent Scientologist to avoid accountability.

The jury of seven women and five men was unable to reach a verdict on a third count after a week of deliberations, ending up deadlocked at 8-4.

One of his victims, who was raped in 2003, said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press: “I am experiencing a complex array of emotions – relief, exhaustion, strength, sadness – knowing that my abuser, Danny Masterson, will face accountability for his criminal behavior.”

Masterson’s wife, actress and model Bijou Phillips, wept as he was led away, CBS News reports. Other family and friends sat stone-faced.

Another jury in an earlier trial was unable to reach a verdict in December 2022.

Prosecutors chose to retry Masterson and this time the judge allowed attorneys to present new evidence that had been barred from the first trial.

Though the actor was not charged with drugging his victims, the jury heard testimony that the women had been dosed before he raped them.

Masterson was first accused of rape in 2017 during the height of the #MeToo movement. He responded by saying that he had not been charged or convicted of a crime, and that in the climate at the time “it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused”.

Charges came after a three-year investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. Prosecutors did not file charges in two other cases because of insufficient evidence and the statute of limitations expiring.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued that the Church of Scientology had helped cover up the assaults – an allegation the organisation has categorically denied.

At the time of the assaults, Masterson and all three of his accusers were Scientologists. Several of the women said it took them years to come forward because Church of Scientology officials discouraged them from reporting the rape to police.

Instead, they were forced to rely on the Church’s “internal justice system”, prosecutors said.

Scientology officials told one survivor she would be kicked out of the Church unless she signed a non-disclosure agreement and accepted a payment of $400,000 (£320,000), according to prosecutors.

Judge Charlaine Olmedo allowed both sides to discuss the dogma and practices of Scientology.

But Deputy District Attorney Ariel Anson told jurors during the trial: “The Church taught his victims, ‘Rape isn’t rape, you caused this, and above all, you are never allowed to go to law enforcement.'”

Throughout the trial, the defence tried to undermine the credibility of the “Jane Does” by focusing on inconsistencies in their testimony and their supposed drive to get “revenge” against their former Church.

During closing arguments, Masterson’s defence lawyer said of the survivors: “If you are looking for motives why people are not being truthful… there are motives all over the place.”

Although the Church of Scientology was not a defendant in the case, before closing arguments began, a lawyer with ties to the Church emailed the district attorney’s office to complain about the way the Church was portrayed during the retrial.

The defence also argued that the prosecution had relied heavily on testimony about drugging because there was an absence of evidence of any force or violence.

Masterson’s lawyers tried, unsuccessfully, to have a mistrial declared.

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