Can a stint in the 'fever machine' treat depression?

Madison, Wis. — The obsession was born over Chinese food with a Tibetan monk.

Dr. Charles Raison was working as an emergency room psychiatrist in Los Angeles, where he’d fallen in with a monk-turned-psychologist. Every Monday, they would have dinner at Panda Inn and talk Tibet.

One night, Raison’s companion told him about a meditation practice called “tummo,” a kind of fast track to enlightenment. Using only breathing and visualization techniques, he said, monks raised their body temperatures to feverish levels — so high that their body heat could steam dry sheets dipped in an icy Himalayan lake.

Raison was entranced. At that moment, he decided he would study how body temperature connected to feelings of bliss. That conversation would lead to decades of research — and a controversial idea for treating depression by putting patients inside a machine that induces fever. In May, his team published results of their first small clinical trial, which found that the machine eased some patients’ symptoms, at least by certain metrics.

Outside scientists aren’t convinced. But Raison believes the fever machine could help patients with intractable depression. He credits the monks for that first moment of inspiration.

“This was the craziest thing I ever did,” Raison said. “I had no funding. I had no research career. I just wanted to do this.”

Continue reading

When Mental Illness Affects Families


(CNN) -- When we lose a beloved superstar like Robin Williams to an apparent suicide and learn he had been battling severe depression before his death, it's natural to think about our own loved ones.

We might look around at our adult family members and friends who are suffering and try to get them the help they need, but what we might not see is children and adolescents can get depressed and anxious, too.

And it's more common than we probably realize.

On any given day, according to studies, it is estimated that about 2% of elementary-school-age children and about 8% of adolescents suffer from a major depression, and 1 in 5 teens has had a history of depression at some time, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

But how does a parent differentiate between what might be considered normal irritability and moodiness, especially during those teenage years, and signs that something more serious is afoot?

"I think you should start worrying ... anytime there's enough of a change when you go, 'Oh my God they don't seem like themselves,'" said Dr. Charles Raison, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

Raison says the timeline is key; parents should perk up if for two to three weeks their children are "unremittingly down," feeling hopeless and negative, if they start to withdraw from friends and activities, and if they experience dramatic changes in sleep...


Continue reading

Turn Up the Heat to Turn Down Depression?

Check out this article from the beginning of our Hyperthermia Pilot study!

Check out this article from the beginning of our Hyperthermia Pilot study!

Researchers at the University of Arizona are recruiting patients for a study exploring how heating up the body might help treat severe depression.

Led by Dr. Charles Raison, a UA associate professor of psychiatry and member of the UA's BIO5 Institute, the study will examine the use of whole-body hyperthermia as an alternative treatment for depression. The work will build on Raison's existing research, suggesting that increasing a person's core body temperature may have antidepressant effects.

"We've known for a long time that the brain affects the body – that how you think, how you feel can change how your body functions," said Raison, also the Barry and Janet Lang Associate Professor of Integrative Mental Health at the UA's John & Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences. "I have been interested for years in the opposite, which is the impact that the body has on the brain."..


Continue reading

Compassion Training as a Path to Genuine Happiness

Most of us seek happiness by approaching what we desire, avoiding what we dislike or fear…and ignoring all the rest.  Dr. Raison presents a radically different approach to enhancing well-being, one that embraces conflict and frustration as a means to produce internal changes linked to happiness. Derived from ancient Tibetan lojong Buddhist teachings, this approach has been secularized into a technique known as Cognitively-Based Compassion Training, or CBCT. Dr. Raison will introduce this technique and present evidence that compassion training has the potential to optimize emotional and physical health through a variety of interrelated effects, including improving emotional and biological stress responses, and enhancing the brain’s empathic responses to others in ways that might reduce depression.

(Starts at 7:30)

Depression a 'Powerful' Risk Factor for Heart Disease in Young Women

Young women are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or die of heart disease if they suffer from depression, a new study suggests in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“For many people, antidepressants are very beneficial and help them get rid of the depression,” said Charles L. Raison, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona. But he says treating the depression will not make cardiac disease disappear. Yet there is something that can reduce your depression and your heart health, Dr. Raison said: “Because you don’t know that treating one will treat the other, you want to treat both. The way to treat both is exercise.” 

Continue reading

UA focuses mental health symposium on moms, children

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Mental health issues affect more than the patient, especially when that patient is also a parent.

The longest running Women's Mental Health Symposium in the country took place in Tucson on Friday.

With Mother's Day around the corner, the symposium was focused on more than mom. The 13th annual Women's Mental Health Symposium, sponsored by the University of Arizona expanded to focus on children.

The experts said depression is one of the greatest health burdens in the world.

"It's somewhere between number 2 and number 5 in terms of overall health costs, and in women in the United States, it's really becoming number 1," said Dr. Charles Raison with the UA College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry...

Continue reading

Heal Yourself by Harnessing your Mind

We tend to think of medicine as being all about pills and potions recommended to us by another person—a doctor. But science is starting to reveal that for many conditions another ingredient could be critical to the success of these drugs, or perhaps even replace them. That ingredient is nothing more than your own mind.

Here are six ways to raid your built-in medicine cabinet...

Continue reading

Plane crash sole survivors wrestle with guilt -

(CNN) -- When Galaxy Airlines Flight 203 with 71 passengers and crew crashed shortly after takeoff from Reno, Nevada, in 1985, there was only one survivor: George Lamson Jr.

The CNN Films documentary "Sole Survivor," features Lamson and others who've struggled after being the only survivors of large plane crashes.

The ordeal often includes a huge emotional burden. In the film, Lamson reaches out to fellow sole survivors, who open up about their complex feelings related to survivorship.

"Why didn't my brother survive? Why didn't anybody, you know, why me?" asks Cecelia Cichan, the sole survivor of a 1987 plane crash in Michigan.

These kinds of unanswerable questions reflect our natural inclination to look for meaning in experiences, and to have our life stories make sense, said Dr. Charles Raison, CNN's mental health expert and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona.

Disasters that take the lives of everyone involved except for one may leave a survivor feeling guilty for receiving the gift of continued life when no one else did. They might not believe they deserved it, Raison said...

Continue reading


What to do if you, someone you know suffers from an eating disorder -

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -  Rapper Pitbull's song "Timber," featuring Kesha is sitting at number two on the Billboard charts.

And now, in the middle of her success, an announcement that she has an eating disorder.

In a statement to ABC news, the 26-year-old said, "I'll be unavailable for the next 30 days,seeking treatment for my eating disorder to learn to love myself again, exactly as I am."

The National Eating Disorders Association says 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. And often, people don't realize someone close to them is affected.

We talked to a local expert about what you should do.

"You've {got to} get them professional help," said Charles Raison, Associate Professor of Psychiatry. "There are people in the community who work with eating disorders, psychologists, psychiatrists, there are some very famous eating disorder programs here..."Identify a mental health expert that specifically deals with eating disorders. It's a specialized skill."

Click here for the article