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A 'Depression Vaccine' Could Prevent The Effects Of PTSD On Returning Soldiers

The prevention, rather than treatment, of mental illness is a groundbreaking approach

In groundbreaking news that could easily serve as the premise of a direct-to-video action movie, a Columbia University researcher has made a promising development in the fight against post-traumatic stress disorder that affects countless Americans and a disproportionate number of soldiers and veterans.

Neuroscientist Rebecca Brachman set out to address the efficacy of ketamine—a powerful psychotropic substance—as an antidepressant through experimentation with lab mice. However, since any effects of the drug wore off after a matter of hours, its utility in real-life situations seemed virtually nonexistent.


When those same subject mice were studied in another experiment to monitor how they cope with chronic stress conditions, Brachman was surprised to see that the animals treated earlier with ketamine exhibited virtually none of the depressive behavior that typically results. Subsequent reexamination and iterations of the experiment led to the same result.

It’s this subsequent depression and mental illness that plagues many PTSD sufferers, and while reactive treatment for the affliction has been the focus of much study and progress, the indication here is that this study could serve as the foundation for a new drug that could prevent the effects of PTSD before trauma is ever encountered.

Speculatively, such a drug could be administered to aid workers and soldiers in combat regions to help fight a battle against PTSD that has cost hundreds of millions of dollars per year with mixed results.

Brachman explained at a TED conference that any preemptive measures taken are further beneficial in light of the stigma surrounding mental illness and those affected:

“I think once we have treatments for diseases, or preventions for them, it really changes the conversation. Things are stigmatized in part when there’s nothing you can do about it. They’re also mythologized when there’s nothing you can do about it. From my experience, it’s more common than not. I’ve shifted my perspective from some people have mental illnesses to almost everyone I’ve ever met has had some direct experience.”

Of course, just as the drug sounds like a science-fiction-based godsend for doing good, should the developed drugs pass muster, there are equally dystopian questions surrounding the development. For instance, ketamine is a powerful synthetic drug that is used recreationally under the street name Special K, known to produce short- and long-term mental issues in those who use it.

Further, since the drug has been bandied as preventing PTSD in soldiers, it’s not hard to see a government using this to move one step closer to the “super soldier” archetype that’s prevalent in fiction. Brachman addressed this by saying she’s not seeking to “make super soldiers without empathy,” but rather offer an effective alternative to a subset of people who may be predisposed to depression or PTSD.

When viewed in a broader context of medicine, many are championing Brachman’s work here because it strives to treat mental illness in the same way other diseases are—in a proactive manner rather than in a reactive one. She spoke to this point by stating, “How quickly we get any of these treatments will depend on how as a society we prioritize it. If this is a problem that’s affecting that number of people … if other people can stand up and say ‘This is important; we have to do something,’ it gives urgency to that aspect of the conversation.”

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via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

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Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

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September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

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Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

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Science