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HIV Takes Greater Toll in Shy Men, Study Finds

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Being the shy, sensitive type can be hazardous to the health of people infected with the AIDS virus, new research shows. The research, published this month in the journal Biological Psychiatry, followed 54 men infected with the human immunodeficiency virus. For up to 18 months, the scientists tracked the amount of virus in the men's bodies, their levels of key immune system cells, and their body's response upon beginning to take medicine that fights AIDS.

The subjects were tested multiple times for social inhibition as well as for heightened activity in the autonomic nervous system, where physiological responses (such as a racing heartbeat) arise in situations involving fear or anxiety.

The men with higher levels of social inhibition had about eight times the amount of virus in their bodies and responded less to treatment, compared with other participants, reported the scientists, from the University of California, Los Angeles, and two other institutions. Higher levels of autonomic nervous activity appeared to be behind much of this difference, the researchers wrote.

- Karen Patterson



Bipolar disorder appears to be associated with reductions in the size of two structures deep within the brain, a new study reports. The study used magnetic resonance imaging to gauge the size of the structures the amygdala and hippocampus in 14 adolescents and 22 adults with bipolar disorder, which is also known as manic-depression. The amygdala, involved in mood and emotion, and the hippocampus, which plays a crucial role in memory, share many nerve connections.

Amygdala volume was 15 percent lower in the subjects with bipolar disorder than in a group of 56 adolescents or adults without the condition. The bipolar patients also appeared to have smaller hippocampuses, although that difference was not statistically significant.

The scientists, led by Hilary P. Blumberg of the Yale University School of Medicine, said factors such as duration of illness, rapid cycling from manic to depressive phases, or medication use did not appear to influence the measurements.

The size differences in the brain structures probably arise early in the course of illness, because findings were similar in both adolescents and adults, the researchers write in the current Archives of General Psychiatry.

- Karen Patterson


(Writers are staff members of The Dallas Morning News. Write to them at: The Dallas Morning News, Communications Center, Dallas, TX, 75265.)


(c) 2003, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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