Lecture: Therapy IV
Reading Assignment 31:
Biological Treatments
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The thirty-first reading assignment introduces students to three types of Biological Treatments and some of what they entail. The three types of Biological Treatments are Psychosurgery, Psychotropic Medication, and Electroconvulsive Therapy. As with most issues in Psychology, there are different viewpoints on how to approach human behavior.

Early Biological Treatments
The first form of Biological Treatment discussed is no longer performed. It is a form of psychosurgery more popularly known as Lobotomy. Despite this procedure being controversial since its discovery, the pioneering physician earned a Nobel Prize, and more than 20,000 procedures were performed in the United States alone in a little more than a 20 year period. The decrease and termination of its use can be attributed to the rise of the Antipsychotic Medications in the 1950’s, a form of Psychotropic Medication.

Psychotropic Medications
There are four types of prescription drugs or Psychotropic Medications that can be prescribed by physicians. Psychotropic Medications are drugs that hold therapeutic benefits to the individual. The four types of Psychotropic Medications are: Antipsychotic Medications, Antidepressant Medications, Mood-Stabilizing Medications, and Antianxiety Medications. Physicians’ dependence on Psychotropic Medications, to me, has created a new meaning for the phrase, “take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” While popular media implies that it is used to brush off mundane issues (Wiki Answers), it does beg the question about what is considered mundane for most physicians. Do physicians want to deal with psychological issues or would they prefer to prescribe you a medication rather than counsel you? Research suggests that Psychotropic Medications act in one of three ways on the individual; however, sometimes much of what we learn about them is through trial and error.

Antipsychotic Medications. The first type of Psychotropic Medications is Antipsychotic Medications. These drugs have the ability to relieve patients of Delusions, Hallucinations, and Loosening of Association often associated with Psychoses. They also have a highly sedative effect on the individual, which may have led to its misuse when first discovered; it has the ability to turn the most violent of individuals into docile patients. The highly sedative nature of these drugs resulted in them being referred to as Major Tranquilizers. The possibility that they may have been over prescribed is exacerbated by the fact that they were later found to cause Tardive Dyskinesia with long-term usage. The characteristics of Tardive Dyskinesia resemble many facets of Parkinson's Disease, as both are associated with the functioning of Dopamine.

Antidepressant Medications. The second type of Psychotropic Medication is Antidepressants Medications, which has many different classes of their own. This textbook, however, will address only three of those classes: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), and Tricyclic Antidepressants. The first class of Antidepressant Medications is a true testament to the beauty of synthesized medication. Side-effects of medications come from prescribed medications impacting other aspects of the body and or brain that cause undesired changes; SSRIs are a type of synthesized drug designed to target precise psychological functioning. This results in increased effectiveness and decreased unnecessary side-effects. The second class is very similar to the first class; the last class, Tricyclic Antidepressants, is not prescribed as frequently any more due to the reduction of side-effects gained with the newer synthesized medications. It was extremely popular in the 1950 (Wikipedia).

Mood-Stabilizing Medications.

Antianxiety Medications. The fourth type of Psychotropic Medication is Antianxiety Medications. These type of medications might also be referred to as Anxiolytics or Minor Tranquilizers. While many forms of Anxiolytics exist, Benzodiazepines are by far the most popular form used in the United States. They prove to be extremely effective for short-term treatments and in moderate doses, as higher doses have adverse hypnotic properties. They also tend to be both physiologically (i.e., see Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome) and psychologically addictive. The psychological addiction is of greater concern to Psychologist, as the intent is to improve the lifestyle of the patient rather than induce a dependence on medication. The likelihood of the psychological dependence is greatly increased if no therapeutic intervention is coupled with the use of this type of medication.

Modern Biological Treatments
Several forms of psychosurgery are still used today. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is a form of psychosurgery that dates as far back as Lobotomy. The history behind ECT is almost as interesting as the procedure itself. Although he did not invent the procedure, Ladislas J. Meduna (aka Von Meduna) dedicated a great deal of his professional career to further developing Electroconvulsive Therapy. Meduna’s use for ECT was to appease symptoms for Schizophrenia; he hypothesized that increasing the low levels of Glial Cells in Schizophrenic patients by inducing seizures could have therapeutic benefits. Early efforts provided promising results, which were duplicated by him and at other centers and resulted in it being dubbed the first effective treatment for Schizophrenia. It was later abandoned as a treatment for Schizophrenia, but it is still used today to treat severe cases of Depression. Perhaps the greatest drawback of ECT is Memory loss. However, the development of Unilateral Treatments of Electroconvulsive Therapy minimized the likelihood of Memory loss and seizures.

The last form of psychosurgery discussed in this reading assignment is the Corpus Callosotomy. This procedure is used to treat patients that experience severe seizures, which would interfere with everyday psychological functioning. As stated earlier (See The Great Divide segment of Reading Assignment 7), the Brain has two distinct Hemispheres separated by the Corpus Callosum. The Corpus Callosotomy is a procedure that severs the primary means of communicating between Hemispheres. This is done to isolate electrical activity associated with a seizure to one Hemisphere.

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