2014–2015 Seminars

Identifying the Mechanisms Exercise-Induced Neuroplasticity in Schizophrenia Using MRI

May 27, 2015 | 11:30–1:30pm
UCLA Anthropology Reading Room, Haines Hall 352

Sarah McEwen, PhD, Assistant Research Psychologist, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA

Relationships between larger brain volumes and higher physical activity levels have been reported in samples of healthy and aging populations, but have never been explored in first-episode schizophrenia patients. One study I will highlight today is the first empirical study to examine regular physical activity habits and their relationship with brain volume and cortical thickness in patients in the early phase of schizophrenia. We collected MRI structural scans in fourteen first-episode schizophrenia patients with either self-reported low or high physical activity levels. We found a reduction in total grey matter volume, prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampal grey matter volumes in the low physical activity group compared to the high activity group. Cortical thickness in the dorsolateral and orbitofrontal PFC were also significantly reduced in the low physical activity group compared to the high activity group. In the combined sample, greater overall physical activity levels showed a non-significant tendency with better performance on tests of verbal memory and social cognition. Together these pilot study findings suggest that greater amounts of physical activity may have a positive influence on brain health and cognition in first-episode schizophrenia patients and support the development of physical exercise interventions in this patient population to improve brain plasticity and cognitive functioning. I will also discuss a novel research intervention that is currently underway which combines aerobic exercise and cognitive training in first-episode schizophrenia patients.


McEwen, S., et al. (2015).  Prefrontal and hippocampal brain volume deficits associated with low physical activity in first-episode schizophrenia patients. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.

Pajonk, F.-G., et al. (2010). Hippocampal plasticity in response to exercise in schizophrenia. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67(2), 133–43.

Bilingualism and the Mind and Brain

February 25, 2015 | 11:30–1:30pm
UCLA Anthropology Reading Room, Haines Hall 352

Ellen Bialystok, PhD, Director, Cognitive Development Laboratory, York University

For the upcoming seminar we are going to examine research regarding bilingualism and the mind/brain.  In particular, we are going to consider whether bilingualism can affect the brain in such a way to protect against cognitive decline in older age and to delay the onset of dementia.  We will watch a 40 minute video-taped talk by Ellen Bialystok, perhaps the leader in this field.  Accompanying the talk we will read two papers.  One is an overview of research written by Bialystok and colleagues.  The other is a paper based on a community based study that does not support the notion that bilingualism protects against cognitive decline.  Enjoy.


Bialystok, E., Craik, F. I. M., & Luk, G. (2012).  Bilingualism:  Consequences for mind and brain.  Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16, 240–250. (link to pdf)

Zahodne, L. B., Schofield, P. W., Farrell, M. T., Stern, Y., & Manly, J. J. (2014).  Bilingualism does not alter cognitive decline or dementia risk among Spanish-speaking immigrants. Neuropsychology, 28, 238–246. (link to pdf)

Plastic Neuroscience: Studying What the Brain Cares About

January 28, 2015 | 12–2pm
UCLA Anthropology Reading Room, Haines Hall 352

Joseph Dumit, PhD, Professor, Department of Anthropology, UC Davis.

This month we welcome Joe Dumit, director of Science and Technology Studies and professor of anthropology at UC Davis. Dr. Dumit studies how science and medicine change and how the lives of Americans, including consumers, patients, doctors and scientists also change as the nature of facts and evidence change. His first book, Picturing Personhood: Brains Scans and Biomedical America (Princeton University Press, 2004), looked at the development of PET scan brain imaging and what assumptions about brain anatomy, psychology, and human nature needed to be made in order to conduct experiments, and then how the images circulate through popular culture, courtrooms, and patients’ lives. Dumit’s second book, Drugs for Life: How Pharmaceutical Companies Define Our Health (Duke University Press, 2012), focuses on the way clinical trials are designed in ways that grow pharmaceutical treatments in the latter half of the 20th century.

Dr. Dumit will speak at our afternoon seminar and at a public talk later in the day.

Summer 2014 Fieldwork

November 19, 2014 | 11:30–1:30pm
UCLA Anthropology Reading Room, Haines Hall 352

This summer the CBDMH supported UCLA doctoral students to participate in research at 3 international sites in Mexico, India and Nepal. The following students will present next week:

Mindy Steinberg (Anthropology, UCLA) – Mexico Site –
“Siguiendo Adelante: The Implications of Family Obligation Values in the Context of Legal Status Differences for Mexican-Origin Youth.”

Page Sorensen (Anthropology, UCLA) – India Site –
“Caregiver and physician genetic testing practices for children with autism in India”

Special Guest: Kathryn Hale (Anthropology, UCLA) – Mexico –
“Psychiatric care in the state psych hospital of Puebla, Mexico.”

Towards Increasing the Psychosis Literacy of Spanish-speaking Latinos:  Considering Potential Risks in Mental Health Education Campaigns

October 22, 2014 | 11:30–1:30pm
UCLA Anthropology Reading Room, Haines Hall 352

Steve López, PhD, Co-Director, CBDMH; Professor, Department of Psychology, USC

The duration of untreated first-episode psychosis is associated with the course and treatment of psychotic disorders.  Longer duration of untreated psychosis is associated with worse clinical symptoms, limited social functioning, and poor treatment response.  Spanish-speaking Latinos may be especially at risk for long durations of untreated psychosis.  Lopez and his colleagues have recently completed the first year of a five-year project to evaluate whether a communication campaign directed at Spanish-speaking Latinos can reduce the duration of untreated psychosis.  In this talk, Lopez will first provide a brief overview of the campaign and then show a 15 minute narrative film that was recently completed to help educate the community about psychosis and the importance of getting help.  One of the readings accompanying this presentation provides an evaluation of a companion video that has been evaluated as to its efficacy and effectiveness in increasing psychosis literacy.  The other reading, a chapter from Ethan Watters book, Crazy Like Us, critiques public health campaigns that educate the Hong Kong public about anorexia.  In this book, Watters argues that “Western” notions of mental disorders contribute to the erosion of culture-specific notions of mental illness that in some cases can be helpful.  The applicability of this critique to the psychosis literacy campaign for Latinos will be considered.