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August 31, 2000


WPIC studying interventions for grieving elders

A Pitt research study at UPMC Health System's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) seeks to determine if recently widowed seniors can avoid becoming depressed by receiving counseling that helps them maintain good sleep habits and a regular and active daily schedule.

The new study hopes to expand on earlier WPIC findings that discovered bereaved people who maintained many regular daily activities were less likely to succumb to depression over a two-year period than those who withdrew or gave up regular activities such as preparing a nightly meal, visiting friends or taking a daily walk in the park.

In the current study, WPIC researchers will provide widowed seniors with an intervention that includes healthy sleep practices and social rhythm therapy that together emphasize the benefits of remaining active despite their loss. They will then track their daily routines using a tool called the Social Rhythm Metric, a daily questionnaire participants fill out that asks them to list the times of important activities, like getting out of bed, eating meals and their first contact with another individual. Investigators will monitor the sleep, biological clock and mood of participants before and after the six-month intervention.

"The devastating loss of a spouse often leads to a disruption in or withdrawal from daily routines, which can impact the quality of sleep and lead to depression and other health problems," said Timothy Monk, a professor of psychiatry at Pitt's School of Medicine. "Regular activities, like getting out of bed at the same time each day, having lunch at noon or meeting friends for coffee at the same time every day serve as time cues that help regulate the body's internal clock. The danger for bereaved elderly is that when a spouse dies, the survivor may not have the motivation to maintain their same schedule. When these time cues are interrupted, the body clock begins to go out of whack, leading to trouble sleeping, decreased energy, problems concentrating and possibly depression."

Researchers are seeking men or women over the age of 65 who lost their spouse within the past two to three months. Along with the six-month intervention, volunteers will receive three sleep evaluations at UPMC in Oakland, each lasting 72 hours. Those who complete the study will be paid $600. For more information, call 624-7938. Calls are confidential.


Transplants of cells found to be feasible, safe in stroke patients

Cell transplantation was found to be safe and feasible in stroke patients, according to Pitt researchers in a study published in the journal Neurology.

They also reported that half of the patients who underwent neuronal transplantation following stroke showed improvement in motor function. PET scan results also suggest cell viability as evidenced by increased metabolic activity in the area of the stroke was seen in six patients.

The phase I study evaluated the safety and clinical effects of an experimental treatment aimed at reversing neurological deficits from stroke through implantation of human neuronal cells in 12 stroke patients.

Principal investigators in the study were Douglas Kond-ziolka, professor of neurological surgery and radiation oncology at Pitt's Department of Neurological Surgery, and Lawrence Wechsler, professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Pitt's School of Medicine and director of the UPMC Health System Stroke Institute.

Study participants varied in age from 44 to 74 years.


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