New Dads’ Brains Shrink; COVID Boosters; and Open-Door Wards

New Fathers’ Brains Shrink — and That’s OK

The brains of first-time fathers appear to shrink after the birth of their child.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to new research from the Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Gregorio Marañón in Madrid, Spain, and the University of Southern California. The study was published September 4 in Cerebral Cortex.

The research compared MRIs of new fathers and a control group of childless men and found reductions in cortical gray matter.

Brain remodeling: New fathers showed remodeling in the parts of the brain linked to social cognition and theory of mind, researchers found.

Not what you think: Consolidation and reorganization in the brain streamlined the social processing area so that new parents became more efficient, developed skills associated with parenting, and formed a bond with the new child, researchers said.

Reasons to Get the Omicron Booster

Should you get the new booster against the Omicron variant of COVID-19?

There are valid reasons to do so, and a few not to, said F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE, an associate professor of medicine and director of Yale’s Clinical and Translational Research Accelerator, in a Medscape commentary.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an Omicron booster for everyone older than 12 years who is at least 2 months out from an original vaccine series or most recent booster shot and at least 90 days out from a COVID-19 infection.

Get the booster #1: If everyone got it, it would lead to fewer safe harbors for the coronavirus to jump into, maintain its presence and further mutate, regardless of the booster’s effect on the individual, Wilson argued.

Get the booster #2: The booster may not protect against the current coronavirus wave but could guard against the next variant, which is likely to be more closely related to Omicron BA.4/BA.5 than any other variant.

Don’t get it: We don’t know how good it will be at protecting people, Wilson said. The available shot is not the BA.1 booster, which increases anti-Omicron neutralizing antibody production. Rather, it is the BA.4/BA.5 booster, which has been shown to work only in mice.

Open-Door Psychiatric Wards Gain Favor

Several hospitals in Spain have set up psychiatric wards with open doors and higher accessibility.

Experiments in the United Kingdom, Australia, Switzerland, and Germany found that new forms of hospitalization led to a reduction in conflictive events; self-harm behavior; restrictive measures, such as seclusion, mechanical restraints, and chemical restraints; and forced medication.

This goes against common wisdom that keeping the doors locked prevents suicides, self-harm and abscondment. And research shows that patients isolated with mental disorders may end up having higher levels of social impairment.

Having the least restrictive type of mental health care is one of the 10 basic principles listed in a 1996 reference document from the World Health Organization.

Respecting the patient: “The open-wards model is founded on the idea of respecting the patient and their autonomy. In addition, it advocates a reduction in coercive measures,” said Ignacio García Cabeza, psychiatrist and coordinator of the Department of Psychiatry at Madrid’s Gregorio Marañón General University Hospital.

Paradigm shift: Use of open wards constitutes a paradigm shift in hospitalization toward person-centered psychiatry. The goal is to prepare a person to live in harmony with the usual environment and participate in it as does everyone else in the community.

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