Chapter 4. The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology

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By R. Douglas Fields San Diego—Would we have Poe’s Raven today if the tormented author had taken lithium to suppress his bipolar illness? Not likely, considering the high frequency of psychiatric illnesses among writers and artists, concluded psychiatrist Kay Jamison of Johns Hopkins Medical School speaking last week at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego. Madness electrifies the creative process, Jamison concluded, but this difficult drug-use dilemma raises an even more provocative question: Would we have Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds had the Beatles not taken LSD? Lord Tennyson, Virginia Woolf and Vincent Van Gogh are familiar examples of artists and writers who suffered serious mental illnesses, but Jamison explained that psychiatric illness was the cruel engine of their creativity. Tracing their family pedigrees, she showed that many of these artists’ siblings, parents and descendants were institutionalized in mental hospitals, committed suicide, or endured life-long struggles with mania, despair, schizophrenia or other mental disorders. The genetic backbone to mental illness is strong. Ernest Hemingway and his supermodel granddaughter Margaux Hemingway both killed themselves. Separated from one another in environment and experience by a generation, their fates were inevitably tethered by their DNA. In all, seven members of the Hemingway family died at their own hand. This raises the question of why the genes of such devastating brain dysfunctions should persist in the human gene pool. Statistics show that among all categories of creative artists, writers suffer by far the highest incidence of bipolar disorder, outstripping all other artistic professions. Why? Jamison concludes that the manic phase of bipolar disorder infuses the writer with furious energy and limitless stamina. The author foregoes sleep, is driven to take daring risks, expands their imagination and embraces grandiose thinking. © 2013 Scientific American

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Aggression
Link ID: 18961 - Posted: 11.23.2013

By Evelyn Boychuk, Ever since Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted to having smoked crack cocaine, various city councillors and media observers have publicly advised him to seek drug counselling. But in a CNN interview that aired Nov. 18, Ford continued to stand by his message: “I’m not an addict.” The ongoing saga of the mayor’s crack use has raised unanswered questions about how addictive the drug really is. It’s been commonly accepted that crack is more addictive than other drugs, but addictions researchers and drug counsellors say it’s hard to compare the addictiveness of specific substances because drug-taking is a highly individual experience. Robin Haslam, director of operations and procedures for Addiction Canada, says that he has never met someone who can “just casually smoke crack.” However, people have different thresholds of addiction. “I know people who have used crack once, and never touched it again. I also know people who smoked marijuana once, and became very impaired,” he says. Carl Hart, author of High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society, told CBC Radio’s Day 6 that crack “is not uniquely addictive, or it’s not something that is special, as we have all been taught.” Hart said that the percentage of people that become addicted to crack is lower than most think. “For example, 10 to 20 per cent of people will become addicted — that means that 80 to 90 per cent of people won’t become addicted.” © CBC 2013

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 18953 - Posted: 11.21.2013

Jessica Wright A tiny fiber-optic probe inserted into the reward center of the mouse brain monitors how the mouse feels about meeting a peer — or a golf ball. The unpublished technique was presented last week at the at the 2013 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego. Mice feel the most satisfaction when sniffing another mouse’s rear and when walking away from a golf ball, the study found. The new technique is one of only a few ways to read the electrical activity of neurons in freely moving mice and is the most noninvasive, making it ideal for monitoring social interactions. The method takes advantage of a fluorescent molecule that lights up only in the presence of calcium, which rushes into the cell when neurons fire. The researchers used mice engineered to express this molecule only in neurons that make dopamine — the chemical messenger that mediates a sense of reward — in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). The researchers placed the cable in the VTA, the source of most of the brain’s dopamine neurons. The fiber-optic cable is 400 micrometers in diameter, and could probably be half that size, says Lisa Gunaydin, who developed the method as a graduate student in Karl Deisseroth’s lab at Stanford University in California. When neurons expressing the fluorescent molecule fire, the cable reads these as a series of spikes. In the study, the researchers gave thirsty mice sweet water and, as expected, their dopamine activity in the VTA spiked each time they drank. When the mice interact with a new mouse, or a golf ball, the dopamine neurons fire more on the first encounter but dull with repeated visits, suggesting that the mice are most excited by novelty. © Copyright 2013 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 18949 - Posted: 11.21.2013

By BARRY MEIER Addiction experts protested loudly when the Food and Drug Administration approved a powerful new opioid painkiller last month, saying that it would set off a wave of abuse much as OxyContin did when it first appeared. An F.D.A. panel had earlier voted, 11 to 2, against approval of the drug, Zohydro, in part because unlike current versions of OxyContin, it is not made in a formulation designed to deter abuse. Now a new issue is being raised about Zohydro. The drug will be manufactured by the same company, Alkermes, that makes a popular medication called Vivitrol, used to treat patients addicted to painkillers or alcohol. In addition, the company provides financial support to a leading professional group that represents substance abuse experts, the American Society of Addiction Medicine. For some critics, the company’s multiple roles in the world of painkillers is troubling. Dr. Gregory L. Jones, an addiction specialist in Louisville, Ky., said he had long been concerned about financial links between the group and the drug industry, adding that the Zohydro situation amplified those potential conflicts. Dr. Stuart Gitlow, the current president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, said he had been unaware until now of Alkermes’s involvement with Zohydro. Dr. Gitlow, who is affiliated with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said that the group would seek more information from Alkermes about the situation and then decide what, if anything, to do next. Officials of Alkermes appear to recognize the issue they face. In recent years, the company has been trying to increase sales of Vivitrol, a form of a drug called naltrexone, that is used to treat both alcoholism and opioid addiction. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Aggression
Link ID: 18931 - Posted: 11.16.2013

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA—Compulsive gamblers aren’t necessarily greedier than the rest of us—their brains may just be wired to favor money over sex. That’s the conclusion of a study presented here today at the Society for Neuroscience conference. This tendency to prioritize money over more basic desires resembles other addictions like alcoholism, researchers say, and could point toward new therapies. Of the millions of people who gamble for fun or profit, about 1% to 2% qualify as pathological gamblers. They can't quit despite encountering serious negative consequences—going into debt, damaging relationships, and even smashing up slot machines and getting arrested when the habit gets out of control. This inability to stop even after sustained loss is one reason gambling recently became the first behavioral addiction to be recognized by psychiatry's most frequently used diagnostic manual, the DSM-5, says Guillaume Sescousse, a neuroscientist at the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands who led the new study. After all, he says, professional poker players can play for 10 hours a day and not be considered addicts—so long as they can stop when their luck runs out. Researchers have long hypothesized that the basis for gambling addiction might be hypersensitivity to the highs of winning money, caused by dysfunctional wiring in neural circuits that process reward. Studies have produced conflicting results, however, so Sescousse decided to investigate an alternative hypothesis. He wondered if instead of being overly sensitive to monetary reward, compulsive gamblers were less sensitive to other rewarding things, like alcohol and sex. © 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Aggression
Link ID: 18929 - Posted: 11.14.2013

Heavy smokers who regularly puffed more than a packet of cigarettes a day cut down or quit for six months after their brains were stimulated with magnets, researchers say. The apparent success of the simple procedure has led the scientists to organise a large-scale trial which will launch early next year at 15 medical centres worldwide. Smokers in the pilot study had already tried anti-smoking drugs, nicotine gum and patches or psychotherapy to no avail, raising hopes that magnetic stimulation might offer an effective alternative for those who want to give up but have so far failed. Nearly half of the smokers in one group, who received high-frequency magnetic pulses, quit after a three-week course of stimulation, with more than a third still abstaining six months on. "This is a new approach to the problem," said neuroscientist Abraham Zangen of Ben-Gurion University in Israel. "These are heavy smokers who could not stop smoking before." More trials will be needed to prove the value of the procedure, which scientists say should only be offered within a psychotherapy-based programme designed specifically for smokers. For the pilot study, Zangen recruited 115 people aged 21-70 who smoked at least 20 a day. Only those who had tried to give up before using at least two methods were allowed to take part in the programme. The smokers were divided into three groups. The first had 15 minutes of high-frequency magnetic stimulation every weekday for two weeks, followed by three sessions in the third week. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 18921 - Posted: 11.13.2013

By Julianne Chiaet Kate wanted to die. She remembers the moment the psychiatrist said “the antidepressant isn’t going to work right away. Can you promise to be here next week and not kill yourself?” “I told her no,” Kate says. “I couldn’t promise my doctor I’d make it a week. That’s how bad my life had to be before I got help. When you’re struggling to stay alive every single day, and then your doctor tells you it’s going to take two to six weeks before the medications they give you are going to work, it’s devastating.” To make matters worse, after those weeks, the drug didn’t work. Kate went through five different anti-depressants over the course of six months before confirming that none of them worked. The debilitating disorder kept her out of school for extended periods of time. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates more than 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 12 took antidepressants between 2005 and 2008, the last time period for which the data are available. The rate of antidepressant use increased 400 percent from 1998 to 2008. Traditional antidepressants go after serotonin neurotransmitters, which sit in the membrane of the brain. Some antidepressants also target norepinephrine and dopamine. The drug keeps the transmitters from performing their normal function of transporting serotonin from the outside to the inside of the brain cells. People with depression have a normal amount of serotonin inside of their brain cells, however they have an insufficient amount on the outside of their cells. Thus by inhibiting the transmitter, the drug blocks the transportation of serotonin being taken into the cell, thus building up the serotonin outside of the cell. © 2013 Scientific American

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 18919 - Posted: 11.13.2013

by Ashley Yeager The compound that gives mold its musty smell can cause changes in fruit flies’ brains that mimic those of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Scientists do not know the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease, but studies have shown that exposure to human-made chemicals may be a risk factor for developing the movement disorder. Now researchers have found that the chemical 1-octen-3-ol, which mold naturally emits, kills flies’ brain cells that transmit dopamine, a compound involved in controlling movement. The mold molecule also reduces dopamine levels in the flies’ brains. In experiments with human cells, the mold chemical also blocked the cells from taking in dopamine, researchers report November 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The results offer insight into cases of movement problems that doctors have associated with fungi exposure, the scientists say. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Keyword: Movement Disorders; Aggression
Link ID: 18911 - Posted: 11.12.2013

By ANDREW HIGGINS BRUSSELS — Facing a decision on whether to impose tight restrictions on a booming market for electronic cigarettes, members of the European Parliament received a pleading letter in September that was signed by thousands of former smokers worried that “the positive story of e-cigarettes may be about to come to an abrupt halt.” The signatures had been collected via a website, saveecigs.com, which proclaimed itself the voice of the “forgotten millions in this debate” — people who had taken up e-cigarettes to stop smoking, and their grateful families. The website, however, was not quite the grass-roots effort it claimed to be. The text of the letter it asked people to sign was drafted by a London lobbyist hired by Totally Wicked, an e-cigarette company. The website had been set up by a British woman living in Iceland who had previously worked for the owners of Totally Wicked. As the headquarters of the European Union, Brussels sets regulatory standards that resonate around the world. It rivals Washington as a focus for corporate lobbying, with an estimated 30,000 professional lobbyists with registered lobbying firms and thousands more who operate beneath the radar. In this case, a determined lobbying campaign, marrying corporate interests in a fledgling but fast-growing industry with voices elicited from the general public, was aimed at a compelling public health issue: whether e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine without burning tobacco, should be regulated as medicinal products, just as nicotine patches are. The stakes were substantial. Although e-cigarettes have not been linked to any serious health issues, they have been in widespread use for such a short time that researchers have no basis yet for determining if there are long-term risks. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 18903 - Posted: 11.10.2013

By JACKIE CALMES and ROBERT PEAR WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday will complete a generation-long effort to require insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction just like physical illnesses when it issues long-awaited regulations defining parity in benefits and treatment. The rules, which will apply to almost all forms of insurance, will have far-reaching consequences for many Americans. In the White House, the regulations are also seen as critical to President Obama’s program for curbing gun violence by addressing an issue on which there is bipartisan agreement: Making treatment more available to those with mental illness could reduce killings, including mass murders. In issuing the regulations, senior officials said, the administration will have acted on all 23 executive actions that the president and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced early this year to reduce gun crimes after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. In planning those actions, the administration anticipated that gun control legislation would fail in Congress as pressure from the gun lobby proved longer-lasting than the national trauma over the killings of first graders and their caretakers last Dec. 14. “We feel actually like we’ve made a lot of progress on mental health as a result in this year, and this is kind of the big one,” said a senior administration official, one of several who described the outlines of the regulations that Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, will announce at a mental health conference on Friday in Atlanta with the former first lady Rosalynn Carter. While laws and regulations dating to 1996 took initial steps in requiring insurance parity for medical and mental health, “here we’re doing full parity, and we’ve also taken steps to extend it to the people covered in the Affordable Care Act,” the senior official said. “This is kind of the final word on parity.” © 2013 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Aggression
Link ID: 18901 - Posted: 11.09.2013

By DAN FROSCH DENVER — Marijuana proponents scored significant victories on Tuesday as voters around the country passed ballot measures decriminalizing marijuana possession and approved regulatory taxes on the drug. In Colorado, voters backed a heavy tax on recreational marijuana, which was made legal here last year. The tax will pay for the cost of overseeing the state’s marijuana industry as well as school construction. Voters in three Michigan cities approved measures legalizing the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults on private property, following Detroit and Flint, which passed similar measures last year. And voters in Portland, Me., passed an ordinance legalizing the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by adults over 21, making it the first East Coast city to pass such a law, advocates said. The victories are widely seen as fuel for the legalization movement, which has chipped away at state drug laws over the past decade and has vowed to push for more changes from state legislatures. “A majority of Americans now agree that marijuana should be legal for adults, and this was reflected at the polls,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, one of the main groups behind the legislative initiatives across the country. “There is clearly momentum behind marijuana policy reform,” Mr. Tvert said. “We expect to see these kinds of measures passing across the nation over the next several years.” © 2013 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 18881 - Posted: 11.07.2013

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said Tuesday that he had smoked crack cocaine, probably "in one of my drunken stupors," about a year ago. Here’s a look at the drug that can rapidly produce a high, some of the ways it can affect an individual’s behaviour and health, its legal status and other instances of high-profile use. What is crack cocaine? Crack cocaine is a chemically processed form of cocaine, a stimulant drug made into a white powder from leaves of coca bushes growing in the Andes Mountains of South America. To make crack, the white crystalline cocaine powder — cocaine hydrochloride — is dissolved and boiled in a mixture of water and ammonia or baking soda. When that cools into a solid substance, small pieces, often called "rocks," are formed, according to a 2009 RCMP report on "The Illicit Drug Situation in Canada." How is it used? Cocaine is injected or snorted. Crack cocaine is usually smoked, often in a glass pipe, although it can also be injected. The word "crack" comes from the distinctive sound heard when the substance heats up. When crack is heated and inhaled, the vapours are absorbed through the lungs and into the bloodstream, according to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. A high from smoking crack could last five to 10 minutes, says the institute, compared to 15 to 30 minutes for a high from snorting cocaine. © CBC 2013

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 18876 - Posted: 11.06.2013

By Ferris Jabr When Shirley was in her mid-20s she and some friends road-tripped to Las Vegas on a lark. That was the first time she gambled. Around a decade later, while working as an attorney on the East Coast, she would occasionally sojourn in Atlantic City. By her late 40s, however, she was skipping work four times a week to visit newly opened casinos in Connecticut. She played blackjack almost exclusively, often risking thousands of dollars each round—then scrounging under her car seat for 35 cents to pay the toll on the way home. Ultimately, Shirley bet every dime she earned and maxed out multiple credit cards. “I wanted to gamble all the time,” she says. “I loved it—I loved that high I felt.” In 2001 the law intervened. Shirley was convicted of stealing a great deal of money from her clients and spent two years in prison. Along the way she started attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings, seeing a therapist and remaking her life. “I realized I had become addicted,” she says. “It took me a long time to say I was an addict, but I was, just like any other.” Ten years ago the idea that someone could become addicted to a habit like gambling the way a person gets hooked on a drug was controversial. Back then, Shirley's counselors never told her she was an addict; she decided that for herself. Now researchers agree that in some cases gambling is a true addiction. In the past, the psychiatric community generally regarded pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction—a behavior primarily motivated by the need to relieve anxiety rather than a craving for intense pleasure. In the 1980s, while updating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association (APA) officially classified pathological gambling as an impulse-control disorder—a fuzzy label for a group of somewhat related illnesses that, at the time, included kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hairpulling). In what has come to be regarded as a landmark decision, the association moved pathological gambling to the addictions chapter in the manual's latest edition, the DSM-5, published this past May. © 2013 Scientific American

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 18875 - Posted: 11.06.2013

By Bradley E. Alger, Ph.D. Cannabis, derived from a plant and one of the oldest known drugs, has remained a source of controversy throughout its history. From debates on its medicinal value and legalization to concerns about dependency and schizophrenia, cannabis (marijuana, pot, hashish, bhang, etc.) is a hot button for politicians and pundits alike. Fundamental to understanding these discussions is how cannabis affects the mind and body, as well as the body’s cells and systems. How can something that stimulates appetite also be great for relieving pain, nausea, seizures, and anxiety? Whether its leaves and buds are smoked, baked into pastries, processed into pills, or steeped as tea and sipped, cannabis affects us in ways that are sometimes hard to define. Not only are its many facets an intrinsically fascinating topic, but because they touch on so many parts of the brain and the body, their medical, ethical, and legal ramifications are vast. The intercellular signaling molecules, their receptors, and synthetic and degradative enzymes from which cannabis gets its powers had been in place for millions of years by the time humans began burning the plants and inhaling the smoke. Despite records going back 4,700 years that document medicinal uses of cannabis, no one knew how it worked until 1964. That was when Yechiel Gaoni and Raphael Mechoulam1 reported that the main active component of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC, referred to as a “cannabinoid” (like the dozens of other unique constituents of cannabis), acts on the brain by muscling in on the intrinsic neuronal signaling system, mimicking a key natural player, and basically hijacking it for reasons best known to the plants. Since the time when exogenous cannabinoids revealed their existence, the entire natural complex came to be called the “endogenous cannabinoid system,” or “endocannabinoid system” (ECS). Copyright 2013 The Dana Foundation

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 18874 - Posted: 11.06.2013

The generic anticonvulsant medication gabapentin shows promise as an effective treatment for alcohol dependence, based on the results of a 150-patient clinical trial of the medication. Conducted by scientists supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, the study found that alcohol dependent patients using gabapentin were more likely to stop drinking or refrain from heavy drinking than those taking placebo. Gabapentin is already widely prescribed to treat pain conditions and epilepsy. “Gabapentin adds to the list of existing medications that have shown promise in treating alcohol dependence,” said Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., acting director of the NIAAA. “We will continue to pursue research to expand the menu of treatment options available for alcoholism in the hopes of reaching more people.” A report of the study, led by Barbara J. Mason, Ph.D., of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, Calif., appears in the Nov. 4, 2013 edition of JAMA Internal Medicine. Dr. Mason and her colleagues randomly assigned alcohol dependent patients to receive a moderate or high dose of gabapentin (900 milligrams or 1,800 milligrams) or a placebo. Over the 12-week treatment, patients receiving the 1,800-milligram dose were twice as likely to refrain from heavy drinking (45 percent vs. 23 percent) and four times as likely to stop drinking altogether (17 percent vs. 4 percent), compared to placebo. Participants receiving gabapentin also reported improved sleep and mood and fewer alcohol cravings. The medication appeared to be well tolerated with few side effects.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 18873 - Posted: 11.05.2013

By JANE E. BRODY Marijuana has been used medically, recreationally and spiritually for about 5,000 years. Known botanically as cannabis, it has been called a “crude drug”: marijuana contains more than 400 chemicals from 18 chemical families. More than 2,000 compounds are released when it is smoked, and as with tobacco, there are dangers in smoking it. Medical marijuana clinics operate in 20 states and the District of Columbia, and its recreational use is now legal in Colorado and Washington. A Gallup poll conducted last month found that 58 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. Yet researchers have been able to do relatively little to test its most promising ingredients for biological activity, safety and side effects. The main reason is marijuana’s classification by Congress in 1970 as an illegal Schedule I drug, defined as having a potential for abuse and addiction and no medical value. American scientists seeking clarification of marijuana’s medical usefulness have long been stymied by this draconian classification, usually reserved for street drugs like heroin with a high potential for abuse. Dr. J. Michael Bostwick, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said the classification was primarily political and ignored more than 40 years of scientific research, which has shown that cellular receptors for marijuana’s active ingredients are present throughout the body. Natural substances called cannabinoids bind to them to influence a wide range of body processes. In a lengthy report entitled “Blurred Boundaries: The Therapeutics and Politics of Medical Marijuana,” published last year in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Dr. Bostwick noted that the so-called endocannabinoid system has an impact on the “autonomic nervous system, immune system, gastrointestinal tract, reproductive system, cardiovascular system and endocrine network.” Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Aggression
Link ID: 18866 - Posted: 11.04.2013

By Lindsey Konkel and Environmental Health News Insecticides commonly used in households may be associated with behavior problems in children, according to a new study by researchers in Quebec. The study is one of the first to investigate potential human health effects of pyrethroids, which are used in more than 3,500 commercial products, including flea bombs and roach sprays. The findings raise some questions about the safety of the compounds, which have replaced other insecticides with known risks to children’s brain development. Exposure to pyrethroids, which kill insects by interfering with their nervous systems, is widespread because they are used inside homes and schools, in municipal mosquito control and on farms. In the study, the urine of 779 Canadian children between the ages of 6 and 11 was tested, and their parents answered questions about each child’s behavior. Ninety-seven percent of the children had traces of pyrethroid breakdown products in their urine, and 91 percent had traces of organophosphates, another class of pesticides. A 10-fold increase in urinary levels of one pyrethroid breakdown product, cis-DCCA, was associated with a doubling in the odds of a child scoring high for parent-reported behavioral problems, such as inattention and hyperactivity. Another breakdown product, trans-DCCA, was also associated with more behavior problems, although the association was not statistically significant, meaning the finding could be due to chance. The breakdown product, trans- and cis-DCCA, is specific to certain pyrethroids – namely permethrin, cypermethrin and cyfluthrin. © 2013 Scientific American

Keyword: ADHD; Aggression
Link ID: 18862 - Posted: 11.02.2013

by Bethany Brookshire In pharmacology research, it seems like one test is never enough. If you want to test a new antidepressant, reviewers (and good logic) often demand that you use more than one test. A locomotor assay to see whether the new drug depresses or increases how much a mouse moves. A forced swim test or tail suspension test to see how it stacks up against other, known antidepressants. Does it increase swimming? Or climbing? Does it decrease immobility more or less than known antidepressants? You may want to use a chronic mild stress test, which exposes mice over a long period of time to things like mild cold, noise or light to induce stress. Does chronic exposure to your new antidepressant relieve the stress like other antidepressants do? What about responses to things like chronic bullying by other mice? Does it work then? You don’t necessarily need to run all of these tests, but you usually do need to run more than one. After all, what if the drug decreases immobility in a forced swim test, like other antidepressants, but it also makes them race around the room … because it’s cocaine? These are the kind of questions that pharmacologists end up asking. Often, to find new, potential antidepressants, for example, we end up matching them against other, known antidepressants in a series of these tests. If the drug performs well in all of them, doesn’t decrease locomotor activity but keeps the mice swimming and stops them from looking stressed after bullying, we might have something new. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013.

Keyword: Depression; Aggression
Link ID: 18859 - Posted: 10.31.2013

Melissa Dahl TODAY You know smoking doesn’t do any favors for your face – or your lungs, or your heart, or just about any other part of your body, for that matter! – but a new study of twins hints at the ways the habit makes you look older than you really are. In what is perhaps the best detail of the study, researchers used the annual Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio (the "Largest Annual Gathering of Twins in the World!") to round up the 79 identical pairs they include in the report. A panel of three plastic surgery residents compared the faces of the twins, one of which had been smoking for at least five years longer than the other. They identified a few major areas of accelerated aging in the faces of the smoking twins: The smokers' upper eyelids drooped while the lower lids sagged, and they had more wrinkles around the mouth. The smokers were also more likely to have jowls, according to the study, which was published today in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Smoking reduces oxygen to the skin, which also decreases blood circulation, and that can result in weathered, wrinkled, older-looking skin, explains Dr. Bahman Guyuron, a plastic surgeon in Cleveland, Ohio, and the lead author of the study. The logic of research like this and others like it is this: If threats of cancer, heart and lung disease, or the dangers of second- and third-hand smoke aren’t enough to get people to stop smoking, or to never start in the first place, then why not try appealing to people’s vanity? (The same tactic has been used in an attempt to warn young people away from tanning.)

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 18851 - Posted: 10.30.2013

By ADAM NAGOURNEY and RICK LYMAN LOS ANGELES — In the heart of Northern California’s marijuana growing region, the sheriff’s office is inundated each fall with complaints about the stench of marijuana plots or the latest expropriation of public land by growers. Its tranquil communities have been altered by the emergence of a wealthy class of marijuana entrepreneurs, while nearly 500 miles away in Los Angeles, officials have struggled to regulate an explosion of medical marijuana shops. But at a time when polls show widening public support for legalization — recreational marijuana is about to become legal in Colorado and Washington, and voter initiatives are in the pipeline in at least three other states — California’s 17-year experience as the first state to legalize medical marijuana offers surprising lessons, experts say. Warnings voiced against partial legalization — of civic disorder, increased lawlessness and a drastic rise in other drug use — have proved unfounded. Instead, research suggests both that marijuana has become an alcohol substitute for younger people here and in other states that have legalized medical marijuana, and that while driving under the influence of any intoxicant is dangerous, driving after smoking marijuana is less dangerous than after drinking alcohol. Although marijuana is legal here only for medical use, it is widely available. There is no evidence that its use by teenagers has risen since the 1996 legalization, though it is an open question whether outright legalization would make the drug that much easier for young people to get, and thus contribute to increased use. And though Los Angeles has struggled to regulate marijuana dispensaries, with neighborhoods upset at their sheer number, the threat of unsavory street traffic and the stigma of marijuana shops on the corner, communities that imposed early and strict regulations on their operations have not experienced such disruption. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 18840 - Posted: 10.28.2013