Chapter 4. The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or subscribe to our mailing list, to receive news updates. Learn more.


Links 1 - 20 of 2456

Kerry Grens Nicotine can wield its effects on offspring in more ways than from exposures in utero or secondhand smoke: the sperm of mice that ingested nicotine carry epigenetic signatures of that exposure, a study published in PLOS Biology today (October 16) reports. The result might explain why the experiments also found the male mice’s offspring—and grandoffspring—exhibited abnormal behavior and learning impairments. “Until now, much attention had been focused on the effects of maternal nicotine exposure on their children,” Florida State University’s Pradeep Bhide, who led the study, tells The Boston Globe in an email. “Not much had been known about the effects of paternal smoking on their children and grandchildren. Our study shows that paternal nicotine exposure can be deleterious for the offspring in multiple generations.” To investigate paternal exposure, Bhide’s team spiked male mice’s drinking water with nicotine for 12 weeks. The researchers then bred those animals with unexposed females, and mated the offspring to produce the third generation. The second- and third-generation mice underwent a battery of cognitive and behavioral tests to see if their father’s or grandfather’s nicotine exposure had any effect. On some examinations, the mice performed typically, but they didn’t do as well on certain learning tasks as mice whose parent or grandparent had not been given nicotine. The second generation also exhibited hyperactivity and had lower levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain than the offspring of unexposed animals had. © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Epigenetics; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25588 - Posted: 10.18.2018

By Eric Schlosser In April 1906, a Republican president of the United States met privately with a notorious socialist at the White House. The president was Theodore Roosevelt; the socialist was Upton Sinclair; and the two set aside their political differences to discuss an issue of great mutual concern: food safety. A few months earlier, Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle” had created public outrage about the sanitary conditions at America’s slaughterhouses. Roosevelt had distrusted the meatpacking industry for years, angered by the putrid meat sold to the Army and served to his troops during the Spanish-American War. In 1906 the United States was the only major industrialized nation without strict laws forbidding the sale of contaminated and adulterated food. In their absence, the free market made it profitable to supply a wide range of unappetizing fare. Ground-up insects were sold as brown sugar. Children’s candy was routinely colored with lead and other heavy metals. Beef hearts and other organ meats were processed, canned and labeled as chicken. Perhaps one-third of the butter for sale wasn’t really butter but rather all sorts of other things — beef tallow, pork fat, the ground-up stomachs of cows and sheep — transformed into a yellowish substance that looked like butter. Historians have long credited the unlikely alliance of Roosevelt and Sinclair for passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. In “The Poison Squad,” Deborah Blum makes a convincing case that a now forgotten chemist at the Department of Agriculture, Harvey Washington Wiley, played a more important role — not only in ensuring the passage of those bills but also in changing popular attitudes toward government intervention on behalf of consumers. The origins of today’s food safety laws, drug safety laws, labeling requirements and environmental regulations can be found in the arguments of the Progressive movement at the turn of the last century. As the Trump administration proudly weakens or eliminates those measures, the life work of a 19th-century U.S.D.A. chemist has an unfortunate significance. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Neurotoxins
Link ID: 25582 - Posted: 10.17.2018

By Katharine Q. Seelye Fresh from completing his medical residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital in 1964, Dr. Herbert Kleber fulfilled his military obligation by volunteering for the United States Public Health Service. He expected to do research at the National Institutes of Health. But to his dismay he was assigned instead to the Public Health Service Prison Hospital at Lexington, Ky. This was the notorious “narcotics farm,” a centralized prison and drug treatment center where thousands of drug users were incarcerated at one time or another, including the actor Peter Lorre, the jazz trumpeter Chet Baker and the Beat writer William S. Burroughs, who described his experience there in his vivid novel “Junky” (1953). Dr. Kleber fulfilled his two-year obligation in place of being drafted and returned to Yale, intent on a career in psychiatry. But because he had worked at Lexington, people assumed he knew all about addiction. After all, Lexington’s Addiction Research Center was an incubator for advanced research (and was the forerunner for the National Institute on Drug Abuse). Patients, doctors and parents kept asking for his help. Finally, he gave in to what he decided was his destiny and, thanks to that unwanted detour to Lexington, went on to become one of the nation’s foremost experts in the field of drug addiction. Dr. Kleber died on Oct. 5 while vacationing in Greece with his wife, Anne Burlock Lawver, his son, Marc, and his daughter-in-law, Judith. Marc Kleber confirmed the death and said his father, who lived in Manhattan, died of a heart attack on the island of Santorini. He was 84. Dr. Kleber was a pioneer in researching the pathology of addiction and in developing treatments to help patients reduce the severe discomforts of withdrawal, avoid relapse and stay in recovery. When he began his work, in the 1970s, health care professionals were paying little attention to addiction. It was a blip in the medical school curriculum. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25576 - Posted: 10.16.2018

Jake Harper Months in prison didn't rid Daryl of his addiction to opioids. "Before I left the parking lot of the prison, I was shooting up, getting high," he says. Daryl has used heroin and prescription painkillers for more than a decade. Almost four years ago he became one of more than 200 people who tested positive for HIV in a historic outbreak in Scott County, Ind. After that diagnosis, he says, he went on a bender. But about a year ago, Daryl had an experience that made him realize he might be able to stay away from heroin and opioids. For several days, he says, he couldn't find drugs. He spent that time in withdrawal. "It hurts all over. You puke, you get diarrhea," Daryl says. His friend offered him part of a strip of Suboxone, a brand-name version of the addiction medication buprenorphine that is combined with naloxone. Buprenorphine is a long-acting opioid that is generally used to treat opioid addiction. It reduces cravings for the stronger opioids he had been taking, prevents physical withdrawal from those drugs and comes with a significantly lower risk of fatal overdose. Daryl injected the buprenorphine, and his opioid withdrawal symptoms disappeared. (Daryl is his middle name, which NPR is using to protect his identity because it is illegal to use buprenorphine without a prescription.) "At first it felt like I was high," Daryl says. "But I think that's what normal feels like now. I have not been normal in a long time." © 2018 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 25550 - Posted: 10.09.2018

By Neal Pollack AUSTIN, Tex. — My name is Neal, and I’m a marijuana addict. A year ago I wouldn’t have said that, because it would have meant giving up marijuana. I would rather have given up breathing. When I had my first cup of coffee in the morning, I pressed the little button on my vape pen, waited for the blue glow, took a huge inhale and then blew it into the mug so that I could suck in the THC and caffeine at the same time. Then I took another hit, and another. In the afternoons, I’d smoke a bowl, or pop a gummy bear, or both. At night, I got high before eating dinner or watching the ballgame. Maybe I’d stop getting stoned a little bit before bed, but what was the point? If I went to bed high, I could wake up high, too. What a time for people to get stoned! Marijuana has left the counterculture, exploded into the mainstream and transformed into a multibillion-dollar industry. Cannabis is now an essential part of any hip wellness and beauty regimen. Netflix offers a marijuana-themed cooking show. Cannabis should be legal. It has medical uses. Millions of people, most of them black and Latino men, have unjustly gone to jail for selling what should have been easily available in stores. States with the political courage to legalize it have seen their tax rolls bloom and have created thousands of jobs. Also, it’s delicious. But I’m not a child with intractable epilepsy, or a veteran with PTSD, or a person who just wants to chill a little, or Willie Nelson. Unless you count writing articles about marijuana, I’m not profiting from the industry. I’m just a middle-aged house dad with a substance-abuse problem. Like most pot addicts in denial, I spent years telling myself that marijuana isn’t addictive, and so I didn’t have a problem. But clearly I did. And I’m not the only one who suffers this way. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25538 - Posted: 10.08.2018

By Diana Kwon How do we decide what we like to eat? Although tasty foods typically top the list, a number of studies suggest preferences about consumption go beyond palatability. Scientists have found both humans and animals can form choices about what to consume based on the caloric content of food, independent of taste. Research spanning many decades has shown nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract can shape animals’ flavor preferences. One of the earliest findings of this effect dates back to the 1960s, when Garvin Holman of the University of Washington reported hungry rats preferred consuming a liquid paired with food injected into the stomach rather than a solution coupled with a gastric infusion of water. More recently Ivan de Araujo, a neuroscientist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and his colleagues have shown calories can trump palatability: Their work has demonstrated mice prefer consuming bitter solutions paired with a sugar infusion injected in the gut rather than a calorie-free sweet solution. Advertisement For years De Araujo and his group have been working to tease apart how the contents of the gut produce pleasure in the brain. In mice they have found sugar in the digestive tract can activate the brain’s reward centers. In animals bred without the ability to taste sweetness, sugary snacks still triggered activity in the ventral striatum, a brain region involved in reward processing. But according to De Araujo, the specific pathway that relayed signals between the gut and the brain remained a mystery. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Obesity; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25523 - Posted: 10.03.2018

By Jan Hoffman The Food and Drug Administration conducted a surprise inspection of the headquarters of the e-cigarette maker Juul Labs last Friday, carting away more than a thousand documents it said were related to the company’s sales and marketing practices. The move, announced on Tuesday, was seen as an attempt to ratchet up pressure on the company, which controls 72 percent of the e-cigarette market in the United States and whose products have become popular in high schools. The F.D.A. said it was particularly interested in whether Juul deliberately targeted minors as consumers. “The new and highly disturbing data we have on youth use demonstrates plainly that e-cigarettes are creating an epidemic of regular nicotine use among teens,” the F.D.A. said in a statement. “It is vital that we take action to understand and address the particular appeal of, and ease of access to, these products among kids.” F.D.A. officials described the surprise inspection as a follow-up to a request the agency made for Juul’s research and marketing data in April. Kevin Burns, Juul’s chief executive officer, said the company had already handed over more than 50,000 pages of internal documents to the F.D.A. in response to that request. “We want to be part of the solution in preventing underage use, and we believe it will take industry and regulators working together to restrict youth access,” he said. In recent months, the F.D.A. has increasingly expressed alarm over the prevalence of vaping among youths in high school and even middle school, which its commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, said had reached “epidemic proportions.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25521 - Posted: 10.03.2018

By Sarah Hepola One of the trickiest things about blackouts is that you don’t necessarily know you’re having one. I wrote a memoir, so centered around the slips of memory caused by heavy drinking that it is actually called “Blackout,” and in the years since its 2015 release, I’ve heard from thousands of people who experienced them. No small number of those notes contain some version of this: “For years, I was having blackouts without knowing what they were.” Blackouts are like a philosophical riddle inside a legal conundrum: If you can’t remember a thing, how do you know it happened? In the days leading up to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a theory arose that he might have drunk so much as a teenager that he did not remember his alleged misdeeds. The blackout theory was a way to reconcile two competing narratives. It meant that Christine Blasey Ford was telling the truth but so was Brett Kavanaugh. He simply did not remember what happened that night and therefore believed himself falsely accused. Several questions at the hearing were designed to get at this theory, but it gained little ground. I want to be clear, up front, that I cannot know whether Judge Kavanaugh experienced a blackout. But what I do know is that blackouts are both common and tragically misunderstood. Before the prosecutor Rachel Mitchell was mysteriously dispatched, she was aiming toward the above line of inquiry. “Have you ever passed out from drinking?” she asked. Kavanaugh’s answer was dismissive but slightly confusing: “I’ve gone to sleep, but I’ve never blacked out. That’s the allegation? That’s wrong.” A few clarifications. First, I dare you to find the heavy drinker who hasn’t passed out from too much booze. To say you were just sleeping is like my dad saying he’s resting his eyes when he’s napping. It’s a semantic dodge. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25514 - Posted: 10.01.2018

By Nora D. Volkow Although our society currently finds itself focused on the tragic epidemic of opioid overdoses, there remains no better example of the deadly power of addiction than nicotine. The measure of a drug’s addictiveness is not how much pleasure (or reward) it causes but how reinforcing it is—that is, how much it leads people to keep using it. Nicotine does not produce the kind of euphoria or impairment that many other drugs like opioids and marijuana do. People do not get high from smoking cigarettes or vaping. Yet nicotine’s powerful ability to reinforce its relatively mild rewards results in 480,000 deaths annually. There are probably several reasons why nicotine is so reinforcing, even if it is not as intensely rewarding as other drugs. Like other drugs, nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine in neurons that connect the nucleus accumbens with the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and other brain regions; this dopamine signal “teaches” the brain to repeat the behavior of taking the drug. The amount of dopamine released with any given puff of a cigarette is not that great compared to other drugs, but the fact that the activity is repeated so often, and in conjunction with so many other activities, ties nicotine’s rewards strongly to many behaviors that we perform on a daily basis, enhancing the pleasure and the motivation that we get from them. Smokers’ brains have learned to smoke, and just like unlearning to ride a bike, it is incredibly hard to unlearn that simple, mildly rewarding behavior of lighting up a cigarette. © 2018 Scientific America

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25508 - Posted: 09.29.2018

By Megan Thielking, Walk into Kalypso Wellness Centers in San Antonio, Texas, and you might be treated with one of five “proprietary blends” of ketamine. They’re not cheap—$495 per infusion—and not covered by insurance, but the company offers a “monthly” membership program to cut costs and advertises discounts for members of the military and first responders. Kalypso promotes ketamine, long used as an anesthetic during surgery and more recently as a club drug, as a treatment for more than two dozen conditions, including depression, chronic pain, and migraines. “Congratulations on resetting your life!!!” it cheerily tells patients on a form they’re handed after an infusion. Starting with just one office 19 months ago, Kalypso has expanded rapidly to meet surging patient demand for ketamine and now oversees two other Texas clinics and offices in North Carolina and New York. It recruits customers through online ads and radio spots, and even by visiting support groups for pain patients, people with depression, first responders, and grieving parents who have lost children. Advertisement “You name it, we’ve done it,” said clinic co-founder and anesthesiologist Dr. Bryan Clifton. An investigation by STAT shows that Kalypso’s sweeping claims are hardly uncommon in the booming ketamine treatment business. Dozens of free-standing clinics have opened across the U.S. in recent years to provide the drug to patients who are desperate for an effective therapy and hopeful ketamine can help. But the investigation found wide-ranging inconsistencies among clinics, from the screening of patients to the dose and frequency of infusions to the coordination with patients’ mental health providers. A number of clinics stray from recommendations issued last year by the American Psychiatric Association. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25500 - Posted: 09.27.2018

By Carolyn Y. Johnson and Joel Achenbach The allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh have a common element of binge drinking, and highlight the powerful effects alcohol can have on adolescents and their still-developing brains. Alcohol not only changes behavior — sometimes with disastrous consequences — it can also interfere with memory formation, creating gaps that experts refer to as blackouts. “In the moment, the person can be functioning normally, with no sign there’s going to be memory impairment. But because those memories never get consolidated and stored, it’s like they never occurred, so you can’t recall them later on,” said Kate Carey, a clinical psychologist at Brown University School of Public Health. “Which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.” Binge drinking and the imperfection of memory are likely to be discussed during Thursday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Christine Blasey Ford said the Supreme Court nominee became “stumbling drunk” and attacked her at a party in high school. Kavanaugh has denied the allegation. He also said in a television interview that he’d never had a blackout from alcohol. Binge drinking among U.S. high school students peaked in the early 1980s, when Kavanaugh was a student at Georgetown Prep. High school binge drinking has declined in recent decades in part because dozens of states, as well as the District of Columbia, raised the minimum legal drinking age to 21 in the 1980s, said Katherine Keyes, an epidemiologist at Columbia University and an expert on alcohol consumption.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 25499 - Posted: 09.27.2018

By Bret Stetka More often than not a trip to Las Vegas is not a financially sound decision. And yet every year over 40 million people hand over their cash to the city’s many towering casinos, hoping the roulette ball rattles to a stop on black. Gambling and other forms of risk-taking appear to be hardwired into our psyche. Humans at least as far back as Mesopotamia have rolled the dice, laying their barley, bronze and silver on the line, often against miserable odds. According to gambling industry consulting company H2 Gambling Capital, Americans alone lose nearly $120 billion a year to games of chance. Now a set of neuroscience findings is closer than ever to figuring out why. Ongoing research is helping illuminate the biology of risky behaviors—studies that may one day lead to interventions for vices like compulsive gambling. The recent results show an explanation is more complex than looking at dysfunctional reward circuitry, the network of brain regions that fire in response to pleasing stimuli like sex and drugs. Risking loss on a slim chance of thrill or reward involves a complex dance of decision-making and emotion. A new study by a team from Johns Hopkins University appears to have identified a region of the brain that plays a critical role in risky decisions. Published September 20 in Current Biology, the authors analyzed the behavior of rhesus monkeys, who share similar brain structure and function to our own. And like us, they are risk-takers, too. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Attention
Link ID: 25481 - Posted: 09.22.2018

Nicola Davis Alcohol is responsible for more than 5% of all deaths worldwide, or around 3 million a year, new figures have revealed. The data, part of a report from the World Health Organization, shows that about 2.3 million of those deaths in 2016 were of men, and that almost 29% of all alcohol-caused deaths were down to injuries – including traffic accidents and suicide. The report, which comes out every four years, reveals the continued impact of alcohol on public health around the world, and highlights that the young bear the brunt: 13.5% of deaths among people in their 20s are linked to booze, with alcohol responsible for 7.2% of premature deaths overall. It also stresses that harm from drinking is greater among poorer consumers than wealthier ones. While the proportion of deaths worldwide that have been linked to alcohol has fallen to 5.3% since 2012, when the figure was at 5.9%, experts say the findings make for sobering reading. A WHO alcohol-control expert, Dr Vladimir Poznyak, who was involved in the report, said the health burden of alcohol was “unacceptably large”. “Unfortunately, the implementation of the most effective policy options is lagging behind the magnitude of the problems,” he said, adding that projections suggested both worldwide alcohol consumption and the related harms were set to rise in the coming years. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25479 - Posted: 09.22.2018

Jon Hamilton Experiments with two gambling monkeys have revealed a small area in the brain that plays a big role in risky decisions. When researchers inactivated this region in the prefrontal cortex, the rhesus monkeys became less inclined to choose a long shot over a sure thing, the team reported Thursday in the journal Current Biology. "They did not like the gambles anymore," says Veit Stuphorn, an author of the study and an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University. The finding in our fellow primates adds to the evidence that human brains are capable of constantly adjusting our willingness to take risks, depending on factors such as what's at stake. "For a long time, people thought that this is like a personality trait, that some people are risk-takers and others are not," Stuphorn says. But recent research has shown that the same person who is very cautious about personal investments may be an avid bungee jumper. This study involved two monkeys that learned to play a computer game that gave them drops of juice when they won. The monkeys played voluntarily because they liked to gamble, Stuphorn says. The game offered two options. The first was a juice reward that was guaranteed, but usually small. The second was a gamble: It might bring a lot of juice, or none. The monkeys moved their eyes to indicate their choice in each round. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25477 - Posted: 09.21.2018

Aimee Cunningham Even as the country’s attention is focused on the ongoing opioid epidemic, a new study shows that the United States has had a wide-ranging drug overdose problem for decades, and it’s growing ever worse. Analyzing nearly 600,000 accidental drug poisoning deaths from 1979 to 2016 shows that the country has seen an exponential rise in these cases, with the number of deaths doubling approximately every nine years, researchers report in the Sept. 21 Science. More than 63,600 Americans died from all drug overdoses in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Numbers of accidental overdose deaths due to individual drugs, such as heroin or methamphetamine, have varied during the 38-year time period. But combining the data, from the National Vital Statistics System, produces a clear — and troubling — pattern, one that portends that the overall overdose epidemic will continue in the future, the researchers conclude. “We need to focus on the entire epidemic,” not just a particular drug, to understand what’s driving the continued growth in drug overdose deaths, says coauthor Hawre Jalal, a health policy researcher at the University of Pittsburgh. Looking at mortality rates from all drugs together, a clear pattern emerges. This exponential growth curve (dotted line) suggests the overall drug overdose epidemic will continue to grow. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25474 - Posted: 09.21.2018

By Ben Guarino If you give an octopus MDMA, it will get touchy and want to mingle. What sounds like the premise of a children’s book set at Burning Man is, in fact, the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology. Neuroscientist Gül Dölen, who studies social behavior at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and octopus expert Eric Edsinger, a research fellow at Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., bathed octopuses in the psychedelic drug and observed the result. Most humans enjoy hanging with their buds. We share this trait with animals like dogs, but not with the California two-spot octopus. Octopus bimaculoides is an asocial creature, which means it avoids other octopuses whenever possible. Put it in a tank with another octopus, and it might become aggressive or squish itself shyly against a wall. There’s one exception — during mating, this asocial behavior stops. Dölen figured that a neuromechanism was at play and wondered whether MDMA (3-4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, better known as ecstasy) could trigger that mechanism to switch the cephalopod into a more social animal. This wasn’t wonder for its own sake. “There’s been a renaissance for looking at psychedelic drugs as possible therapeutics,” she said. Robert C. Malenka, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Stanford University, who was not involved with this study, called for increased study of MDMA in an influential Cell paper in 2016. MDMA has taboo associations with psychedelia and rave culture — it’s classified as Schedule 1, reserved for illegal drugs with high abuse potential. Nevertheless, it is being explored as a therapy for military veterans with PTSD. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25473 - Posted: 09.21.2018

Smokers have a higher risk of developing dementia, but giving up smoking can lower that risk, according to a new study in South Korea. Long-term quitters and those who had never smoked had 14 per cent and 19 per cent lower risks for dementia, respectively, compared to smokers who kept up with the habit, the study authors reported in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. "Smoking is well known for its thousands of negative health consequences, including cancers and cardiovascular diseases. However, its impact on our brain is relatively less emphasized," said lead study author Dr. Daein Choi of the Seoul National University College of Medicine. The article cites several case-control studies from the 1980s and 1990s that found smoking reduced the risk of Alzheimer's disease, but these studies were typically funded by tobacco companies. "There has been a misconception that the stimulant effect of nicotine might act as a protective factor for dementia," Choi told Reuters by email. Smoking and Alzheimer's risk Choi and colleagues studied health claims from a national database in Korea, focusing on 46,000 men over age 60. Based on questionnaire responses, the researchers classified the men as continual smokers, short-term quitters of less than four years, long-term quitters of four years or more, and never smokers. From the start of the study in 2002 until the end in 2013, 1,644 men were diagnosed with dementia. ©2018 CBC/Radio-Canada

Keyword: Alzheimers; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25472 - Posted: 09.21.2018

Ryan Kellman When a relationship ends but love remains, it can be both frustrating and embarrassing. Dessa, a well-known rapper, singer and writer from Minneapolis, knows the feeling well. She'd spent years trying to get over an ex-boyfriend, but she was still stuck on him. "You're not only suffering," she says, "You're just sort of ridiculous. Discipline and dedication are my strong suits — it really bothered me that, no matter how much effort I tried to expend in trying to solve this problem, I was stuck." But things changed when Dessa turned to the frontiers of neuroscience for help. She came across a TED Talk by Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and visiting research associate at Rutgers University. Using a type of brain scan called fMRI, Fisher had looked into the brains of lovestruck people and noticed that certain parts of their brains were unusually active. "That you could objectively measure and observe 'love' — that had never occurred to me before," Dessa says. She wondered: If science could map the sources of love in her brain, could it somehow make that love go away? The question led her to a controversial therapy technique called neurofeedback. The idea is simple: If you want to learn to lower your heart rate, it helps to be able to hear your pulse. And if you want to change patterns of brain activity, it might be helpful to be able to see what your brain is up to. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25465 - Posted: 09.18.2018

Ian Sample Science editor A radical gene therapy for drug addiction has been shown to dampen down cravings for cocaine and protect against overdoses of the substance that would normally be lethal. The therapy uses implants of stem cells which have been genetically engineered to release a powerful enzyme that removes the class A drug from the bloodstream. Tests in the lab showed that mice fitted with the implants lost their appetite for cocaine and survived massive overdoses of the drug that killed 100% of untreated animals. The work has raised hopes for a long term treatment for addiction that works by clearing drugs from the body as soon as they are injected, inhaled or ingested. The therapy would effectively make addicts immune to the substances. Lead researcher Ming Xu, a professor of anaesthesia and critical care at the University of Chicago, said the approach was “highly efficient and specific for eliminating cocaine.” “Compared to other gene therapies, our approach is minimally invasive, long term, low maintenance and affordable. It’s very promising,” he told the Guardian. Scientists have known for decades that an enzyme found in blood plasma called butyrylcholinesterase, or BChE, destroys cocaine by breaking it down into harmless byproducts. But the enzyme is not particularly fast-acting and does not linger in the bloodstream long enough to help those addicted to the drug. To create their new therapy, the Chicago researchers rewrote the DNA in mouse skin stem cells to make them churn out a modified form of BChE that is 4,400 times more potent than the natural enzyme. The scientists reasoned that clumps of these engineered cells, called organoids, could be implanted under the skin, where they would release the cocaine-busting enzyme into the blood. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited o

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25464 - Posted: 09.18.2018

Aimee Cunningham More than 2 million U.S. middle and high school students — or nearly 1 in 11 — have vaped marijuana, a new study suggests. Based on reports of teens’ e-cigarette use in 2016, researchers estimate that nearly 1 in 3 high school students, or roughly 1.7 million, have used pot in the devices. Nearly 1 in 4 middle school students, or 425,000, have done the same, the team reports online September 17 in JAMA Pediatrics. The numbers are the first nationwide estimates of teens’ and preteens’ use of marijuana in e-cigs, based on data from 20,675 sixth- to 12th-graders who participated in the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The most widely used tobacco products among U.S. youth, e-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat and vaporize liquids that usually contain nicotine (SN: 5/28/16, p. 4). But the devices can also vaporize dried marijuana leaves or buds as well as oils or waxes made from the plant’s primary active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The number of youth using marijuana in e-cigarettes isn’t surprising, says Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a developmental psychologist at Stanford University School of Medicine who was not involved in the study. “It’s easy; it’s accessible; they can be stealthy in using it.” Vaping marijuana can be done more discretely than smoking a joint because there isn’t as much of the telltale odor, if any. And legalization of marijuana in some states has led to increased access to the drug, she says, and a change in social norms regarding the drug’s use. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25463 - Posted: 09.18.2018