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Hub linking movement and motivation in brain identified -- ScienceDaily

lateral septum (LS), a region considered integral to modulating behavior and implicated in many psychiatric disorders, directly encodes information about the speed and acceleration of an animal as it navigates and learns how to obtain a reward in an environment. "Completing a simple task, such as acquiring food for dinner, requires the participation and coordination of a large number of regions of the brain, and the weighing of a number of factors: for example, how much effort is it to get food from the fridge versus a restaurant," said Hannah Wirtshafter, the study's lead author. "We have discovered that the LS may be aiding you in making some of those decisions. That the LS represents place, movement, and motivational information may enable the LS to help you integrate or optimize performance across considerations of place, speed, and other environmental signals."

How relapse happens: Opiates reduce the brain's ability to form, maintain synapses: Preclinical research was focused on revealing the molecular mechanisms behind addiction and relapse -- ScienceDaily

In experiments with rodents, the UB team determined that exposure to heroin and morphine reduced drebrin levels in the nucleus accumbens, a key part of the brain's reward pathway. Synaptic rewiring The researchers found that opiate exposure causes synaptic rewiring in this part of the brain, as well as a decrease in drenditic spines, the protrusions on neurons that play key roles in neuronal transmission, learning and memory. "Opiates fundamentally change how the brain communicates with itself," Dietz said.

Prizes for sobriety: As Washington meth use rises, this treatment is one of few that works | The Seattle Times

Here’s how the treatment works: You come in a few times a week, complete a urine test, and if it’s negative, you draw for a prize — at a trial McDonell is running in Wallingford, there are “small” prizes like shampoo or a toothbrush, “big” prizes like a coffeemaker, or rare “jumbo” prizes like a DVD player. The longer you’re sober, the more draws you get, but if the test comes back positive, the clinician says “see you next time.”

Mindful body awareness training during treatment for drug addiction helps prevent relapse -- ScienceDaily

The intervention is called Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT) and combines manual, mindfulness and psycho-educational approaches to teach interoceptive awareness and related self-care skills. Interoceptive awareness is the ability to access and process sensory information from the body. Researchers studied 187 women at three Seattle-area locations. The cohort, all women in treatment for substance use disorder (SUD), was split into three relatively equal groups. Every group continued with their regular SUD treatment. One group received SUD treatment only, another group was taught the mindfulness technique in addition to treatment, and the third group received a women's education curriculum in addition to treatment in order to test whether the additional time and attention explained any positive study outcomes. Women were tested at the beginning, and at three, six and 12 months on a number of factors including substance use, distress craving, emotion regulation (self-report and psychophysiology), mindfulness skills and interoceptive awareness. There were lasting improvements in these areas for those who received the MABT intervention, but not for the other two study groups. "Those who received MABT relapsed less," Price said. "By learning to attend to their bodies, they learned important skills for better self-care."

Want to quit smoking? Partner up: Couples who attempt to stop smoking together have a sixfold chance of success -- ScienceDaily

At the end of the programme, 64% of patients and 75% of partners were abstinent -- compared to none and 55% at the start, respectively. The odds of quitting smoking at 16 weeks were significantly higher (5.83-fold) in couples who tried to quit together compared to patients who attempted it alone. "Previous research has shown that ex-smokers can also positively influence their spouse's attempts to quit, but in this study the effect was not statistically significant," said Ms Lampridou. "As for non-smoking partners, there is a strong risk that they will adopt their spouse's habit." Ms Lampridou noted that research is needed to confirm the findings in smokers who are otherwise healthy.

ADHD drug Ritalin has no effect on primate prefrontal cortex -- ScienceDaily

Julio Martinez-Trujillo and colleagues refute their hypothesis the caudal prefrontal cortex -- a brain region critical for attention -- is Ritalin's main site of action in the brain. To arrive at this conclusion, the researchers recorded large populations of neurons in this brain region as two male macaque monkeys performed a demanding visual attention task. The team did not observe any differences in neuronal activity after administration of the drug compared to a placebo, even at doses that improved the monkeys' performance on the task.

Heavy drinking may change DNA, leading to increased craving for alcohol: Genetic vicious cycle may reinforce risky drinking behavior -- ScienceDaily

Scientists at Rutgers and Yale University School of Medicine focused on two genes implicated in the control of drinking behavior: PER2, which influences the body's biological clock, and POMC, which regulates our stress-response system. By comparing groups of moderate, binge and heavy drinkers, the researchers found that the two genes had changed in the binge and heavy drinkers through an alcohol-influenced gene modification process called methylation. The binge and heavy drinkers also showed reductions in gene expression, or the rate at which these genes create proteins. These changes increased with greater alcohol intake. Additionally, in an experiment, the drinkers viewed stress-related, neutral or alcohol-related images. They also were shown containers of beer and subsequently tasted beer, and their motivation to drink was evaluated. The result: alcohol-fueled changes in the genes of binge and heavy drinkers were associated with a greater desire for alcohol.

Exercise and memory mechanisms

Mice were given cocaine injections over four days in special chambers with a distinctive floor texture to produce a drug association with that environment. The animals were then housed for 30 days in cages, some of which included a running wheel. The researchers found that mice that exercised on these wheels had lower levels of brain peptides related to myelin, a substance that is thought to help fix memories in place. Re-exposure to the cocaine-associated environment affected running and sedentary mice differently: Compared with sedentary mice, the animals with running wheels showed a reduced preference for the cocaine-associated environment. In addition, the brains of re-exposed runners contained higher levels of hemoglobin-derived peptides, some of which are involved in cell signaling in the brain. Meanwhile, peptides derived from actin decreased in the brains of re-exposed sedentary mice. Actin is involved in learning and memory and is implicated in drug seeking. The researchers say these findings related to peptide changes will help to identify biomarkers for drug dependence and relapse.

Dopamine Drives Early Addiction to Heroin - Neuroscience News

To prove that increased dopamine directly causes drug reinforcement, the team looked at the effects of silencing dopamine in mice with a well-established heroin addiction and were consistently self-administering the drug using a lever. They found that when they silenced the dopamine neurons, the mice were much less likely to self-administer heroin. Crucially, when they did this early in the addiction phase, the mice were less likely to develop the habit of self-administering heroin. This showed that activation of dopamine neurons in the nucleus accumbens is required for the early positive reinforcing effects of opioid drugs.

Just a few drinks can change how memories are formed -- ScienceDaily

One of the downstream dominos in the signaling pathway affected by alcohol is a gene called dopamine-2-like receptor, which makes a protein on neurons that recognizes dopamine, the "feel-good" neurotransmitter. "The dopamine-2-like receptor is known to be involved in encoding whether a memory is pleasing or aversive," Petruccelli said. And alcohol hijacks this conserved memory pathway to form cravings. In the case of the alcohol reward pathway studied, the signaling cascade didn't turn the dopamine receptor gene on or off, or increase or decrease the amount of protein made, Kaun said. Instead, it had a subtler effect -- it changed the version of the protein made by a single amino acid "letter" in an important area. "We don't know what the biological consequences of that small change are, but one of the important findings from this study is that scientists need to look not only at which genes are being turned on and off, but which forms of each gene are getting turned on and off," Kaun said. "We think these results are highly likely to translate to other forms of addiction, but nobody has investigated that."

New target of alcohol in the brain -- ScienceDaily

"The KCNK13 channel is absolutely required for alcohol to stimulate the release of dopamine by these neurons," said Mark Brodie, professor of physiology and biophysics in the UIC College of Medicine and lead author of the study. "Without the channel, alcohol can't stimulate the release of dopamine, and so drinking is likely less rewarding. We think that the KCNK13 channel presents an extremely exciting new target for drugs that could potentially help people with alcohol use disorder to stop drinking."

Coping with Suicide - How to Deal When Someone Kills Themself

My mother expected something of me that no child could deliver: to never grow up and away from her. To adore her always and unconditionally. Mostly I realized that it wasn't one event that turned her from life to death, but a lifetime of circumstances that culminated in one fateful choice.

The Truth About Prescription Pills: One Writer's Story of Anxiety and Addiction — Vogue - Vogue

Like me, she wasn’t a vodka-in-the-morning drinker, but when she drank—usually California Chardonnays—she couldn’t stop. She’d get high and silly and then, at the drop of a dime, she’d turn mean, lashing out at those closest to her. It was so contrary to her fundamental nature—kind, compassionate, sensitive—and she hated herself for the times she hurt our family. But ultimately, no pill or drink, no amount of love, could soothe her sadness. When I was 22, she took her life. I worried that her suffering was a warning, a glimpse of what my future might be if I didn’t change things.

Inside Marijuana Anonymous, the group for people addicted to weed – VICE News

Michael described it as a silent addiction. “No one sees you, you’re not out robbing people. You’re not beating people up, you’re not getting into fights,” he said. “So for the rest of society, you’re not really a problem. You’re just a problem to yourself because you’re not doing anything with your life.” “It’s like being kicked to death by a bunny.” One of the reasons people might hold the view that cannabis is safer is because the withdrawal syndrome is kind of non-specific and could easily be attributed to something else, said Juurlink.

Can You Get Addicted to Pot? - The Atlantic

Public-health experts worry about the increasingly potent options available, and the striking number of constant users. “Cannabis is potentially a real public-health problem,” said Mark A. R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at New York University. “It wasn’t obvious to me 25 years ago, when 9 percent of self-reported cannabis users over the last month reported daily or near-daily use. I always was prepared to say, ‘No, it’s not a very abusable drug. Nine percent of anybody will do something stupid.’ But that number is now [something like] 40 percent.”

Exercise Can Help Beat Cocaine Addiction - Neuroscience News

Using animal models, Thanos found that regular aerobic exercise (one hour on a treadmill, five times a week) decreased stress-induced cocaine-seeking behavior. Exercise also altered behavioral and physiological responses to stress. Individuals who are addicted to cocaine have altered neural, behavioral and physiological responses to stress. Recent research by Thanos demonstrated how exercise can alter the brain’s mesolimbic dopamine pathway, which is linked to the rewarding and reinforcing properties of drugs such as cocaine. In addition, exercise has been shown to reduce stress hormones and elevate mood, which could assist in alleviating anxiety and negative emotions associated with withdrawal.

ADHD drugs do not improve cognition in healthy college students -- ScienceDaily

Results of the new study, published last month in the journal Pharmacy, show that the standard 30 mg dose of Adderall did improve attention and focus -- a typical result from a stimulant -- but that effect failed to translate to better performance on a battery of neurocognitive tasks that measured short-term memory, reading comprehension and fluency. Weyandt has a theory about why working memory would be adversely affected by the medication. Brain scan research shows that a person with ADHD often has less neural activity in the regions of the brain that control executive function -- working memory, attention, self-control. For people with ADHD, Adderall and similar medications increase activity in those regions and appear to normalize functioning. "If your brain is functioning normally in those regions, the medication is unlikely to have a positive effect on cognition and my actually impair cognition. In other words, you need to have a deficit to benefit from the medicine," Weyandt said. Participants in the study also reported their perceived effects of the drug and its impact on their emotions, with students reporting significant elevation of their mood when taking Adderall. In contrast to the small, mixed effects on cognition, the drug had much larger effects on mood and bodily responses, increasing positive mood, emotional ratings of the drug effect, heart rate and blood pressure. "These are classic effects of psychostimulants," said White. "The fact that we see these effects on positive emotion and cardiovascular activity, in the same individuals for whom cognitive effects were small or negative in direction, is important. It indicates that the cognitive and the emotional impact of these drugs are separate. How you feel under the drug does not necessarily mean that there is an improvement in cognition; there can be a decrease, as seen here in young adults without ADHD."

Author hints at higher drug use (including prescriptions) then blames individualism

It is not clear what exactly drives the demand for the psychoactive substances and what has driven the increase in suicides. But I think it’s worth speculating whether a perceived low quality of life for many Americans, marked by high stress and low levels of happiness, is contributing. Americans stand out from people in other countries with respect to their focus on individualism. Americans believe that success is determined by our own control and that it is very important to work hard to get ahead in life. Perhaps it is this focus on our own achievements, successes and work culture that have created an environment that is no longer sustainable – it has become too stressful.

Exercise Reduces Dopamine D1R and Increases D2R in Rats: Implications for Addiction

Exercised rats had 18% and 21% lower D1R-like binding levels compared to sedentary rats within the olfactory tubercle (OT) and nucleus accumbens shell (AcbS), respectively. In addition, male and female exercise rats showed greater D2R-like binding levels within the dorsomedial (DM CPu; 30%), ventrolateral (VL CPu; 24%), and ventromedial (VM CPu; 27%) caudate putamen, as well as the OT (19%). Greater D2R-like binding in the nucleus accumbens core (AcbC; 24%) and shell (AcbS; 25%) of exercised rats compared to sedentary rats approached significance. No effects were found for DAT binding.

Acupuncture alters key neurotransmitters

Steffensen is going beyond the previous claims and is studying the neuroscience behind acupuncture. He has shown it to be an effective method of activating pathways from the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system. Here's how: Those suffering from withdrawal have dysregulated dopamine levels in the midbrain reward/pleasure system This causes dysregulation of GABA neurons in this system, and they become hyperactive, inhibiting dopamine neurons and lowering dopamine levels during withdrawl Lowered dopamine levels is the driving force for relapse Accupuncture stimulation inhibits GABA neurons This restores dopamine levels and effectively lowers the driving force for relapse

Study reveals lack of self-awareness among doctors when prescribing opioids: Emergency department physicians underestimated how often they prescribed opioids, but prescriptions decreased after they saw their actual data -- ScienceDaily

Some 65 percent of those surveyed prescribed more opioids that they thought they did. Michael and his team found participants discharged 119,428 patients and wrote 75,203 prescriptions, of which 15,124 (or about 20 percent) were for opioids over the course of the 12-month study. The researchers then monitored the doctors after they were shown their actual prescription rates. "Everyone showed an overall decrease in prescribing opioids," Michael said. "After seeing their real data, the people with inaccurate self-perceptions, on average, had 2.1 fewer opioid prescriptions per 100 patients six months later and 2.2 percent fewer prescriptions per 100 patients at 12 months."

Our Other Prescription Drug Problem | NEJM

Benzodiazepines have proven utility when they are used intermittently and for less than 1 month at a time. But when they are used daily and for extended periods, the benefits of benzodiazepines diminish and the risks associated with their use increase. Many prescribers don’t realize that benzodiazepines can be addictive and when taken daily can worsen anxiety, contribute to persistent insomnia, and cause death. Other risks associated with benzodiazepines include cognitive decline, accidental injuries and falls, and increased rates of hospital admission and emergency department visits. Fortunately, there are safer treatment alternatives for anxiety and insomnia, including selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors and behavioral interventions. Just as with opioids, some patients benefit from long-term use of benzodiazepines. But even in low-risk patients, it is best to avoid daily dosing to mitigate the development of tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal.

Department of Health | The amphetamine withdrawal syndrome

Animal and human studies have confirmed that the methamphetamine withdrawal syndrome may be protracted (the mood disturbance may last up to a year in some cases) and tends to be more severe than cocaine withdrawal (see Cho & Melega, 2002 for a thorough review; Davidson et al., 2001; Volkow, Chang, Wang, Fowler, Franceschi et al., 2001). Similarly, there is some evidence to suggest that individuals who have experienced a methamphetamine-related psychosis are at risk of further psychotic episodes, even in the absence of further psychostimulant use (Yui, Ikemoto, Ishiguro & Goto, 2000).

Engineering euphoria

Isomers of the same molecule, although very similar, often have different effects. For instance, the right-handed isomer of methamphetamine, dextromethamphetamine, is the most potent human stimulant known: This is the “meth” that tweakers crave. But the left-handed isomer of methamphetamine, levomethamphetamine, is a vasoconstrictor with little to no psychoactive effect and is used in nasal decongestants and inhalers. In contrast, both isomers of amphetamine are psychostimulants, so Shire combines both the l- and d- isomers in Adderall, each packaged in two different types of salt carriers. By creating a custom racemic mix of l- and d- isomers, and by using a custom blend of salt carriers for each molecule, Adderall meets the definition of an amphetamine formulation that can be patented for prescription use. In a word: genius. Formulating the perfect blend of speed for children sounds like a task more suited to a crime syndicate than a pharmaceutical company, but Shire put some serious thought into packaging amphetamine into pills for kids with short attention spans. The l- isomer of amphetamine, levoamphetamine, packs a euphoric rush of norepinephrine for a quick and speedy high, with a small release of dopamine for a short period of increased alertness and focus. Levoamphetamine (a.k.a. benzedrine) is a favorite of tweakers who want the most bang for their buck. The d- isomer of amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, produces less of an initial rush but increases the supply of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain’s synaptic clefts for many hours. Dextroamphetamine (a.k.a. dexedrine) is considered by many to be the first “smart drug,” used experimentally to increase focus, memory, and intelligence.

ADHD drugs increase brain glutamate, predict positive emotion in healthy people -- ScienceDaily

In this new study, subjects were first screened for mental and physical health and then underwent MRI spectroscopy scans designed to detect the concentration of neural compounds in specific regions of their brain. From the medical literature on psychostimulants, White and her team wanted to look in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is a "hub" brain region that connects multiple brain networks involved in emotion, decision-making and behavior. They found that two ADHD medications, d-amphetamine and Desoxyn, significantly increased the overall amount of glutamate in the right dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, even after controlling for possible confounding factors, such as volume of gray matter in the region. The rise in brain glutamate predicted both the duration and the intensity of positive emotion, measured by participant ratings about whether they liked the drug or felt high after consuming it.

The Last All-Nighter - NYTimes.com

I wish it had ended that easily. In the months that followed, I was exhausted all the time. I slept through appointments and was unable to stay up to meet deadlines. The drug had curbed my appetite, and helped me to drop from a size 8 to a 4. Without it now I was ravenous and neurotic about what I was eating and how I looked. I was sensitive and emotional from the new chemical imbalance, which gaining weight and falling behind at work exacerbated. It was hard to understand that I was experiencing withdrawal, because I was never warned of possible side effects. Without the drug I felt stupid, unable to focus or follow a thought through to completion. I was shy, and unwilling to initiate conversation. The witty, articulate woman I once was seemed to no longer exist. I felt dumb, out of it. I spoke slowly because it took immense effort to gather and express coherent thoughts. I didn’t understand what I was going through, and that made it more difficult to stay healthy. It felt like another phase of the depression I had become so used to. But once I made it through the hardest part, weeks where my body was literally recalibrating itself to function without the stimulant, I felt like my old self again — relaxed, yet motivated to take care of my mind and body; interested in engaging with the world around me. The person I was so eager to shed in lieu of a new, accomplished, adult me, actually ended up being the one most capable of handling the tumult of living in the hectic life of a 20-something starting out in New York.