Prozac, Ritalin, Cognitive Enhancement, and the power of a snappy title

Let it be known that Sci, like many a young, bright-eyed little scientist, tries to keep up on her reading. TRIES is the operative word, but every week Sci gets the Tables of Contents for all the major journals in her field (and all the major ones in her subdisciple) emailed straight to her for her perusal. She scans the title lists, searching for things that are cool in her field, cool to blog, or that might indicate a scoopage of her work (hey, it happens).
And it was in one of these perusals that I came across this article. And this article is on a subject that needs to be blogged. But this article also says a lot about the “selling” of a scientific paper to a high-ranking journal. Biological Psychiatry, the journal in which this paper was published, has a pretty decent impact factor (8.67), and in Sci’s field, is considered to be a pretty hot publication venue.
But before I go into that, let’s take a look at this paper: Steiner et al. “Fluoxetine potentiates methylphenidate-induced gene regulation in addiction-related brain regions: Concerns for use of cognitive enhancers?” Biological Psychiatry, 2010.
cognitive enhancer1.jpg
Sci would like to start by noting that doing an image search for “cognitive enhancer” yields some surprisingly boring results. I was really hoping for something like this:
cognitive enhance2.jpg
Oh well.

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Cheesecake-eating rats and food addiction, a commentary

As you might have noticed, Sci is really interested lately in the concept of food reward systems, in particular the issues associated with the effects of binge eating on reward systems in the brain, and the issue of “food addiction”.
And Sci is not the only one who is interested. Lots of other people in the scientific world (not to mention people outside the scientific world) are interested as well. And in the same issue of Nature Neuroscience that published the paper that Sci covered on dopamine and obesity in rats, David Epstein and Yavin Shaham wrote a commentary on the very same article. Yavin Shaham (the last author and thus the big kahuna) is a big guy in the dopamine and addiction world, and is an important researcher at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
And these guys have some good points.
Points that Sci (figuring others probably don’t have easy access to Nature Neuroscience) wants to share with you.
Here we go. Epstein and Shaham. “Cheesecake-eating rats and the question of food addiction” Nature Neuroscience, 2010

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Dopamine and Obesity: The D2 Receptor

Sci would like to note that today’s entry is being written on the adorably tiny screen of her netbook, which is named Ruby. Everyone say hi to Ruby!
Unfortunately, this is because her wireless on her normal computer suddenly decided that it was too good for her modem. Perhaps it’s an April Fool’s Day joke. This is not a good time for this to happen, but of course the not good times ARE the times when this happens, as we all know. And so, until that gets fixed, we are stuck on the netbook, which may mean increased typos and various other things that happen when Sci’s hands are confined to a 10″ space.
A few days ago Sci looked at a recent study which has come out on dopamine and obesity, which showed changes in reward-related behaviors and changes in the dopamine D2 receptor after rats got really fat. This paper (which apparently some people decided to interpret as “food is just like heroin”, which is just silly) was based on the hypothesis that severe chronic overeating results in some changes in the brain which are similar to those seen in drug addiction.
Sci hasn’t really looked into this before, but this really began to interest her. She decided to dig in a little, and take a look at some of the clinical literature, in particular some of the human stuff.
And so here we go. Wang et al. “Brain dopamine and obesity” The Lancet, 2001.

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Dopamine and Obesity: The Food Addiction?

Sci picked this paper today partially because it was handed to her on a platter by the fantastic Dr. Pal, and partially because today she is SO HUNGRY. She’s had a TON of food already today, and is still entirely ravenous. Maybe it was looking at this paper too long.
(Cereal break)
As I’m sure most of y’all out there are aware, obesity is a problem in the US. No one is sure whether it’s due to increased portion size, increased availability, decreased physical activity, changes in gut bacteria, issues with our behavioral approaches to food, or all of the above. But scientists have been working for a while not only to look at the effects of overeating and obesity, but also to look at what CAUSES these things in the brain and body. And today we present a paper on an interesting piece of this puzzle, one that Sci has had a good deal of interest in: the idea of overeating as an addiction-like phenomenon. Johnson and Kenney. “Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats.” Nature Neuroscience, 2010.
(If we’re going to talking about food and addiction, behold Sci’s drug of choice)

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Opponent-Process Theory: Welcome to the dark side

You people. You people and your REQUESTS. Requests to do things like blog more about opponent-process theory. Well. Sci hears you. She obeys. At least this time. And for all your drug addiction experts out there asking me to read Koob, I can assure you that I have read a LOT of Koob in my time. For those of you not necessarily familiar with the drug abuse lit, George Koob is considered one of the greatest minds in current drug abuse research, and has done a lot to conform the motivationally-focused opponent-process theory to the model of drug addiction that exists today. Guy even has a wikipedia entry! That’s how you know you’ve hit the big time. And so, Sci continues her discussion of opponent-process theory in this second installment, with many thanks to Koob and his co-author, Le Moal.
Remember this?
OP Theory1.png
You’ll need it.

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Things I like to Blog About: Addiction and the Opponent Process Theory

Perhaps I should put a special category up for “things I like to blog about”. Or maybe just ‘basics’.
Sci’s been a little out of her bloggin’ groove lately, feelin’ her stuff is not up to snuff. But with THIS, Sci will get her groove back. And she will get it back with pictures. Pictures that are drawn in powerpoint so they don’t make your eyes bleed. I care.

So what is the opponent-process theory? The opponent-process theory (hereafter called the OP Theory) is one of the current theories we are using to understand addiction. Because, to be honest, we don’t really understand it. Oh sure, we know about initial rewarding effects, we know about withdrawal, we know about tolerance. But do we really KNOW what it is that makes people walk away from their families and homes and jobs and sell themselves for their next hit? A next hit that, oftentimes, they HATE and need at the same time? …nope. Still working on that.

But one of the theories out there to explain drug addiction and how it may work is the OP Theory.

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The Tussin, The Tussin

Notorious was having a little conversation with some friends, and someone asked a strange question: why would one want to abuse over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as Robitussin? OTC cold medication abuse is pretty common and the subject of considerable comment in pop culture — not the least of which are a great song by MC Chris (“The Tussin”) and one of the funniest clips in the show South Park ever (below the fold). The question wasn’t so much about why those crazy kids do what they do, but rather what is the pharmacological mechanisms behind its effects?

So I wanted to write a little post to clarify the abuse potential of OTC cold medications and also talk about the possible medical complications associated with them.

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“Look at me on the lily?! Is that not, is that not so weird?”

Awesome blog friend JLK just sent me this link. I can’t be more amused. The life of a bee on cocaine. Does it get any better?
And Ed (yes, you, ED) has beaten me to the Friday Weird Science! He’s got an awesome article on the traumatic insemination practices of spiders. Ya’ll probably read him already (cause he’s awesome), but if you don’t, you should.

Giving drugs to humans, the whys and wherefores

Late last week, the esteemed Drugmonkey pointed me toward an article that came out in the Washington Examiner. The Drug Czar of the Bush administration expressed shock and outrage when he suddenly found out that drug researchers give addictive drugs to human addicts as part of studies on human addiction. Shock me, shock me, shock me, with that deviant behavior. I think Drugmonkey expressed it best when he said

It is harmful to our Nation’s public policy on drug control and substance abuse to run roughshod over the scientific information in this way. It is specifically harmful to drug abuse science to misrepresent the studies in this way.

No kidding. But, issues of politics aside, there are ethics issues associated with giving drug addicts drugs. Janet has done an excellent job (as usual) of explaining the ethical implications of giving drugs to drug addicts. But there’s a third topic that needs to be addressed. We do lots of animal studies with addictive drugs, why do we need to be giving it to humans?

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Is Modafinil the Next Cocaine? Probably Not

Ugh, I’m sorry guys, the intertubes ate the last half of my post last night. I’m not at all sure what happened. Here’s what I can remember.
First of all, a quick reminder to please take my survey on condom breakage! I may have to make another survey eventually, I am now realizing a whole bunch of questions I missed. But please take it! I’m going to try my best to present the data on Friday.
So here’s Sci, pondering away about what to present for her Journal Club presentation next week, when BEHOLD! Dr. Pal drops this little article right in my inbox. Right on cue, Dr. Pal. Unfortunately, I’m not the first to get to this article (shakes fist momentarily at the Corpus Callosum, but he did a good job of it, so I can’t be mad), but I’ve got my own thoughts. So here we have the first one in a series of papers I could present for Journal Club. As a new addendum to help me make up my mind, I’ll be listing the pros and cons of each paper at the end of my article coverage. And I would welcome any votes! Volkow et al. “Effects of modafinil on dopamine and dopamine transporters in the male human brain”. JAMA, 2009.
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