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:
ResearchBlogging.org 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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Some more questions on Ritalin

Sci got this comment to her Ritalin post the other day:

It sounds like you are suggesting that cocaine taken in the same form as Ritalin — as low-dose, slow release pills — would produce the same effects as the ADHD medication does. But, clearly, the FDA has seen fit to outlaw cocaine and place its seal of approval on doctor-prescribed Ritalin. Not that I think the FDA is infallible or anything, but did they really make the mistake of controlling one substance and permitting another that are essentially equivalents? Benzoylmethylecgonine and methylphenidate are clearly not the same chemical compounds, but if they act in synonymous ways on the brain, shouldn’t they be treated equally under the law?
And what about the all-touted maxim that patients who have not been prescribed Ritalin should not take it but those who have been shouldn’t miss a dose? Is there really such a neurological difference between those with ADHD and those who haven’t been diagnosed with it, or is it just a matter of how much rapport you establish with your psychiatrist? (I am not trying to patronize; I legitimately want to know!)
Similarly, are their patients for whom controlled doses of cocaine would yield medical benefits equal to or exceeding those of Ritalin? Or are there manifold side effects that discourage the use of cocaine as an ADHD/ concentration medication in spite of its similarities to Ritalin?
Personally, I’m skeptical of many of the diagnoses of ADHD that I see and of the politician-worthy campaigns that I hear that deny the efficacy of Ritalin for patients who have not been diagnosed with ADHD. It seems to me that for a disorder whose diagnosis is so imprecise and objective, it’s a convenient coincidence that most takers of Ritalin who have been diagnosed with ADHD (regardless of whether or not the diagnosis is accurate) show marked improvement in concentration…

As you can see, it’s long and has a lot of questions. And some of them are very good ones. But I knew that answering it within the comment thread was going to be long, and also I needed to use lots of links. So congrats, cerebration! You’re getting your very own post!!!
Here we go.

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