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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Friday Weird Science: Coke Bees.

Sci was going to try and stick with the sex this week, but this paper reminded her SO much of this article in the New Yorker, which then reminded her SO much of that awesome YouTube video, and the next thing you knew Sci had to blog bees on crack. It’s how I roll.
But first, let’s get in the mood:

(Nice web, crack spider)
And from the New Yorker:

There’s that fat kid again. I’m going to sting this whole family! “Aah!” They’re running! I’m buzzing, I’m buzzing, I’m buzzing, this is incredible. I’m in the car! I’m in the car. I’m in the car! Everyone’s screaming and flailing and . . .

And let’s go. Barron et al, 2009. “Effects of cocaine on honey bee dance behaviour” Journal of Experimental Biology, 2009.
(The authors are Australian. I wonder very much if they deliberately put “behavior” in the title so they could spell it like that and get us Americans all ornery. 🙂 )

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Immunization for Addiction: the Cocaine Vaccine

Every so often this cocaine vaccine issue rears its head again. I saw it again just the other day. The problem is, of course, the tendency of the media (ain’t it always the media) to say something like “OMG THIS IS TEH CURE FOR EVERYTHING!” in response to one small study. And who knows, the cocaine vaccine may indeed be the cure for everything, but Sci needs to see some big trials before she gets her hopes up. As it is, the studies I have seen provide some interesting clues, but also provide some important warnings.
So, first question first: how the heck do you make a cocaine vaccine? Haney et al. “Cocaine-specific antibodies blunt the subjective effects of smoked cocaine in humans” Biological Psychiatry, 2009.

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The Goal-Directed Nature of Relapse

One of the biggest problems with drug addiction is that it is a disorder that is characterized by relapse. You just CAN’T QUIT. It’d be one thing if you got hooked, got sober, there were some initial bad reactions, and then you were ok. But drug addiction isn’t like that. Drug addicts relapse, even when they are completely and totally sure they never want to do the drug again, when they know the drug isn’t worth it. They relapse anyway. And this is one of the biggest problems with trying to treat drug addicts. Scientists have been working for years to determine what triggers relapse to drug taking behavior, what connections in the brain are involved, and how permanent they are. Answers so far: a lot of triggers, lots of connections, and pretty long-lasting.
So when Sci saw this paper in PLoS ONE, she got excited: Root et al. “Evidence for Habitual and Goal-Directed Behavior Following Devaluation of Cocaine: A Multifaceted Interpretation of Relapse” PLoS ONE, 2009.

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