BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: neurotransmitter

Just Because My D1 Neurons Are Excited, Doesn’t Mean My Risk of Alcoholism Increases…Does it?!

Alcoholism can now not only be studied and analyzed at the psychological level, but also at the molecular level, thanks to researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. They recently conducted a study that found how alcohol influences the dorsomedial striatum, the part of the brain that participates in decision-making and goal-driven behaviors.

The dorsomedial striatum is composed of medium spiny neurons, neurons that have many branches, or spines, protruding off their dendrites.

(Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Confocal_image_of_spiny_neuron_-_1.jpg)

Spiny neurons have receptors for dopamine, which is further categorized into dopamine D1 and D2 neurotransmitters. D1 neurons have receptors for D1 neurotransmitters. They send excitatory postsynaptic potentials and encourage the action potential/signal to continue. D2 neurons counteract D1 neurons; they send inhibitory postsynaptic potentials and discourage further actions. In this study, D1 neurons prove to be a major part of alcoholism and addiction.

High consumption of alcohol, scientists learned, excites D1 neurons. The more excited they become, the more compelled one feels to perform an action…in this case, the action is drinking another alcoholic beverage.

More drinking induces more D1 neuron excitement, which leads to even more drinking.

Not only does it affect a D1 neuron’s excitability, alcohol also makes physical changes to the neuron itself at the molecular level, and consequently affects the neuron’s function.

In their study, researchers divided their test subjects into two groups: one that’s exposed to alcohol and one that’s not. Analyzing their spiny neurons, scientists saw that though the number of spines in the neurons of the individuals of each group didn’t change, the ratio of the difference between mature and immature spines was dramatic. The subjects that drank alcohol had notably longer branches and a high number of mature mushroom-shaped spines. The abstainers’ neurons had shorter branches and more immature mushroom-shaped spines. Mature, mushroom-shaped spines are involved in long-term memory; activation of long-term memory through alcohol underlies addiction.

However, there’s promising news! The study also showed results that blocking, or at least partially blocking, D1 receptors via a drug can inhibit and reduce the desire for consumption of another drink.

This is a huge step towards finding a cure for alcoholism. Alcoholism is a disease that affects not only the individual, but also his or her family, relatives, friends, etc…With this study, the scientific community has more of an understanding of how to go about creating new drugs and combating alcoholism.

If we suppress this activity, we’re able to suppress alcohol consumption. This is the major finding. Perhaps in the future, researchers can use these findings to develop a specific treatment targeting these neurons.

-Jun Wang, M.D., Ph.D., the lead author on the paper and an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at the Texas A&M College of Medicine.

What do you think? Do you think this study promotes a viable option towards curing alcoholism and addiction, or is there another method out there that we should be pursuing? Leave a comment below!

 

Original Article

Hope for Cocaine Addicts?

Cocaine, known as “the caviar of street drugs”, is expensive and has “powerful, negative effects”. Roughly 25% of americans between the age of 24 and 36 use or have used cocaine. Despite the dangerous effects of cocaine, After marijuana and amphetamines, cocaine is considered to be the most widely available drug on high school and college campuses in the United States. In 2002, there were 212 hospital admissions for cocaine abuse per 100,000 residents aged 12 or older in New York. Because cocaine use is so prevalent, it is important to raise awareness and to help addicts stop using.

Image taken from WikiMedia

 

What happens when you snort cocaine?

The cocaine quickly enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain. In the brain, cocaine interferes with neurotransmitters. Cocaine blocks norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters from being reabsorbed. The resulting chemical buildup between nerves causes euphoria or feeling “high.”

 

 

Long term use of cocaine can prevent neurotransmitter to be released naturally in the brain. This means the only way to feel good is to do cocaine again. It is estimated that there are 200,000 people in the united states addicted to cocaine.

 

Stopping the use of cocaine is a painful and even harmful experience for addicts. However, recent studies have indicated that there may be a fast track to addiction recovery.In addicts, the drug compulsion can be blamed on a group of “sluggish neurons” that rely on drugs to be stimulated. In drug-addicted rats, the drug compulsion was eased by a laser stimulated those affected neurons.

This experiment seems to partially solve the issue of cocaine addiction. Laser therapy could make the withdrawal of cocaine a much more doable process. However, there is still part of the problem to address: relapse. Most previous addicts relapse when they are surrounded by users. this is because the sight of cocaine triggers the memory of the euphoric high they used to experience on cocaine.

 

Link to Main Article:

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/349410/description/Light_found_in_cocaine_addiction_tunnel

Links to Additional Articles:

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/cocaine-use-and-its-effects

http://www.michaelshouse.com/cocaine-addiction/statistics/

Link to Photo:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Physiological_effects_of_Crack_cocaine.png

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