How dopamine tells you it isn’t worth the wait

How do we know if it was worth the wait in line to get a meal at the new restaurant in town? To do this our brain must be able to signal how good the meal tastes and associate this feeling with the restaurant. This is done by a small group of cells deep in the brain that release the chemical dopamine. The amount of dopamine released by these cells can influence our decisions by telling us how good a reward will be in the future. For example, more dopamine is released to the smell of a cake baking relative to the smell of leftovers. But does waiting change how dopamine is released?

A new study in Cell Reports by Matthew Wanat, assistant professor of biology at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), sheds light on how dopamine cells in the brain signal the passage of time. Wanat’s study used a technique called voltammetry to record dopamine release in rodents trained using Pavlovian conditioning. This task used two different tones that both predicted the delivery of a food reward. One tone was presented only after a short wait while the other tone was presented only after a long wait. Wanat and colleagues found that more dopamine was released to the short wait tone. These results highlight that when dopamine neurons respond to cues, faster is better.

Full story at Science Daily

Online Tool Tracks Suspected Opioid Overdoses in Real Time

A new online tool allows first responders, public safety and public health officials to track opioid overdoses in real time, NBC News reports. Health officials say the data allows them to quickly allocate resources where they are needed.

First responders can access the tool, the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP), from any mobile device or computer when they go to the scene of an overdose. They enter whether the overdose was fatal or nonfatal and whether the opioid overdose antidote naloxone was administered. The results appear on a map, which police chiefs and other officials can use to see where overdoses are being reported.

Full story at drugfree.org

Cannabis, ‘spice’ – better think twice

Marijuana is the most commonly abused drug in the world, and the advent of synthetic cannabinoids creates additional challenges to the society because of their higher potency and ability to escape drug detection screenings. Scientists from Japanese sleep institute have a warning for the society about a danger coming from cannabinoid abuse.

A research group led by Olga Malyshevskaya and Yoshihiro Urade of International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine (WPI-IIIS), University of Tsukuba, discovered that seizures, a life-threatening condition, can be induced by natural Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC, main constituent of marijuana) or the synthetic cannabinoid JWH-018 (main component of synthetic blend “Spice”) in mice. This was demonstrated by continuous recording of animals’ electric brain activity (electroencephalogram, EEG), video and movement activity tracking. Based on their data they propose potential treatment in case of cannabinoid overdose with the cannabinoid-1-receptor (CB1R) specific antagonist (AM-251), because in their study pretreatment prevented cannabinoid-induced seizures.

Full story at Science Daily

Gene that influences nicotine dependence identified

A DNA variant — located in the DNMT3B gene and commonly found in people of European and African descent — increases the likelihood of developing nicotine dependence, smoking heavily, and developing lung cancer, according to a new study led by RTI International.

Nearly 1 billion people smoke and 6 million premature deaths occur worldwide each year from cigarette smoking, according to the World Health Organization. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and one person dies approximately every 6 seconds from smoking-related causes, according to the WHO.

The new study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, is the largest genome-wide association study of nicotine dependence. Researchers studied more than 38,600 former and current smokers from the United States, Iceland, Finland, and the Netherlands.

Full story at Science Daily

Hospital Treatment Rates for Heroin Surge While Rates for Prescription Opioids Drop

Hospital treatment rates for heroin rose more than 31 percent between 2008 and 2014, while treatment rates for prescription opioids have declined, according to a new study.

Hospital discharge rates for prescription opioid poisonings decreased each year by about 5 percent between 2010 and 2014, the study found.

Lead researcher Tina Hernandez-Boussard of Stanford University said the results provide evidence that people addicted to prescription opioids are turning to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to get, HealthDay reports.

Full story at drugfree.org