Brain biomarker predicts compulsive drinking

Although alcohol use is ubiquitous in modern society, only a portion of individuals develop alcohol use disorders or addiction. Yet, scientists have not understood why some individuals are prone to develop drinking problems, while others are not. Now, Salk Institute researchers have discovered a brain circuit that controls alcohol drinking behavior in mice, and can be used as a biomarker for predicting the development of compulsive drinking later on. The findings were published in Science on November 21, 2019, and could potentially have implications for understanding human binge drinking and addiction in the future.

“I hope this will be a landmark study, as we’ve found (for the first time) a brain circuit that can accurately predict which mice will develop compulsive alcohol drinking weeks before the behavior starts,” says Kay Tye, a professor in the Systems Neurobiology Laboratory and holder of the Wylie Vale Chair. “This research bridges the gap between circuit analysis and alcohol/addiction research, and provides a first glimpse at how representations of compulsive alcohol drinking develop across time in the brain.”

Full story at Science Daily

What to know about delirium

Delirium is a sudden change in a person’s mental function, which includes their ways of thinking and their behavior or level of consciousness. This change often affects memory and concentration.

Medical professionals do not yet fully understand delirium, but it seems to have an association with older age, alcohol withdrawal, and certain medical conditions.

In this article, we discuss different types of delirium and their associated symptoms. We also talk about delirium’s possible causes and risk factors. Finally, we cover diagnosis, treatment options, and when to see a doctor.

Full story at Medical News Today

A peek into opioid users’ brains as they try to quit

Lying inside a scanner, the patient watched as pictures appeared one by one: A bicycle. A cupcake. Heroin. Outside, researchers tracked her brain’s reactions to the surprise sight of the drug she’d fought to kick.

Government scientists are starting to peek into the brains of people caught in the nation’s opioid epidemic, to see if medicines proven to treat addiction, like methadone, do more than ease the cravings and withdrawal. Do they also heal a brain damaged by addiction? And which one works best for which patient?

They’re fundamental questions considering that far too few of the 2 million opioid users who need anti-addiction medicine actually receive it.

Full story at Medical Xpress

Early life exposure to nicotine alters neurons, predisposes brain to addiction later

Neonatal exposure to nicotine alters the reward circuity in the brains of newborn mice, increasing their preference for the drug in later adulthood, report researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine in a study published “in press” April 24, 2019 in Biological Psychiatry.

A UC San Diego School of Medicine team of scientists, headed by senior author Davide Dulcis, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry, with colleagues at Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System and Michigan State University, found that exposure to nicotine in the first few weeks of life (through maternal lactation) induced a variety of long-term neurological changes in young mice.

Specifically, it caused a form of neuroplasticity that resulted in increased numbers of modified neurons in the ventral tagmental area (VTA) of the brain following nicotine re-exposure as adults. These neurons displayed a different biochemistry than other neurons, including greater receptivity to nicotine and a greater likelihood of subsequent addictive behavior.

Full story at Science Daily

‘Mediterranean diet may protect against depression symptoms’

Evidence indicates that following a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts, and cereals, can bring many health benefits, including protection against cardiovascular and metabolic problems. Now, a study also presents a link between this diet and a lower risk of depression later in life.

Mediterranean diets feature meals that are high in vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruit, whole grains, with less fish, dairy, and poultry-based foods, and as little red meat as possible.

Moreover, people who follow Mediterranean-style diets use olive oil for cooking, which is a good source of monosaturated fat.

Full story at Medical News Today