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

Can changes in brain energy pathways cause depression?

New research has identified mutations in the DNA code that may affect energy metabolism. It also found a link to major depressive disorder.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describe depression as “the leading cause of disability worldwide.”

It affects more than 300 million people around the world.

Experts believe that many factors contribute to major depressive disorder (MDD).

These include genetics, environmental factors including abuse, brain physiology, and the immune system.

Full story at Medical News Today

Cannabis and the brain: Recent studies shed new light

Recent research sheds new light on the effects of cannabis on the brain. It reveals a complex pattern of potential harms and benefits that varies with age and disease.

The findings came from a number of studies that featured at the 2018 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held in San Diego, CA.

They reveal, for instance, that exposure to marijuana before birth and during teen years can affect the developing brain in several ways.

Full story at Medical News Today