Moving the motivation meter

Two novel drugs kickstart motivation in rats suffering from apathy and a lack of oomph, UConn researchers reported at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego on Nov. 5.

Apathy steals the excitement from life. It’s a feeling of being fatigued, uninterested, and emotionally flat. People who suffer from apathy find it hard to exert effort, and life can seem tremendously difficult. One of the primary symptoms of depression, it’s also a side effect of certain medications. It can also be caused by inflammation from an infection or chronic disease such as multiple sclerosis.

Apathy and lack of motivation are hard to treat. Many medications that help with other symptoms of depression don’t help much with them.

But now, UConn behavioral neuroscientist John Salamone and graduate student Renee Rotolo have found that two new drugs can restore normal behavior in rats who lack motivation, pointing the way to potential treatments.

Full story at Science Daily

Pain isn’t just physical—why many are using painkillers for emotional relief

Australians are increasingly using prescription or over-the-counter painkillers to ease emotional, rather than physical, pain. Our cultural understanding of pain is changing, and as a result it’s becoming more difficult to distinguish intoxication from relief.

In my recently published book A Fine Line: Painkillers and Pleasure in the Age of Anxiety, interviewees who used painkillers non-medically said they did so mainly to ease forms of suffering they acknowledge may not be medically defined as pain. Yet they experienced them as “painful”.

The US is currently going through what many term an “opioid epidemic”, while more than 1,000 Australians died of an opioid overdose in 2016, with 76% of these deaths related to prescription opioids. Recently, the ABC reported that the high-dose opioid patch fentanyl has fuelled an opioid dependence crisis in regional Australia.

Full story at Medical Xpress

Adolescent cannabis use alters development of planning, self-control brain areas

Adolescent marijuana use may alter how neurons function in brain areas engaged in decision-making, planning and self-control, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The findings, which were presented at Neuroscience 2018, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, are the result of an animal model study focused on the structural development of the prefrontal cortex, or PFC, which controls high-level cognitive functions.

Within the PFC, a support structure called the perineuronal net forms a lattice of proteins around inhibitory cells, helping to secure their connections with excitatory neurons and regulate PFC activity. Perineuronal net formation is sensitive to drug use, but the effects of marijuana are not known.

Full story at Science Daily

Spinal stimulation helps men with paraplegia walk again

A new way of electrically stimulating the spinal cord with wireless implants, together with therapy that supports body weight, has helped three men with paraplegia to walk again with the help of walking frames and crutches. They can even take a few steps without any aids at all.

Many years previously, the three men sustained injuries in the cervical area, or neck region, of their spinal cords that had left them paralyzed in their lower bodies.

The new “therapeutic framework” responsible for their rehabilitation is called Stimulation Movement Overground (STIMO).

Full story at Medical News Today

Cutting societal alcohol use may prevent alcohol disorders developing

Society must take collective responsibility to reduce the harm caused by alcohol use disorders, a University of Otago academic says.

Dr Charlene Rapsey, of New Zealand’s Dunedin School of Medicine’s Department of Psychological Medicine, says while alcohol is commonly enjoyed by many people and only a minority of people develop an alcohol use disorder, the negative consequences of such a disorder can be severe and long-lasting.

Her research paper, published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, used data from Te Rau Hinengaro, The New Zealand Mental Health Survey, to study transitions from alcohol use to disorder.

Of the nearly 13,000 participants, 94.6 per cent had used alcohol at least once, 85.1 per cent had had at least 12 drinks in the past year, and 16 per cent had developed an alcohol disorder.

Full story at Science Daily