Teen Brains More Susceptible to Drugs
Scientists have known for decades that teenagers are more likely to become addicted to drugs than any other group.
The explanation generally hinges around social circumstances – peer pressure, or the fact that parents who smoke are more likely to raise teen smokers, for instance. But two new papers, published together in eLife, argue the reason is more biological than previously thought.
The two studies assessed the role of elF2α, a molecule that regulates the production of proteins responsible for building connections between neurons. In one study, adolescent and adult mice were injected with either a saline solution or a low dose of cocaine. Researchers found only the adolescent mice that were given cocaine experienced a reduction of eIF2α activity, which resulted in changes in protein regulation that strengthened connections between dopamine-storing neurons.
Increased communication between dopamine-rich neurons increases the sense of pleasure from taking the drug, which in turn increases the likelihood of addiction.
The second study described similar experiments, but with nicotine instead of cocaine. The results were similar, but using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the study also identified a variation in the human gene that codes for eIF2α. This variation, they found, can either increase or decrease nicotine users’ responses to rewards.
The stated goal of both study groups is to educate adolescents about the very real risks of recreational drug use and experimentation.
Sourced from: Medical Daily, Teen Addiction: Cocaine and Nicotine Strengthen Dopamine Connections In Teens’ Brains, Increasing Risk
Published On: Mar 3rd 2016
Study: Sex Helps Aging Brains
As we grow older, keeping sexually active may be the secret to keeping our brains active, too.
A study conducted at the Centre for Research in Psychology, Behavior and Achievement at Coventry University in England has found that people over age 50 who are more sexually active also have better memory and cognitive skills than people who are not.
And sex seems to give men’s brains a bigger boost than women’s.
Men who were more sexually active scored higher on tests of memory skills and executive function – the mental processes involved in planning, solving problems and paying attention. Women who were more sexually active saw only a higher score in their memory skills.
Researchers looked at data collected from more than 6,800 men and women ages 50 to 89. Participants were asked whether they had engaged in sexual activity over the past 12 months. This included a wide range of sexual activity – intercourse, masturbating, petting or fondling.
There were also two cognitive tests. One, a recall test designed to measure memory, in which people were asked to remember a list of 10 common words immediately after hearing them, and then again after a brief delay. And a second, gauging executive function, involved identifying the missing number in a numerical sequence.
Sexually active men and women scored higher than sexually inactive adults on both the word-recall and number-sequencing tasks.
It’s too early to tell whether sex is one way for older adults to keep their minds sharp – or whether it is the other way around – people who want a long and healthy sex life should start by doing things that are good for the brain, such as being physically and mentally active and eating a healthy diet.
Sourced from: Live Science, Sex Tied to Better Brain Power in Older Age
Published On: Mar 3rd 2016
Could Lower Fruit Prices Save Lives?
Some solutions are simple (but that’s not to say easily achievable).
Research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology/Lifestyle 2016 Scientific Sessions in Phoenix has concluded that reducing the price of fruits, vegetables and grains – and increasing the price of sugary drinks – could prevent more than half a million deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the U.S. by 2035.
Researchers used a computer model to estimate how lowering the price of fruits, vegetables and grains by 10%, and raising the price of sugary drinks by 10% might impact CVD rates.
The models showed that the price changes combined would prevent around 515,000 deaths from CVD in the U.S. by 2035 – as well as prevent 675,000 CVD events, including heart attack and stroke.
The reduction in the price of fruits and vegetables alone could reduce deaths from CVD by 1.2% within 5 years, according to the team, and by almost 2% within 20 years. It could also lead to a 2.6% fall in heart attacks and a 4% fall in strokes within 20 years. As for sugary drinks, the price rise could lower deaths from CVD by almost 0.1% within 5 years and by 0.12% within 20 years.
The study authors added a more startling conclusion – if each person in America added 100 g of fruit, 100 g of vegetables and 50 g of whole grains to their diet each day, as well as cutting out one 8-ounce sugary drink, up to 3.5 million CVD deaths and 4 million cardiovascular events could be avoided in just 2 years.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., responsible for around 610,000 deaths every year.
Sourced from: MNT, 10% price cut on fruits and veg ‘could prevent thousands of heart deaths’
Published On: Mar 3rd 2016