Imaging Rapid Drug Effects In The Human Brain
Brown University researchers outline a method of showing how drugs affect the brain within minutes to hours of being taken.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. A new study reveals how a brain imaging technique can be used to understand how fast-acting drugs alter metabolism and the production of complex molecules in the human brain.
The study outlines strategies for optimizing proton magnetic spectroscopy imaging in the minutes to hours following drug ingestion. 1H-MRS imaging has been most often used to assess long-term changes in the brains metabolism in psychiatric disorders, pharmacological treatment, chronic drug use and alcohol dependence. This new study demonstrates the techniques capacity to evaluate the biochemical changes in the minutes to hours following drug consumption a new application of the technique.
The research was published on August 25 in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, a journal of the American Chemical Society. The work was led by Tara White, assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University, and Meghan Gonsalves, a Ph.D. student at Brown.
The technique described in this latest paper was first applied in a 2018 study, led by White, which found a large rise in neocortical glutamate the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the mammalian brain and nervous system 2.5 hours after people took drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder .
The research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse .
Key Points To Understand The Brain And Addiction:
1. Some characteristics of addiction are similar to other chronic diseases.
Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and changes its functioning, addiction changes the brain and impairs the way it works. Below is an image of the brain and the heart .
These images show how scientists can use imaging technology to measure functioning of the brain and heart. Greater activity is shown in reds and yellows, and reduced activity is shown in blues and purples. Both the healthy brain and the healthy heart show greater activity than the diseased brain and heart, because both addiction and heart disease cause changes in function. In drug addiction, the frontal cortex in particular shows less activity. This is the part of the brain associated with judgment and decision-making .
Addiction is similar to other chronic diseases in the following ways:
- It is preventable
- If untreated, it can last a lifetime
2. Substances of misuse trick the brains reward system.
Below is a picture of the brain and the nucleus accumbens, in addition to some other brain regions that are affected by addition.
The brains nucleus accumbens activated by alcohol
Addictive drugs can provide a shortcut to the brains reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. Additionally, addictive drugs can release 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards do, and they do it more quickly and reliably.
3. The brain can recover but it takes time!
Are Changes In The Brain From Drug Use Reversible
Certain brain changes can be persistent or permanent, but this can vary widely depending on the type of injury and the substance of abuse. Many substance-related neurological complications or consequences may also be reversible.
WKS, for instance, may present with more chronic and debilitating effects, but when caught early and with proper treatment, WKS might be reversible in certain cases. Research has shown that even people who have suffered from a stroke can make some degree of recovery. Studies have also shown that brain shrinkage and reduced white matter volume associated with alcohol abuse may be reversible.24,25,26,27
NIDA explains that some of the neurological damage to the dopaminergic system appear, at least partly, to be reversible, with many neurological markers for nerve damage returning to normal after several months of abstinence.28 The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse points out that although it can take time, most people suffering from alcohol addiction will experience at least some improvement in brain structure and functioning with abstinence.3
Drug Effects Of Ketamine In Mice Can Depend On The Sex Of The Human Experimenter Study Finds
- University of Maryland School of Medicine
- Researchers have shown that mice respond more to the antidepressant effects of the drug ketamine when administered by men and not by women. The group demonstrated that a stress response in a specific region of the mouse brain from handling by a man is essential for ketamine to work.
Many researchers who work with mice can tell you that mice behave differently depending on who is handling them. Anecdotal reports and some existing scientific reports indicate that mice tend to be more fearful and uptight around men, and relaxed and comfortable around women. Whether this behavior actually affects research results though, remains a sort of the elephant in the room that not many people seem to want to address.
Now, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have shown that mice respond more to the antidepressant effects of the drug ketamine when administered by men and not by women. The group demonstrated that the response of mice detected in a specific region of their brain from handling by a man is essential for ketamine’s effect to work. Then, the researchers identified the mechanism behind this response.
The findings were published on August 30 in Nature Neuroscience.
“Compared to humans, mouse sense of smell and their sensitivity to pheromones are more keenly developed, so it’s not surprising that they respond differently to many smells, including those of men compared to women,”said Dr. Gould.
What Drugs Do To The Brain
Drugs are chemicals and they affect the brain by interfering with the way in which neurons typically send, receive, and process information. Some types of drugs, such as heroin, can activate neurons as their chemical structure mimics that of a neurotransmitter. This fools the receptors, allowing drugs to attach to and activate neurons. While drugs can mimic the natural chemicals in the brain, the do not activate neurons in the same way as natural brain chemicals, leading to the transmission of abnormal messages. Other drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, actually cause neurons to release abnormally huge amounts of neurotransmitters or prevent the natural recycling of brain chemicals. These disruptions ultimately disrupt communication channels in the brain.
Most drugs that are abused target the brains reward system, either directly or indirectly. The drugs flood the brains circuit with dopamine which is a natural neurotransmitter, that when activated at normal levels, rewards natural behaviors. Drugs cause an overstimulation of the system, often producing euphoric effects that unfortunately can lead to repeated use.
Emotional Control: Managing Feelings
If you struggle to control your emotions, you may overreact or underreact in emotional situations. You might also act out of those overblown emotions and create unnecessary drama and pain. Addiction can cause a loss of emotional control because most people under the influence of drugs do not feel their emotions. When the drugs wear off, the emotional pain can be too much to process all at once. An addict will often act on those emotions until he can calm them with more drugs.
How Heroin Causes Cravings
Heroin disrupts the reward system in the brain. It overwhelms opioid receptors, causing massive amounts of pleasure. The brain notices that heroin makes us feel good, and it remembers the situation that the person was in when he or she used heroin. In short, the brain produces cravings for heroin because it learns over time that the drug causes happiness.
Whos Most Likely To Become Addicted
Each personâs body and brain are different. People also react differently to drugs. Some love the feeling the first time they try it and want more. Others hate it and never try again.
Not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted. But it can happen to anyone and at any age. Some things may raise your chances of addiction, including:
- Family history. Your genes are responsible for about half of your odds. If your parents or siblings have problems with alcohol or drugs, youâre more likely as well. Women and men are equally likely to become addicted.
- Early drug use. Childrenâs brains are still growing, and drug use can change that. So taking drugs at an early age may make you more likely to get addicted when you get older.
- Mental disorders. If youâre depressed, have trouble paying attention, or worry constantly, you have a higher chance of addiction. You may turn to drugs as a way to try to feel better. A history of trauma in your life also makes you more likely to have addiction.
- Troubled relationships. If you grew up with family troubles and arenât close to your parents or siblings, it may raise your chances of addiction.
How Do Drugs Work In The Brain
Drugs interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters. Some drugs, such as marijuana and heroin, can activate neurons because their chemical structure mimics that of a natural neurotransmitter in the body. This allows the drugs to attach onto and activate the neurons. Although these drugs mimic the brains own chemicals, they dont activate neurons in the same way as a natural neurotransmitter, and they lead to abnormal messages being sent through the network.
Other drugs, such as amphetamine or cocaine, can cause the neurons to release abnormally large amounts of natural neurotransmitters or prevent the normal recycling of these brain chemicals by interfering with transporters. This too amplifies or disrupts the normal communication between neurons.
Does My Teenager Need Rehab
If you notice signs that your teen may be using substances, address the situation quickly to prevent permanent brain damage and the many other problems that arise from substance abuse and addiction. If addiction is present, drug rehab treatment may be needed. That said, your first step is to contact a treatment professional as soon as possible, who can determine the level of your childs potential problem. This person might be your family doctor or your teens school guidance counselor.
Why Heroin Causes Dependence
When opioid receptors adapt to heroin and become less responsive, other changes occur that make the brain rely on the drug to function normally. This is called dependence. Without heroin, the opioid receptors of a dependent person act abnormally. This abnormal brain activity causes heroin withdrawal symptoms.
Why Are Young People More At Risk For Brain Damage From Substance Abuse
The human brain is made up of cells called neurons. These cells are protected by a substance called myelin, which acts as a sort of insulator to the messages that come to your brain. The older you are, the more insulated you are from brain messages that is, the better youre able to handle them. But in teens, the protective properties of myelin havent been fully developed, so they receive more intense messages. When teens experience pleasure, that sensation is more intense in their brain than in the brain of an adult. Conversely, when teens feel sadness, its also experienced more intensely.
And because of the myelin level of the teen brain, drugs have more intense effects on teens than they do on adults. So when they use substances like marijuana, opioids or amphetamines, their brains reward systems are triggered more powerfully which also puts teens at greater risk for addiction.
Why Cant They Just Stop Using
Just like we turn down the volume on a radio that is too loud, the brain adjusts to drugs by turning down its ability to receive signals. As a result, the brains reward circuit of a person struggling with addiction is abnormally low. They feel flat, lifeless and depressed. They are unable to enjoy things they used to. They need to keep taking drugs so they feel normal which only makes the problem worse. Because the brain is learning to tolerate the drugs, the person will take larger amounts to produce the same result.
What Is Toxic Brain Injury
Toxic Brain Injury is a result of a non-fatal drug overdose in which limited or no oxygen is supplied to the brain for a prolonged period of time. There are two types of toxic brain injury anoxic and hypoxic. Anoxic injury is when there is no oxygen going to the brain and hypoxic is when there is simply not enough oxygen sent to the brain. The severity of the brain injury is determined by how long the brain is without oxygen. The frontal lobe, which is responsible for movement, language, and cognitive functioning, is especially vulnerable to damage from an overdose. Damage to the frontal lobe can cause issues with emotional control, problem-solving, and the ability to focus.
Why Are Teens More At Risk
Numerous studies reveal that children and teens who abuse substances are more at risk. For example, kids who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to become addicted than people who start at age 21.
The teenage years are paramount to our brain development. This is often when we develop our personality, refine our skills and take on new responsibilities. Our brains are constantly shifting during this time to become fully matured. They are malleable, affected by the things we learn and experience. This makes the teenage brain susceptible to damage from toxic chemicals. And the effects of drugs and alcohol can slow down or even stop development in certain regions of the brain.
- Co-occurring mental health disorders
- Other brain abnormalities
Studies show that regular changes the actual structure of the brain, impacting areas related to memory and problem-solving. This has an observable effect on cognition and academic performance. Teens who smoke pot regularly have, on average, one grade point lower than their peers. These teens lose up to eight IQ points between childhood and adulthood. Teens who drink heavy amounts of alcohol exhibit reduced memory, attention span, information processing and executive functioning.
Can Neurological Complications Arise From Withdrawal
Neurological complications may result from withdrawal of certain substances. Medically supervised detox may help to reduce the likelihood or severity of many of these risks. You will receive constant monitoring and supervision as well as medication to address any symptoms or complications that may arise as a result of withdrawal.21
Withdrawal from substances like alcohol and benzodiazepines may also present a risk of withdrawal seizures.21,22 top Seizures can be dangerous because you can suffer from falls or injuries or develop a potentially lethal condition known as status epilepticus, which is when you have a seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes or when seizures occur too often in too short a time span.23
What Does Addiction Do To The Brain
Addiction impacts the brain on many levels. The chemical compounds in Stimulants, Nicotine, Opioids, alcohol, and Sedatives enter the brain and bloodstream upon use. Once a chemical enters the brain, it can cause people to lose control of their impulses or crave a harmful substance.
When someone develops an addiction, the brain craves the reward of the substance. This is due to the intense stimulation of the brains reward system. In response, many users continue use of the substance this can lead to a host of euphoric feelings and strange behavioral traits. Long-term addiction can have severe outcomes, such as brain damage, and can even result in death.
How Addiction Affects The Brain
Dr. Ashish Bhatt, MD explains how addiction affects the brain, and how different substances can alter the brains chemistry.
How Do Drugs Affect Long
In addition to their numerous hindrances on neuronic brain activity, drugs have a significantly negative effect on long-term brain health. Drug use kills brain cells that can never be reconstructed or replicated. It doesnt take much substance abuse to create one or more irreversible mental health conditions. Though these issues are often irreversible, knowing more about these drug-induced conditions will help you and your doctor combat more than just your addiction. With the information on various brain health defects below, your therapeutic specialist will be properly equipped to treat coinciding mental health issues. In some cases, even reversing the mental health conditions that arise is possible.
Harmful Effects Of Drugs On The Brain
Drugs and health are a deadly combination. In medicine, certain drugs and substances are helpful, it’s the intake of drugs for fun or leisure that can destroy an individual mentally and physically. Read on to learn more about the impact of drugs on your mental health…
Drugs and health are a deadly combination. In medicine, certain drugs and substances are helpful, its the intake of drugs for fun or leisure that can destroy an individual mentally and physically. Read on to learn more about the impact of drugs on your mental health
The impact of drugs on ones brain can be summed up with this visual description: picture a raw egg sitting harmlessly on a table, now take a frying pan and smash it. The runny, destroyed and splashed everywhere mess, of egg white, yolk and shell is your brain on drugs. Its simple enough, drugs mess with your brain and extend their devious reach to other parts of your body, from there. Below, the most dangerous and addictive drugs are examined to elucidate the harmful effects of drugs on the brain.
The Biochemistry Of Addiction
The brain responds to addiction based on a number of factors, such as the type and number of drugs used, the frequency of use, and the stage of addiction that has developed. If someone uses Cocaine, for example, they will notice a feeling of euphoria. This occurs because Cocaine is Psychoactive and impacts the area of the brain that controls pleasure and motivation. There is a short and powerful burst of dopamine, the chemical that causes many to feel euphoric. This feeling can be so intense that a strong desire to continue using may form.
The more someone abuses a drug, the more they may continue using it unless they get help overcoming a life-threatening addiction. Once the chemical has affected the brain, individuals can feel physical symptoms as well as the impact of the chemical throughout their nervous system. Symptoms can include a rapid heartbeat, paranoia, nausea, hallucinations, and other disturbing sensations the individual has little control over. He or she may become consumed with abusing the substance to maintain their habit no matter the cost. As a result of this powerful grip of substance abuse, individuals can begin acting in unrecognizable ways this may concern friends and family.
Common Questions About Rehab