Social rejection by those closest to you can lead to subsequent drinking

The need to belong and experience social connections is a fundamental human characteristic. Prior research has shown that social rejection is linked to increases in negative emotions, distress, and hostility. This study examined the impact of social rejection on alcohol use, and whether the impact differed when the social rejection was by close others, such as friends, spouses or family members, or by strangers or acquaintances.

Researchers gathered data from 77 community participants (41 women, 36 men) who used their smartphones to record their social interactions and alcohol use for 14 consecutive days. The analysis examined associations between rejection experiences and daily alcohol use.

Findings indicated that the type of relationship may be a key factor in whether or not social rejection leads to drinking. More specifically, on days characterized by rejection by close others, the likelihood of drinking significantly increased. In contrast, on days characterized by rejection by acquaintances, there was no increase in the likelihood of drinking. This finding contrasts with laboratory studies of rejection that emphasize rejection and ostracism by strangers rather than known others.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Research Society on Alcoholism. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Holly B. Laws, Nicole E. Ellerbeck, Alyne S. Rodrigues, Jessica A. Simmons, Emily B. Ansell. Social Rejection and Alcohol Use in Daily Life. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/acer.13347

Cite This Page:

Research Society on Alcoholism. “Social rejection by those closest to you can lead to subsequent drinking.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 March 2017. .

Research Society on Alcoholism. (2017, March 3). Social rejection by those closest to you can lead to subsequent drinking. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 3, 2017 from

Research Society on Alcoholism. “Social rejection by those closest to you can lead to subsequent drinking.” ScienceDaily. (accessed March 3, 2017).

Sons of cocaine-using fathers have profound memory impairments

Fathers who use cocaine at the time of conceiving a child may be putting their sons at risk of learning disabilities and memory loss. The findings of the animal study were published online in Molecular Psychiatry by a team of researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The researchers say the findings reveal that drug abuse by fathers — separate from the well-established effects of cocaine use in mothers — may negatively impact cognitive development in their male offspring.

The study, which was led by Mathieu Wimmer, PhD, a post-doctoral researcher in the laboratory of R. Christopher Pierce, PhD, a professor of Neuroscience in Psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, found evidence that the sons of fathers that ingested cocaine prior to conception struggle to make new memories. Their findings demonstrated that the sons — but not the daughters — of male rats that consumed cocaine for an extended period of time could not remember the location of items in their surroundings and had impaired synaptic plasticity in hippocampus, a brain region critical for learning and spatial navigation in humans and rodents.

“These results suggest that the sons of male cocaine addicts may be at risk for learning deficits,” said senior author, R. Christopher Pierce, PhD, a professor of Neuroscience in Psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Pierce and his colleagues propose that epigenetic mechanisms are at the root of the problem. Epigenetics refers to heritable traits that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence, as is the case with genetic inheritance. DNA is tightly wound around proteins called histones, like thread around a spool, and chemical changes to histones influence the expression of genes, which is an epigenetic process.

Their research showed that cocaine use in dads caused epigenetic changes in the brain of their sons, thereby changing the expression of genes important for memory formation. D-serine, a molecule essential for memory, was depleted in male rats whose father took cocaine and replenishing the levels of D-serine in the sons’ hippocampus improved learning in these animals.

In collaboration with Benjamin Garcia, PhD, presidential professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the Epigenetics Institute at the Perelman School of Medicine, the authors showed that cocaine abuse in dads broadly altered the chemical marks on histones in the brain of their sons, even though the offspring were never exposed to cocaine. Chemical modifications on the histones were changed to favor active transcription of genes in the hippocampus of male rats with a paternal history of cocaine taking, allowing more production of the enzyme D-amino acid oxidase, which degrades D-serine. The authors propose that increased expression of the enzyme, driven by changes in the epigenetic landscape, cause the memory problems in the sons of addicted rats.

“There is substantial interest in the development of D-serine and related compounds, which are well tolerated by humans, as drug therapies,” Pierce said. “The ability of D-serine to reverse the adverse effects of paternal cocaine taking on learning adds potential clinical relevance to our research.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Studies show that the cerebellum is crucial to understanding vulnerability to drug addiction

An international research team led by the Universitat Jaume I (UJI) has shown that the cerebellum, contrary to what was thought, fulfils functions that go beyond the motor sphere and can be co-responsible for the brain alterations associated with addictive consumption of drugs. The findings, which are shown in two recent reviews published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews and Journal of Neuroscience — with an image taken at the UJI laboratories — , would represent a step forward towards the design of new therapies for the future.

These studies are based on a series of works published over the last two years by the research group Addiction and Neuroplasticity at the Universitat Jaume I, directed by the lecturer of the Area of Psychobiology at ​​the UJI, which has had the collaboration of researchers from European, Mexican and North American universities. The most relevant, according to Miquel, is that the studies show that changes in the cerebellum “only occur in those subjects who appear to be especially vulnerable to the effect of drugs.” For a long time, “we have verified that the cerebellum responds in a very potent way to the effect of cocaine, to the point of changing the mechanisms of plasticity,” states Miquel, who is also coordinator of the master’s degree in Research in Brain and Behaviour.

Consequently, the cerebellum is a region of the brain relevant to understanding and designing future treatments for drug addiction. “There is progress in describing the neuronal circuits affected by drug addiction, a chronic brain disorder that is difficult to treat because it affects the basic processes of acquiring and storing the information whose description is still incomplete,” explains the teacher, who acknowledges that, in this way, “the path to new therapies will be accelerated.”

Addiction involves alterations in the neuronal mechanisms of plasticity that allow the brain to store information, regenerate itself and recover from possible disorders or injuries. In an addicted person, the brain’s mechanisms of learning and memory that allow you to make decisions and carry out acts of will are sick. Addictive drugs force the brain to store harmful data about where, when and how to consume the substance. In fact, the drug is the predominant information in the brains of people affected by addiction.

The Effects of Cocaine

On this occasion, the reviewed investigations address the function of the cerebellum in these storage processes involved in the addictive disorder. Specifically, “experimental work shows that these effects of cocaine on cerebellar function only occur in those individuals dominated by stimuli that predict drug availability and suggest that the cerebellum may be crucial to understanding mechanisms of vulnerability to addiction,” explains Marta Miquel.

Science has corroborated that certain regions of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and basal ganglia, may be relevant for addiction. However, the cerebellum had traditionally been excluded from this circuit because it was considered a structure exclusively dedicated to motor control, especially motor coordination. “Today we know that this is a very partial view on the complexity of the cerebellum, and a growing volume of data suggests its involvement in many of the brain functions affected in addicted subjects,” refers Marta Miquel. “The cerebellum comprises 80% of all neurons in the brain; it contains 60 billion neurons packaged in only 10% of the brain mass and is a fundamental structure in the consolidation and automation of learned behavioural repertoires,” concludes the lecturer.

In addition to the UJI team, scientists from the University of Kentucky (USA), University of Turin (Italy), Universidad Veracruzana (Mexico), Washington State University (USA), University of Cambridge, University of Leeds (United Kingdom), McLean Hospital Translational Neuroscience Laboratory and Mailman Research Center (USA) also participate in the research works. After presenting the papers at the last congress of the International Society for Neuroscience (San Diego, USA), the work will be discussed soon at the Albert Einstein Institute in New York.

The priority line of the research group Addiction and Neuroplasticity from the Universitat Jaume I, directed by the lecturer Marta Miquel, is the brain’s function in drug addiction.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Asociación RUVID. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Brain scans could predict teens’ problem drug use before it starts

There’s an idea out there of what a drug-addled teen is supposed to look like: impulsive, unconscientious, smart, perhaps — but not the most engaged. While personality traits like that could signal danger, not every adolescent who fits that description becomes a problem drug user. So how do you tell who’s who?

There’s no perfect answer, but researchers report February 21 in Nature Communications that they’ve found a way to improve our predictions — using brain scans that can tell, in a manner of speaking, who’s bored by the promise of easy money, even when the kids themselves might not realize it.

That conclusion grew out of a collaboration between Brian Knutson, a professor of psychology at Stanford, and Christian Büchel, a professor of medicine at Universitätsklinikum Hamburg Eppendorf. With support from the Stanford Neurosciences Institute’s NeuroChoice program, which Knutson co-directs, the pair started sorting through an intriguing dataset covering, among other things, 144 European adolescents who scored high on a test of what’s called novelty seeking — roughly, the sorts of personality traits that might indicate a kid is at risk for drug or alcohol abuse.

Novelty seeking in a brain scanner

Novelty seeking isn’t inherently bad, Knutson said. On a good day, the urge to take a risk on something new can drive innovation. On a bad day, however, it can lead people to drive recklessly, jump off cliffs and ingest whatever someone hands out at a party. And psychologists know that kids who score high on tests of novelty seeking are on average a bit more likely to abuse drugs. The question was, could there be a better test, one both more precise and more individualized, that could tell whether novelty seeking might turn into something more destructive.

Knutson and Büchel thought so, and they suspected that a brain-scanning test called the Monetary Incentive Delay Task, or MID, could be the answer. Knutson had developed the task early in his career as a way of targeting a part of the brain now known to play a role in mentally processing rewards like money or the high of a drug.

The task works like this. People lie down in an MRI brain scanner to play a simple video game for points, which they can eventually convert to money. More important than the details of the game, however, is this: At the start of each round, each player gets a cue about how many points he stands to win during the round. It’s at that point that players start to anticipate future rewards. For most people, that anticipation alone is enough to kick the brain’s reward centers into gear.

A puzzle and the data to solve it

This plays out differently — and a little puzzlingly — in adolescents who use drugs. Kids’ brains in general respond less when anticipating rewards, compared with adults’ brains. But that effect is even more pronounced when those kids use drugs, which suggests one of two things: Either drugs suppress brain activity, or the suppressed brain activity somehow leads youths to take drugs.

If it’s the latter, then Knutson’s task could predict future drug use. But no one was sure, mainly because no one had measured brain activity in non-drug-using adolescents and compared it to eventual drug use.

No one, that is, except Büchel. As part of the IMAGEN consortium, he and colleagues in Europe had already collected data on around 1,000 14-year-olds as they went through Knutson’s MID task. They had also followed up with each of them two years later to find out if they’d become problem drug users — for example, if they smoked or drank on a daily basis or ever used harder drugs like heroin. Then, Knutson and Büchel focused their attention on 144 adolescents who hadn’t developed drug problems by age 14 but had scored in the top 25 percent on a test of novelty seeking.

Lower anticipation

Analyzing that data, Knutson and Büchel found they could correctly predict whether youngsters would go on to abuse drugs about two-thirds of the time based on how their brains responded to anticipating rewards. This is a substantial improvement over behavioral and personality measures, which correctly distinguished future drug abusers from other novelty-seeking 14-year-olds about 55 percent of the time, only a little better than chance.

“This is just a first step toward something more useful,” Knutson said. “Ultimately the goal — and maybe this is pie in the sky — is to do clinical diagnosis on individual patients” in the hope that doctors could stop drug abuse before it starts, he said.

Knutson said the study first needs to be replicated, and he hopes to follow the kids to see how they do further down the line. Eventually, he said, he may be able not just to predict drug abuse, but also better understand it. “My hope is the signal isn’t just predictive, but also informative with respect to interventions.”

E-cigarettes popular among smokers with existing illnesses

Current and former smokers suffering from illnesses like chronic lung or cardiovascular disease are more likely to use e-cigarettes, reports the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

In the U.S. more than 16 million people with smoking-related illnesses continue to use cigarettes. According to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, current and former smokers who suffer from disease are more likely to have reported using an e-cigarette, meaning these patients may see e-cigarettes as safer or less harmful than combustible cigarettes and a way to reduce the risks posed by traditional smoking.

Use of electronic cigarettes has significantly increased in recent years. In 2010, only 2% of American adults had ever used an e-cigarette, but by 2014, that number had jumped to 12.6%. While most people see e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to traditional combustible smoking, many questions remain unanswered about their effects.

Using data from the 2014 and 2015 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), investigators found that current smokers who also suffered from one or more medical conditions were more likely to have used an e-cigarette than “healthy” smokers (those without any comorbidities). The study included 36,697 adults in 2014 and 33,672 adults in 2015.

“This large sample provides the first national estimates of the prevalence of e-cigarette use among U.S. adults with medical comorbidities,” explained lead investigator Gina R. Kruse, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston. “Current smokers with medical comorbidities use e-cigarettes at higher rates than smokers without medical comorbidities. Very few never smokers with medical comorbidities have ever used e-cigarettes, except in the youngest age groups.”

The data revealed that not only are smokers with comorbidities more likely to use e-cigarettes, but that e-cigarette use continues to rise, especially among present smokers (47.6% in 2014 vs. 53.5% in 2015). Current smokers with asthma, COPD, or cardiovascular disease reported e-cigarette use more often than other groups. Among former smokers, individuals with COPD reported more e-cigarette use compared to those without chronic disease; however, former smokers with cancer had lower odds of current e-cigarette use.

“Smokers with asthma, COPD, or cardiovascular disease probably use e-cigarettes for the same reasons as other adults: to quit cigarettes, reduce cigarette consumption, or reduce the harms from smoking,” said Dr. Kruse. “Smokers with these chronic diseases may feel an urgent need to quit or reduce combustible cigarette use and may be willing to try new products. Conversely, among adults with cancer, the low prevalence of e-cigarette use may be because even a reduced harm product is seen as too late to help them.”

While health care providers and researchers are still trying to fully understand possible health risks associated with e-cigarettes, there is a growing consensus that their use can possibly help people quit combustible cigarettes and curb tobacco-related risks. Switching to e-cigarettes might have greater positive impact for current smokers with health problems.

“E-cigarette use by current and former smokers with medical comorbidities is substantial, especially among individuals with chronic lung or cardiovascular disease. Clinicians should routinely ask these patients about e-cigarette use, assessing potential risks and benefits in terms of reducing or quitting combustible cigarette use. Clinicians should also actively consider all pathways to help their patients quit combustible cigarettes and recommend evidence-based treatments,” commented Dr. Kruse.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Elsevier. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.