Shock your brain into submission

The Brodmann area 25 is highlighted in red. Electrical stimulation of this area in some patients can alleviate symptoms of depression.
The Brodmann area 25 is highlighted in red. Electrical stimulation of this area in some patients can alleviate symptoms of depression.

This month’s special issue of Science Magazine is themed “The Heavily Connected Brain“. Articles center around the brain’s complex connections and the huge amount of data collected to study those connections. One particular issue related to brain connectivity is behavior and mood.

Many interacting circuits in the brain can influence a person’s behavior or mood. When these systems aren’t functioning correctly doctors can prescribe drugs to regulate the levels of various signaling molecules in the hope of restoring normal behavior or mood.

Some doctors are now turning to electrical current therapies to “reset” the malfunctioning circuit. This is not a new concept. Doctors have been using electrical currents as therapy since the 17th century. Continue reading “Shock your brain into submission”

Scientists against the “War on Drugs”

drugsEveryone has heard about the “War on Drugs”. Most Americans of my generation have sat through D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) classes in middle school learning how to “just say no”. In addition to their intended effects on rates of drug addiction and, perhaps, unintended effects on the size of the prison population, the laws regulating psychoactive drugs are having a less well-recognized effect.

In a special section of Nature Reviews Neuroscience (Neuroscience and the law-Science and Society) there is an interesting editorial about how Schedule I drug laws are stifling neuroscience research and the development of new treatments. I’ll be honest, my first thought was, “Are these guys just old hippies or do they have a good point?”. David Nutt, Leslie King, and David Nichols may be old hippies, but they also have a point. Continue reading “Scientists against the “War on Drugs””