An increasing number of people report concerns about the amount of stress in their life. At the same time obesity is an escalating health problem worldwide. Evidence is accumulating rapidly that stress related chronic stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and resulting excess glucocorticoid exposure may play a potential role in the development of visceral obesity.
Addiction research focusing on homocysteine metabolism and its association with aspects of alcohol dependence has revealed important findings. Recent literature on this topic has been taken into account for the review provided. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is a key enzyme in the homocysteine metabolism. Plasma homocysteine levels are influenced by the single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) MTHFR C677T. Besides genetic factors, environmental factors have an impact on homocysteine plasma levels too.
Changes in gene expression in brain reward regions are thought to contribute to the pathogenesis and persistence of drug addiction. Recent studies have begun to focus on the molecular mechanisms by which drugs of abuse and related environmental stimuli, such as drug-associated cues or stress, converge on the genome to alter specific gene programs. Increasing evidence suggests that these stable gene expression changes in neurons are mediated in part by epigenetic mechanisms that alter chromatin structure on specific gene promoters.
BACKGROUND: Prenatal cannabis exposure has been linked to addiction vulnerability, but the neurobiology underlying this risk is unknown. METHODS: Striatal dopamine and opioid-related genes were studied in human fetal subjects exposed to cannabis (as well as cigarettes and alcohol). Cannabis-related gene disturbances observed in the human fetus were subsequently characterized with an animal model of prenatal ?-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (.15 mg/kg) exposure.
We have published extensively on the neurogenetics of brain reward systems with reference to the genes related to dopaminergic function in particular. In 1996, we coined "Reward Deficiency Syndrome" (RDS), to portray behaviors found to have gene-based association with hypodopaminergic function. RDS as a useful concept has been embraced in many subsequent studies, to increase our understanding of Substance Use Disorder (SUD), addictions, and other obsessive, compulsive, and impulsive behaviors.
Nihon Shinkei Seishin Yakurigaku Zasshi = Japanese Journal of Psychopharmacology
Recent human brain imaging studies have examined differences in activity in the nucleus accumbens (N.Acc.) in response to heat stimuli between controls and patients with chronic pain, and have revealed that the N.Acc. plays a role in predicting the value of a noxious stimulus and its offset, and in the consequent changes in the motivational state. Nevertheless, the molecular mechanisms of change in the circuitry involved in emotion and motivation in response to chronic pain stimuli were not fully explored.
Measures enabling one to assess general feelings about a relationship, social exchange behaviors, and the particularism and symbolism of resources given to and received from another were examined longitudinally in 38 dating couples. These variables were first measured shortly after a couple began to date and again approximately 4 months later. We found that in contrast to what might be expected from prevailing theories of relationship development, the later status of couples (still dating or broken up) could be predicted with a high degree of accuracy from the initial measures.
Romantic and maternal love are highly rewarding experiences. Both are linked to the perpetuation of the species and therefore have a closely linked biological function of crucial evolutionary importance. Yet almost nothing is known about their neural correlates in the human. We therefore used fMRI to measure brain activity in mothers while they viewed pictures of their own and of acquainted children, and of their best friend and of acquainted adults as additional controls.
Early-stage romantic love can induce euphoria, is a cross-cultural phenomenon, and is possibly a developed form of a mammalian drive to pursue preferred mates. It has an important influence on social behaviors that have reproductive and genetic consequences. To determine which reward and motivation systems may be involved, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and studied 10 women and 7 men who were intensely "in love" from 1 to 17 mo.
Scientists have described myriad traits in mammalian and avian species that evolved to attract mates. But the brain mechanisms by which conspecifics become attracted to these traits is largely unknown. Yet mammals and birds express mate preferences and make mate choices, and data suggest that this "attraction system" is associated with the dopaminergic reward system. It has been proposed that intense romantic love, a cross-cultural universal, is a developed form of this attraction system.