Brain Facts: A Primer on the Brain and Nervous System by The Society for Neuroscience

By The Society for Neuroscience

This booklet offers a glimpse of what's recognized concerning the anxious process, the issues of the mind and a few of the interesting avenues of analysis that promise new cures for plenty of neurological ailments.

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Extra resources for Brain Facts: A Primer on the Brain and Nervous System

Sample text

Researchers are developing treatments, which interfere with molecules, such as the opioid peptides, and trigger alcohol’s positive reinforcing e∑ects. One such drug, naltrexone, recently has been approved for treating alcoholism. Marijuana This drug can distort perception, and alter the sense of time, space and self. In certain situations, marijuana can produce intense anxiety. In radioactive tracing studies, scientists found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, binds to specific receptors, many of which coordinate movement.

Induced immunosuppression can also be beneficial. It reduces inflammation and counteracts allergic reactions and autoimmune responses that occur when the body’s defenses turn against body tissue. Synthetic glucocorticoids like hydrocortisone and prednisone are used all the time to decrease inflammation and autoimmunity. But glucocorticoids may be harmful in the case of increased tumor growth associated with stress in experiments on animals—an area of intense research yet to yield any final conclusions.

Also genetic susceptibility or environmental factors, like stress, may alter the way that people respond to drugs. In addition, the development of tolerance—the progressive need that accompanies chronic use for a higher drug dose to achieve the same e∑ect—varies in di∑erent people. So does drug dependence— the adaptive physiological state that results in withdrawal symptoms when drug use stops. While tolerance and dependence are standard responses of the brain and body to the presence of drugs, addiction requires that these occur while a motivational form of dependence—the feeling that a person can’t live without a drug, accompanied by negative a∑ective states—is also developing.

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