New research conducted on mice suggests repeated heavy drinking causes synaptic dysfunctions that lead to anxiety.
- The study was conducted on mice, who were given the equivalent of five drinks daily for 10 days.
- Images of the alcoholic mice brains showed synaptic dysfunctions related to microglia (immune cells in the brain).
- The results suggest that regulating TNF, a signaling protein related to systemic inflammation, may someday play a part in treating alcohol addiction.
3D surface rendering of confocal maximum projection images showing volume reconstruction of PSD-95 within CD68 structures in microglia (Iba1+ cell) on tissue sections from prefrontal cortices of WT and TNF KO mice after exposure to EtOH or H2O
The role of TNF in anxiety<p>But the new study revealed an interesting finding about TNF. To find out how TNF interacts with anxiety, the researchers gave to the alcoholic mice a drug called <a href="https://www.drugs.com/mtm/pomalidomide.html" target="_blank">pomalidomide</a>, which blocks the production of TNF. After, the mice showed improved synaptic functioning and less anxiety-like behaviors.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"This study suggests that regulating the levels of TNF might eventually be useful when treating alcohol addiction," Relvas told Inverse.</p>
Pixabay<p>Still, it's unclear whether or how TNF regulation might work its way into alcohol addiction treatments. After all, even if science can fix the anxiety aspect of alcoholism, heavy drinking still exacts heavy tolls on other parts of the body and brain.</p><p>For now, it's probably best to keep your drinking within moderate levels: <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/appendix-9/" target="_blank">Most</a> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/27/health/alcohol-drinking-health.html" target="_blank">research</a> suggests that having one to two drinks per day yields no significant negative health consequences.</p>
A large-scale study from King's College London explores the link between genetics and sun-seeking behaviors.
- There are a number of physical and mental health benefits to sun exposure, such as boosted vitamin D and serotonin levels and stronger bones.
- Addictions are multi-step conditions that, by definition, require exposure to the addictive agent and have also been proven to have a genetic factor. Countless people are exposed to addictive things, but not all become addicted. This is because of the genetic component of addiction.
- This large-scale study explores the link between sun-seeking behaviors and the genetic markers for addiction.
The benefits of sunlight<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyMjI1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzk0NDUxNH0.lbYbZidJkNXPUcWM6m8cucuzAFOANkqPaIVfJdqkJ4Q/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C52%2C0%2C52&height=700" id="d5fcd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f44fcc9a31393c8102803eb50d01a19a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="woman sitting on dock in the sunlight" />
The mental and physical health benefits of sunlight have been heavily researched.
Credit: eldar nurkovic on Shutterstock<p>The benefits of sunlight have been widely discussed for many years. In fact, there are a number of physical and mental health benefits to sun exposure.</p><p><strong>Sunshine (and the lack of) impacts your hormone levels. </strong></p><p>Sunlight (and alternatively, the lack of sunlight) triggers the release of certain hormones in your brain. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase serotonin, which is associated with boosting your mood and helping you feel calm and focused. </p><p>Alternatively, dark lighting triggers melatonin, a hormone that is helpful in allowing you to rest and fall asleep. Without enough sunlight, your serotonin levels can dip - and low serotonin levels have been associated with a higher risk of major depression with seasonal pattern (formerly known as seasonal affective disorder).</p><p><strong>Sunlight can build strong bones. </strong></p><p>Exposure to the ultraviolet-B radiation in the sun's rays can interact with your skin, causing it to create vitamin D. <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to NHS</a>, vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities or bone pain. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2008 study</a> has shown that even 30 minutes in sunlight (while wearing a bathing suit) can boost vitamin D levels. </p><p><strong>Can sunlight actually prevent cancer? </strong></p><p>Although heavy exposure to sunlight has been proven to contribute to certain skin cancers, a moderate amount of sunlight has actually been shown to have preventative benefits.</p><p><a href="https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/3/5/1548.full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to a 2008 study</a> from the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, those who live in areas with fewer daylight hours are more likely to have some specific cancers (including but not limited to colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer) than those who live in areas with increased daylight hours.</p><p><strong>Additionally, sunlight has been shown to help people with skin conditions such as psoriasis. </strong></p><p><a href="http://www.who.int/uv/faq/uvhealtfac/en/index1.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to the World Health Organization</a>, sun exposure may also be able to help treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, jaundice, and acne. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight#benefits" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Some research</a> has also indicated the sun benefits people who struggle with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus, and inflammatory bowel disease. </p>
Can you be addicted to the sun?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyMjI1Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMzE5NTMwOX0.pHOWSr3FcIndYkBAVND1UsD8AheTQmxsePKRi3XvYTw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=31%2C0%2C32%2C0&height=700" id="93c87" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="384e08fdcd535ed2b792eef419af9e2c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="hands holding up the sun" />
The large-scale study examines the link between addiction and sunlight, with some surprising results...
Credit: KieferPix on Shutterstock<p>Addictions are multi-step conditions that, by definition, require exposure to the addictive agent. Due to the increase of serotonin (a chemical in the human body <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin" target="_blank">that has been proven</a> to help reduce depression, regulate anxiety, and maintain bone health), it's natural that being exposed to prolonged periods of sunlight could become somewhat addictive to the human body and mind. We crave things that make us feel good, and sometimes those cravings become something we depend on. This is the very nature of addiction.</p><p>Countless people are exposed to addictive things (substances, medications, and yes, even the sun), but not all become addicted. This is because of the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3506170/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">genetic component of addiction</a>. </p><p>A large-scale study from King's College in London examines more than 260,000 people to better understand how sun-seeking behavior in humans can be linked to genes involving addiction, behavior traits, and brain function. </p><p><strong>The study included two phases:</strong></p><p>Phase one suggested genetics play a role in sun-seeking behaviors and phase 2 helped pinpoint what those genetic markers are.</p><p>Phase 1: The researchers studied the detailed health information of 2,500 twins, including their sun-seeking behavior and their genetics. Identical twins in a pair were more likely to have similar sun-seeking behavior than non-identical twins, indicating that genetics plays a role here. </p><p>Phase 2: The team of researchers then were able to identify five key gene markers involved in this sun-seeking behavior from further analysis of 260,000 participants. Some of the genes indicated have been linked to behaviors traits that are associated with risk-taking and addiction (including smoking and alcohol consumption).</p><p><strong>What does this study really prove? </strong></p><p>Some may think it's natural to become addicted to something that makes you feel good. The physical and mental health benefits of the outdoors have been heavily studied...so what does this study really mean? </p><p>First and foremost, it means more research needs to be done to examine the link between human conditions and exposure to sunlight. Senior author Dr. Mario Falchi explains to the <a href="https://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/addicted-to-the-sun-its-in-your-genes" target="_blank">King's College London News Center</a>: "Our results suggest that tackling excessive sun exposure or use of tanning beds might be more challenging than expected, as it is influenced by genetic factors. It is important for the public to be aware of this predisposition, as it could make people more mindful of their behavior and the potential harms of excessive sun exposure."</p><p>Additionally, it could mean alternative treatments, and further research needs to be conducted in terms of how we treat certain conditions that are caused or heavily influenced by human exposure to sunlight. </p>
A small proof-of-concept study shows smartphones could help detect drunkenness based on the way you walk.
- The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for driving in the U.S is 0.08 percent. You can measure your BAC 15 minutes after your first drink and your levels will remain safe if you consume no more than one standard drink per hour.
- Portable breathalyzers can be used to measure BAC, but not many people own these devices.
- A small proof-of-concept study suggests that your smartphone could detect your drunkenness based on the way you walk.
The small study that could mean big things for alcohol testing<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU3OTEzMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTY0MDk0OH0.wFIh9fQoCEd7fGgw59Mn5nyp9c5yjQbCoVXQrx3AnNk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1307%2C0%2C880&height=700" id="df0bb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7c1e9a4575df74b89d0078c69a3dbd3d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="alcohol impairment by BAC level chart" />
Image by gritsalak karalak on Shutterstock<p> While devices such as portable breath analyzers are available, not many people own them due to how expensive they are and the social stigma surrounding them. <a href="https://www.jsad.com/doi/10.15288/jsad.2020.81.505" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">This 2020 study</a> suggests smartphones could be an alternative. <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/mobile/" target="_blank">According to PEW Research</a>, up to 81 percent of people own a smartphone.<span></span> </p><p> <strong>The study</strong> </p><p> For this small-scale study, there were 22 participants who visited the lab to consume a vodka-based drink that would raise their breath alcohol concentration to 0.02 percent. </p><p> Dr. Brian Suffoletto of the Stanford Medical School's Department of Emergency Medicine (and corresponding author of the study) explains to <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/smartphones-measuring-walk-could-detect-drunkenness#Straight-line-walking" target="_blank">Medical News Today</a>: "I lost a close friend to a drinking and driving crash in college," Dr. Suffoletto says. "And as an emergency physician, I have taken care of scores of adults with injuries related to acute alcohol intoxication. Because of this, I have dedicated the past 10 years to testing digital interventions to prevent deaths and injury related to excessive alcohol consumption." </p><p> <strong>How it works:</strong></p><p> Before having the drink, each participant had a smartphone strapped to their back and was asked to walk 10 steps in a straight line and then back again. Every hour for the next 7 hours, the participants repeated this walk. </p><p> The sensors on the smartphone measured each person's acceleration and their movements (both from side to side and up and down). </p><p> <strong>This is not the first study of it's kind.</strong></p><p> Previous research (such as <a href="https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7764559" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">this 2016 study</a>) has used machine learning to determine whether a person was intoxicated. That data, gathered from 34 'intoxicated' participants, generated time and frequency domain features such as sway area and cadence, which were classified using supervised machine learning. </p><p> This 2020 study showed promising results of the smartphone analysis: over 90 percent accuracy. </p><p> Researchers found through analyzing the data that 92.5 percent of the time they were able to determine if a participant had exceeded the legal BAC limit. </p><p> <strong>Of course, the study had some limitations.</strong></p><p> In real life, a person is very unlikely to keep their smartphone strapped to their back. Placing the phone in your pocket (or carrying it) could impact the accuracy. </p><p> This study also measured breath alcohol concentrations, which are on average <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24747668/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">15 percent lower</a> than blood alcohol concentrations. </p><p> <strong>The implications of this small-scale study are exciting.</strong> </p><p> While this was a relatively small study, it is being used as a "proof of concept" marker for further research. Researchers on this project explain that future research would ideally be done in real-world settings with more volunteers. </p><p> Dr. Brian Suffoletto explains to <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/smartphones-measuring-walk-could-detect-drunkenness#Over-90%-accurate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">Medical News Today</a>: </p><p> "In 5 years, I would like to imagine a world in which, if people go out with friends and drink at risky levels, they get an alert at the first sign of impairment and are sent strategies to help them stop drinking and protect them from high-risk events, like driving, interpersonal violence, and unprotected sexual encounters." </p>
New research conducted on the brains of mice suggest it may be possible to "switch off" particular food cravings.
- A food craving can be described as an intense desire for a specific food. This desire can seem uncontrollable at times.
- Emerging research suggests it may be possible to "switch off" the pleasure feelings we experience from eating certain foods, which could curb cravings.
- This could be groundbreaking in terms of new eating disorder treatments.
Why do we crave certain foods?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU2NDQ4MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzI4NzQ4OX0.dcwuhfKjmlPb8NVbVNWo_Jmw_o-46ji5p_V2FTqglFs/img.png?width=980" id="06808" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1767ed3939181ef77895f7a92d70f7d4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="illustration of pencil erasing road to meats and fried food" />
Can you "erase" food cravings? New research suggests it's possible..
Photo by Lightspring on Shutterstock<p>A food craving can be described as an intense desire for a specific food, and this desire can seem uncontrollable at times. The person experiencing the craving may be left feeling unsatisfied until they experience that particular food or taste.</p><p>Food cravings are caused by the regions in the brain that are responsible for memory, pleasure, and reward. Hormone imbalances can also cause food cravings to spike. Additionally, your emotions may be involved in producing food cravings, especially if you find yourself eating for comfort reasons. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/emotional-eating" target="_blank">Emotional eating</a> can quickly turn into a very bad habit and generally happens when someone is eating to stifle or soothe negative feelings.</p><p>Food provides satisfaction, so replacing a negative emotion (such as loneliness) with a positive emotion (such as joy from eating a piece of chocolate cake) seems like a good idea. When you experience satisfaction, <a href="http://www.kinesis-cem.com/Insights_Biology.shtml#:~:text=Bottom%20line%2C%20there%20is%20a,satisfaction%20is%20all%20about%20dopamine.&text=Using%20this%20technology%20they%20measured,this%20case%20Kool%2DAid)." target="_blank">your brain is flooded with dopamine,</a> which then adds to the motivation you have to keep doing that thing (eating) that is making you feel good. </p><p>Once this happens a few times, it can become truly <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/emotional-eating#Emotional-hunger-vs.-true-hunger" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">difficult to distinguish true physical hunger from emotional hunger</a>. </p><p>Physical hunger slowly develops over time and you will desire a variety of different foods. You will feel the sensation of being full (when you've eaten enough) and take that as a cue to stop eating. </p><p>Emotional hunger, on the other hand, comes on very suddenly and is usually pinpointed to a certain food that makes you feel good while eating is. You may binge on food and not realize the sensation of being full, which tends to lead to feelings of shame and guilt.</p><p>Food cravings can become a major roadblock in maintaining a healthy weight and diet. But what if there was a way to "switch off" the cravings?</p>
Scientists switch off pleasure from food in the brains of mice<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU2MzEyNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMzUwNDM5M30.7iVsAbm1sOuHGC_BtxGKcK6drEJ3xDnTtSSEPjQu6to/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C265%2C0%2C266&height=700" id="44990" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7cb67928ea39866de4f872e3de2836aa" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="amygdala food cravings close up of amygdala region of the brain" />
Research has revealed it's possible to "switch off" food cravings area of the brain in mice.
Image by CLIPAREA l Custom media<p>New research (in mice) has revealed that the brain's underlying desire for sweet (and it's alternative distaste for bitter) can be "erased" by manipulating the neurons in the amygdala.</p><p><a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180530133034.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">This 2017 study</a> suggests that the brain's complex taste system (which produces an array of thoughts, memories, and emotions when tasting food) is actually made up of discrete units that can be individually isolated, modified, or even removed. </p><p>For this experiment, scientists focused on the sweet and bitter tastes and the amygdala, the region of the brain known to be key in making value judgments about sensory information. <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22884404/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">Previous research</a> has shown that the amygdala connects directly to the taste cortex. </p><p>The researchers performed several tests in which the "sweet" or "bitter" connections to the amygdala were artificially switched on, like flicking a series of light switches.</p><p> When the sweet connections were turned on, the mice responded to water just as if it were sugar. By manipulating these connections, the researchers were able to change the perceived quality of the taste. </p><p>In contrast, when these connections were switched off but the taste cortex remained untouched, the mice could still recognize and distinguish sweet from bitter, but now lacked the basic emotional reaction to each taste. </p><p>Dr. Li Wang, Ph.D, a postdoctoral research scientist and the paper's first author, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180530133034.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">explained to Science Daily</a>: "It would be like taking a bite of your favorite chocolate cake but not deriving any enjoyment from doing so. After a few bites, you may stop eating, whereas otherwise you would have scarfed it down."</p><p>This research is quite extraordinary, as typically the identity of food and the pleasure we derive from eating that food are intertwined. This study proves that they are separate components that could be isolated from each other and then manipulated separately. </p><p>This could be groundbreaking research in terms of advancing the treatments of certain eating disorders. </p>
Optimize Your Brain: The Science of Smarter Eating | Dr. Drew Ramsey<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzExOTgzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjQ3ODg2NX0.TwdjbQ_1SN4rfCRm_E6-ndK2XjimNlj_duOoPXH-mzY/img.jpg?width=980" id="d008b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="af3fb594ed844f149f5faf65adc0f7be" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Addiction is not a moral failure. It is a learning disorder, and viewing it otherwise stops communities and policy makers from the ultimate goal: harm reduction.
- "Why are some drugs legal and others illegal? ... if you ask how and why this distinction got made, what you realize when you look at the history is it has almost nothing to do with the relative risks of these drugs and almost everything to do with who used and who was perceived to use these drugs," says Ethan Nadelmann.
- In this video, Maia Szalavitz, public policy and addiction journalist; Carl Hart, professor of neuroscience and psychology at Columbia University; Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance; and Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron dissect why American society's perceptions of drug addiction and its drug policies are so illogical.
- Drug addiction is not a moral failure and the stereotypes about who gets addicted are not true. Policy that is built to punish drug users for their immorality only increases harm and death rates.