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Psychopharmacology

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Studies have found an association between cannabis use and transient psychotic symptoms, such as unusual thoughts, suspiciousness, and hallucinatory experiences. A new study suggests that this relationship is mostly attributable to genetic predisposition. But the research, which appears in JAMA Psychiatry, found that person-specific factors also influence the association between psychotic-like experiences and cannabis use to a lesser extent. “I initially became interested in this topic as a result of trying to understand factors associated…

A new study provides evidence that regular caffeine consumption is associated with alterations in the processing of pain signals. The preliminary findings were published in the journal Psychopharmacology. “New research suggests that diet can be a useful intervention for decreasing pain sensitivity and helping people manage pain. Caffeine is a commonly consumed by millions of people as part of their regular diets,” said Burel R. Goodin, an associate professor at the University of Alabama at…

A substance found in chili peppers reduces depressive symptoms in a rodent model of depression, according to research published in Physiology & Behavior. The study examined the effects of capsaicin, which is responsible for the spicy and pungent flavor of chilis. “We were interested in this topic for several reasons; the most important were that capsaicin has recently been discovered as an agonist of the TRPV1 channel,” said study author Javier Francisco Alamilla Gonzalez of…

New research helps identify some of the differences between the cognitive effects of classical hallucinogens and dissociative hallucinogens. The study was published in the journal Psychopharmacology. “Both classic (serotonergic) and dissociative (glutamatergic, NMDA-mediated) hallucinogens are being investigated as potential novel, fast-acting therapeutics for mood disorders and substance use disorders,” said study author Frederick Barrett of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Also, a recent study suggested that dissociative hallucinogens may share a number of…

Alcohol intoxication can impair the ability of witnesses to properly recall a person’s facial characteristics, according to new research. The new findings support the alcohol myopia theory — that alcohol reduces a person’s attention to peripheral and non-distinct aspects of a situation. “During criminal investigations when police don’t have enough evidence to identify a suspect, they help witnesses construct an image of the offender’s face from memory, using computer software,” explained study author Alistair J.…

The anti-anxiety effects of ketamine are associated with specific brainwave changes, according to research published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. The study found the therapeutic effects of ketamine were linked to changes in theta brainwaves in the right frontal area of the brain. “Ketamine appears effective in a wide range of ‘neurotic’ disorders: generalised anxiety disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, simple phobia, and social anxiety disorder — even when these…

Many people report persisting positive effects after receiving ibogaine-assisted detoxification for opioid addiction, but many patients not be receiving adequate support after the treatment, according to new research published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. Ibogaine a psychoactive substance found in the root bark of the African Tabernanthe iboga plant, and research suggests that the substance can help treat opioid withdrawal and cravings. “I was interested in this topic because of the growing body of…

New research provides evidence that a person’s religious beliefs can shape their experiences with psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. The findings were published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. “I first developed interest in psychedelic drugs after watching some popular documentaries on the subject as an undergrad. After looking more into the academic work for a class project, I quickly became fascinated because much of what I came across in the literature was…

Synthetic cannabinoids can increase depression- and anxiety-like behaviors in a rodent model of trauma, according to new research in European Neuropsychopharmacology. “Brenda Sbarski, one of my master students, was very much interested to find out how pre-trauma exposure to cannabinoids affect the response to a traumatic event. All of our studies were conducted on rats with no prior exposure to cannabinoids (before the trauma) and she thought that this may not represent the human condition…

Cocaine enhances prospective memory performance, while cannabis tends to impair prospective memory, according to new research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. “Prospective memory is memory about the future and is an important aspect in daily living; for instance remembering that you have a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon. Since cocaine is still being misused as a cognition enhancer, we wanted to examine the acute effects of cocaine on prospective memory,” said study author Nadia…

New research provides evidence that cannabis users have a “noisier” brain compared to non-users. The study, published in the scientific journal NeuroImage, found that cannabis users had increased brain activity when at rest. “The cannabis literature has generally focused on changes in brain function when engaged in a task,” said study author Shikha Prashad of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas. “We were interested in examining whether these differences are…

New research indicates that previous studies examining the brain alterations caused by ecstasy have focused on unusually heavy users. The study, which was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, suggests that the previous research likely overestimated the extent of serotonergic alterations experienced by the majority of ecstasy users. Study author Balázs Szigeti of the University of Edinburgh was doing research on another project when he read a neuroimaging study that found evidence that ecstasy use…

A new study has found evidence that men — but not women — who have used psychedelic drugs in the past have a lower likelihood of engaging in violence against their current partners. The research was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. “We were interested in looking at the association between psychedelics and violence for a number of reasons,” said Michelle Thiessen, a clinical psychology graduate student at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus…