From the Archives: The Promise of Ketamine

promiseofketamine.jpgThis month, the FDA approved the use of esketamine, a nasal spray based on the old anesthetic and once-popular club drug ketamine, to treat people with severe depression that has not responded to other treatments. It’s costly and entails visiting the doctor for four hours a week for four weeks, but it’s the first treatment in decades that works in a new way in the brain. That means it might reach the large number of people with depression who are not helped by drugs that target other brain functions.

Last March, Ronald S. Duman, Ph.D., wrote for Cerebrum on “The Dazzling Promise of Ketamine,” exploring how the drug was validated as an antidepressant, how it works, and what it could mean for development of other drugs: Continue reading

From the Archives: A Debate on Religion and the Brain

artworks-000023945745-0femft-t500x500In 2009, Cerebrum’s editors invited three scientists to debate: Does evolution explain why the human brain supports religious belief? Each side wrote a position paper, which they exchanged, and then each wrote a response to the other’s statement.

Dimitrios Kapogiannis and Jordan Grafman, scientists at the National Institutes of Health, followed up on their then-recent research by stating that brain networks that evolved for other purposes have given rise to our capacity for religious belief and experience. Continue reading

From the Archives: Some Brain Science for #VideoGamesDay

aaas-vgs-3
People are hungry for data about video games and the brain. One of our most popular stories, still consistently in the Top 10, is a longreads Cerebrum essay from back in 2009, “Video Games Affect the Brain—for Better and Worse.” Writer Douglas Gentile, Ph.D., concludes:

With the exception of educational games, most video games’ effects on brain and behavior are unintentional on the part of both the designers and the players. Nonetheless, research suggests that the effects are real. Video games are neither good nor bad. Rather, they are a powerful form of entertainment that does what good entertainment is supposed to do—it influences us.

In 2012, we followed up with a news story on research targeting more specific areas of cognition that might be affected by playing video games:

Continue reading

From the Archives: Seeking to Stem Suicide

suicide-statistic-2018-011.jpg

Nearly 45,000 people in the US kill themselves each year (probably an underestimate, given the stigma still attaching to suicide), and there may be 25 attempts for each death, according to the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. A news story we published in January reported on a few of the many avenues of research trying to help doctors and caregivers predict who is at risk and how to better help them.

“Suicide is one of the few medical conditions in which the doctor and patient have different goals—the patient may be highly motivated not to reveal what he or she is thinking,” psychiatrist Maria Oquendo says in the story. “We need biological markers so we can identify those at risk.”

Continue reading

It’s Tick Season Again: From the Archives

As North America heats up for summer, so does the activity of ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas, whose bites can carry diseases like Lyme, dengue and Zika, and plague. Between 2004 and 2016, more than 640,000 cases of these diseases were reported, and nine new germs spread by bites from infected mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

CDCvs-0518-Vector-Borne-infographic-1185-3

Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

May is  Lyme Disease Awareness Month; people who become infected risk long-term problems with skin, heart, and joints–and brain. The disease can cause cognitive and memory impairment, headaches, neuropathic pain, facial palsies, encephalitis, and seizures.

Microbiologist and former Dana grantee Mark Wooten, at the University of Toledo, studies how the Lyme-triggering bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, carried by ticks, interacts with the mammalian immune system. He credits growing up on a farm in Arkansas, in an area with a lot of ticks, with piquing his interest in Lyme disease, which was then a relatively new discovery. He talked with us last year about what makes this bacterium so tricky:

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: