Taking bets

So, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, among other things.

It was scheduled for a vote next week.

According to NORML, it’s now been postponed until after the election.

Any bets on when or if this will actually happen?

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17 Responses to Taking bets

  1. They are afraid to vote on this before the election according to the press reports I have read. Only answer so far that I have seen. If I were a betting man I would not expect much until February or March. It does not make me happy, red and blue both at fault. It does not look like business as usual in Washington. Like a big nothing burger.

  2. Son of Sam Walton says:

    My Congressman tells me time and time again that he won’t vote for it because ‘he’ doesn’t believe in it. I hate the fact we’ve got a former district attorney as a potential VP, but hasn’t she voted in favor of cannabis, though it might not sit well with her beliefs or her former job/mindset. Imagine a politician doing what they were told, like a trained pet of the people.

    Earlier this year, I emailed all my dispensaries in his area, and Oklahoma has got quite a bit for its population. They had to know their very own congressman would be voting ‘no’.

    I’m still young enough to waste my time with hope, so I’m listening to ‘Bolt Thrower’ British Death metal and will write to the Gov and some others in Nebraska. I’ll remind them of HSBC and Wachovia. shame on them for getting rid of Cannabis on the ballot. I guess some good strong coffee and cannabis is the one thing that would ever make me think they’d give a damn about what I wrote.

    P.S. Anybody heard from CJ? I’m concerned he might be in harm or worse. He would ride with us on this couch from time to time and with very long posts.

    How many of my generation know to blame their PTSD on the War on Drugs being waged worldwide? I work with this younger vet chick who deployed to Iraq during late Obama and got injured in the foot by an explosion and she has a ‘back the blue’ jacket. Yet the blue prop up the 1961 U.N. Single Laws by simply being the anchor–or force that keeps these drugs illegal and on the table for the world to sell. Does she know that there is a 60% chance her injury came from drug money–given 60% of the enemy is funded by drug money . . . or that 60% of her injury is a result of what drug money can fund, build, corrupt, and do in a war?

    My wife and I don’t believe it is Patriotic to fly a flag with a large blue stripe or even a red one. Just the simple one and maybe with pot leaves on it until it is all legal. My state is transforming into something weird and I’m seeing way more ‘Trump Flags’ flying around homes and on vehicles. All these flags declaring their love and devotion for Trump is bothersome. The Conservatives who cannot stand ‘taking a knee’ should live more patriotically and they have failed horribly since Mid-September of 2001. They want to blame others for their mistakes, yet neither side invested in their country during a time of war. They gave the Feds more authority in the name of ‘security’ and then it just got worse. Fox news shouts trash and then the left’s news blabs nonsense as well. Too many people want to prune the tree and chop large branches off the problems, yet the trunk and her roots are just beneath their ladders.

    My black coffee cup has in bold yellow lettering, with a smiley face forming the ‘u’, reads “We Are So Fucked” . . . the same as what my mask reads.

    • darkcycle says:

      CJ is doing well, better in fact. He is a Facebook friend now. He has stable living arrangements, a Cat, Rholler, and a dog, Duke, an English bulldog. I will let him know you were asking about him, Son. But he is doing his thing his way, and doing well. If you have a Facebook account, let me know through Pete and I’ll send you a request. Us couch mates should stick together.

  3. from the “Whoa” files:

    FinCEN Files: How banks move dirty money around the world

    No surprise here I know but whoa…

    The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ 2020 investigation the FinCENFiles reveals how big banks profited from shadowy characters even after authorities fined them for

  4. Servetus says:

    I think marijuana legalization will be delayed until it’s no longer a political football. Which means I don’t know when it will be done.

    Trump expressed his fear of Republican candidates appearing on the same ballot with marijuana voter initiatives. He blamed the defeat of Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker on the turnout. “You brought out like a million people that nobody ever knew were coming out,” Trump said. I suspect Democrats love it when Trump tells them what he fears the most. It saves a lot of time and effort trying to figure it out themselves. So for now the vote gets delayed.

    The Nation ran an article indicating the bipartisan favorability of marijuana rescheduling or legality, with 55% of Republican voters in favor. The article maintained that Joe Biden is pressuring the Democrats to pull their punches. This would only make sense if Biden thought he could win over Evangelical Trump supporters who view legal weed as a major factor in the decline and fall of civilizations. Maybe that’s what Biden was thinking when he said he favored misdemeanor marijuana arrests and forced rehab. Drug rehab is a big part of what certain religious individuals and groups do. So is employment as a narc.

    Trump’s reactionary base is typified by an influential religious organization called the American Family Association (AFA) that’s largely funded by Charles Koch. Radio host Evangelical Bryan Fischer gives his view regarding cannabis on the AFA’s website:

    Some Christians argue that because the Bible does not condemn drinking, only drunkenness, it therefore by corollary doesn’t condemn smoking pot, it only condemns getting high. This is silly since the whole point of lighting up is to get high. The only reason people do it is to get high. You can’t smoke even a little bit without getting high. When the Bible instructs us, “Do not get drunk with wine, but instead be filled with the Holy Spirit,” one implication and application is to abstain from the demon weed.

    So there you have it. Booze is angelic, and weed is demonic.

  5. Servetus says:

    Three brain genes determine how well Naltroxone works in treating alcoholism:

    23-SEP-2020 –Twenty million Americans currently struggle with an alcohol use disorder. Of those who seek treatment, only 20% receive medications, either alone or in addition to counseling.

    Medications are not used more often, according to Charleston Alcohol Research Center scientific director Raymond Anton, M.D., in part because they do not work equally well for everyone. Many patients with alcohol use disorder would benefit from a personalized medicine approach, in which a medication is prescribed based on a patient’s genetic code…a few relatively simple genetic tests to identify variations in just three brain genes makes it possible to predict which patients with an alcohol use disorder will benefit most from the addiction treatment medication naltrexone…Anton’s team showed that treating alcohol use disorder with medications that work on specific brain chemicals can reduce the relapse rate by up to a third.

    “Alcohol dependence is a brain disease known to affect certain brain chemicals,” said Anton, “So, it’s important to use treatment methods that address not only the behavioral but also the biological/brain components of the problem.”

    Naltrexone, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved addiction medication, is somewhat unique in that it targets just a single protein in the brain -the mu-opioid receptor. When activated by either an internally produced or externally introduced opioid-like chemical, the mu-opioid receptor signals a positive experience. Drinking alcohol releases natural opiates in the brain that activate the mu-opioid receptor. Naltrexone blocks the mu-opioid receptor to prevent the reward and pleasure that comes from drinking alcohol and can even reduce the craving to consume it.

    The gene that produces the mu-opioid receptor protein in the brain is not the same in every patient. In the current study, Anton and his team considered the influence of a small gene variation that results in a slight difference in the mu-opioid receptor protein structure.

    That slight difference does not affect how people act under normal situations, but it does cause a subtle difference in how strongly the mu-opioid receptor becomes activated when alcohol is consumed, with one variation having a greater response than the other.

    Anton and his team hypothesized that this subtle difference in brain chemistry might affect how well naltrexone works in any given patient. […]

    Dopamine is another reward and pleasure signaling system in the brain that often interacts with the opioid system. Therefore, the amount of dopamine present could influence the mu-opioid receptor and thus the effectiveness of naltrexone. […]

    Anton and his team looked at two such genes that produce proteins controlling the amount of dopamine in the brain.

    Like the mu-opioid receptor, these dopamine-processing genes can have small specific variations that result in slight differences in the strength of reward or pleasure signaling after alcohol consumption. […]

    MUSC Public News Release: Three genes predict success of naltrexone in alcohol dependence treatment

    Related Journal Article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acer.14431

  6. Servetus says:

    The epigenetics of cocaine addiction is highlighted by researchers in a rat study:

    Summary: Individuals suffering from substance-use disorders develop strong associations between the drug’s rewarding effects and environmental cues, creating powerful, enduring triggers for relapse. We found that dephosphorylated, nuclear histone deacetylase 5 (HDAC5) in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) reduced cocaine reward-context associations and relapse-like behaviors in a cocaine self-administration model. We also discovered that HDAC5 associates with an activity-sensitive enhancer of the Npas4 gene and negatively regulates NPAS4 expression. Exposure to cocaine and the test chamber induced rapid and transient NPAS4 expression in a small subpopulation of FOS-positive neurons in the NAc. Conditional deletion of Npas4 in the NAc significantly reduced cocaine conditioned place preference and delayed learning of the drug-reinforced action during cocaine self-administration, without affecting cue-induced reinstatement of drug seeking. These data suggest that HDAC5 and NPAS4 in the NAc are critically involved in reward-relevant learning and memory processes and that nuclear HDAC5 limits reinstatement of drug seeking independent of NPAS4.

    “HDAC5 and Its Target Gene, Npas4, Function in the Nucleus Accumbens to Regulate Cocaine-Conditioned Behaviors,”
    Makoto Taniguchi, Maria B. Carreira, Yonatan A. Cooper, David W. Self, Yingxi Lin, Christopher W. Cowan

    Open Archive DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2017.09.015

    And at the Institut Pasteur: “Cocaine Addiction: Impact of Genetic Mutations Elucidated”:

    Cocaine addiction is a chronic disorder with a high rate of relapse for which no effective treatment is currently available. Scientists from the Institut Pasteur, the CNRS, Inserm and the Paris Public Hospital Network (AP-HP) recently demonstrated that two gene mutations involved in the conformation of nicotinic receptors in the brain appear to play a role in various aspects of cocaine addiction. The results of the study were published in Progress in Neurobiology. […]

    Cocaine acts primarily in the brain by blocking the dopamine transporter, thereby increasing the concentration of this “pleasure” molecule in the reward system. But cocaine can also act directly on the nicotinic receptors1 in the brain. Several human genetics studies have recently suggested that a mutation in the gene encoding the α5 subunit of nicotinic receptors, hereafter referred to as ‘α5SNP’, already known to increase the risk of tobacco dependence,2 may conversely also confer “protection” against cocaine addiction. This mutation is highly present in the general population (approximately 37% of Europeans and up to 43% of the Middle Eastern population carry it), so it is important to determine how it affects cocaine addiction and, more generally, to better understand the role of the α5 nicotinic subunit in the effects of cocaine.

    Scientists of the Integrative Neurobiology of Cholinergic Systems Unit (Institut Pasteur/CNRS) began by evaluating the role of the α5 nicotinic subunit and the impact of the α5SNP mutation on various processes involved in the development of cocaine addiction in animal models. The results obtained were then used to characterize more specifically its impact on humans.

    The scientists observed that the α5SNP mutation reduces the voluntary intake of cocaine upon first exposures. “These preclinical data suggest that the mutation protects against cocaine addiction by modulating an early phase in the addiction cycle,” comments Morgane Besson, one of the lead authors of the study. Working in collaboration with the Paris Public Hospital Network (AP-HP) and Inserm, the scientists then confirmed this significant effect in approximately 350 patients with cocaine addiction: those with the mutation exhibited a slower transition from first cocaine use to the emergence of signs of addiction. At the same time, the authors showed that a total absence of the α5 nicotinic subunit increased the risk of relapse after withdrawal in preclinical models. This led the scientists to identify another mutation in another nicotinic subunit, β4, associated with a shorter time to relapse after withdrawal in addicted patients.

    Taken together, these results elucidate the role played by both a highly frequent mutation in the α5 nicotinic subunit and the subunit itself in various stages of cocaine addiction. The research suggests that drugs modulating nicotinic receptors containing this α5 subunit could represent a novel therapeutic strategy for cocaine addiction.

    [1] Nicotinic receptors are located in the cell membrane and respond to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. They act like pores for communication between the cell’s internal and external environment. Nicotinic receptors are important modulators of various functions in the central nervous system. Nicotine is an agonist for the receptors, meaning that it can act on these targets instead of acetylcholine. […]


  7. Servetus says:

    At CU Boulder, Colorado, machine learning is being applied to distinguishing little-studied cannabinoids and other compounds in marijuana:

    29-SEP-2020…beyond intoxicating tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and therapeutic cannabidiol (CBD), there exists a diverse array of chemicals believed to quietly interact – a phenomenon known as the ‘entourage effect’ – influencing how each unique cannabis strain makes people feel.

    To date, the cannabis industry has collected remarkably little data about those lesser-known compounds, new University of Colorado Boulder research shows. But that same study, published this month in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests that a surprising scientific field could play an integral role in filling the knowledge gap. […]

    In hopes of getting the full picture on the plant, Vergara teamed up with Keegan to analyze a dataset of more than 17,600 cultivars of cannabis flower, supplied by one of the country’s largest cannabis testing companies, over eight years.

    When assessing how much data was available on seven different cannabinoids, the researchers found – not surprisingly – that only 1.4% of cultivars were missing data about THC and 38% percent were missing data about CBD. Only 153 samples contained data on all seven cannabinoids, and some were almost never measured.

    For instance, only 597 samples, less than 4%, contained information about CBDV (cannabidvarin), a non-psychoactive compound believed to quell seizures. And 62% of samples were missing data bout CBN (cannabinol), a compound often recommended for sleep.

    Enter machine learning.

    “We thought that data science methods could help with what is fundamentally a missing data problem,” said Keegan. “Could we use the data we have about the chemical profiles of some strains to impute, or guess, the values of those where we have no data?”

    Using algorithms and statistical methods, the team set out to uncover hidden patterns found in the data. Quickly, they learned that one of their key assumptions was wrong.

    In the plant, THCA and CBDA (acidic forms of the cannabinoids that convert to THC and CBD with heat) both compete for the same precursor molecule, Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). So the researchers assumed strains high in THC would be low in CBD, or vice versa.

    “It didn’t turn out that that way,” said Keegan, noting that some strains were high in both. “This suggests we don’t know as much about these chemical pathways as we thought we did.”

    Using a method called dimensionality reduction, they were able to cluster strains into four distinct categories based on chemical properties, each of which corresponded with different use cases (medicinal, recreational, combined, industrial).

    Curiously, some varieties with the same name showed up in different clusters.

    “This study reaffirms the misnaming of Cannabis varieties by the industry,” the authors noted. “Strain name is not indicative of potency or overall chemical makeup.”

    Going forward, Keegan will continue using machine learning to fill gaps in the data. But to do it right requires widespread cannabis industry collaboration.

    “If more people would share more of their data, we could make better inferences about how these different cannabinoids work or interact with each other,” he said.

    He envisions a day when custom products could be developed for medical use based on the complex entourage effect of interacting compounds. Dispensary customers could review an ingredient panel, much like the nutrition facts panel on food, before buying. And names would mean something.

    “Machine learning has played a huge role in shaping other industries, from Facebook and Twitter to Target,” said Vergara. “It can help fill in the blanks for the cannabis industry as well.” […]

    AAAS Public News Release: Cannabis data lacking, but machine learning could help: A new study shows we know little about compounds in marijuana, and names don’t mean much

  8. Servetus says:

    Older Americans are increasingly adopting medicinal cannabis as a treatment for a wide range of ailments:

    7-OCT-2020 — University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers report that older adults use cannabis primarily for medical purposes to treat a variety of common health conditions, including pain, sleep disturbances and psychiatric conditions like anxiety and depression.

    The study, published online October 7, 2020 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that of 568 patients surveyed, 15 percent had used cannabis within the past three years, with half of users reporting using it regularly and mostly for medical purposes.

    “Pain, insomnia and anxiety were the most common reasons for cannabis use and, for the most part, patients reported that cannabis was helping to address these issues, especially with insomnia and pain,” said Christopher Kaufmann, PhD, co-first author of the study and assistant professor in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego. […]

    “Surprisingly, we found that nearly three-fifths of cannabis users reported using cannabis for the first time as older adults. These individuals were a unique group compared to those who used cannabis in the past,” said Kevin Yang, co-first author and third-year medical student at UC San Diego.

    “New users were more likely to use cannabis for medical reasons than for recreation. The route of cannabis use also differed with new users more likely to use it topically as a lotion rather than by smoking or ingesting as edibles. Also, they were more likely to inform their doctor about their cannabis use, which reflects that cannabis use is no longer as stigmatized as it was previously.”

    Given the rise in availability of CBD-only products, which is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid in contrast to THC-containing products, the researchers said it is likely that future surveys will continue to document a larger proportion of older adults using cannabis or cannabis-based products for the first time. […]

    AAAS Public News Release: Study finds older adults using cannabis to treat common health conditions: Data indicates 61 percent of patients who used cannabis began after age 60

  9. Servetus says:

    Lung damage from COVID-19 is reduced by CBD:

    19 Oct 2020 — One way CBD appears to reduce the “cytokine storm” that damages the lungs and kills many patients with COVID-19 is by enabling an increase in levels of a natural peptide called apelin, which is known to reduce inflammation and whose levels are dramatically reduced in the face of this storm.

    Dental College of Georgia and Medical College of Georgia researchers reported this summer CBD’s ability to improve oxygen levels and reduce inflammation as well as physical lung damage in their laboratory model of deadly adult respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS.

    Now they have shown that apelin levels go way down with the viral infection, which has killed 1 million people worldwide, and that CBD quickly helps normalize those levels along with lung function.

    “It was dramatic in both directions,” says Dr. Babak Baban, DCG immunologist and associate dean for research, of shifting apelin levels in both circulating blood and lung tissue.

    Blood levels of the peptide dropped close to zero in their ARDS model and increased 20 times with CBD, they report in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

    “CBD almost brought it back to a normal level,” Dr. Jack Yu, physician scientist and chief of pediatric plastic surgery at MCG, says of the apparent first connection between CBD and apelin.

    Apelin is a pervasive peptide made by cells in the heart, lung, brain, fat tissue and blood, and is an important regulator in bringing both blood pressure and inflammation down, says Baban, the study’s corresponding author.

    When our blood pressure gets high, for example, apelin levels should go up in the right place, like endothelial cells that line blood vessels, to help bring it down. Apelin should do the same to help normalize the significant increases in inflammation in the lungs and related breathing difficulties associated with ARDS.

    “Ideally with ARDS it would increase in areas of the lungs where it’s needed to improve blood and oxygen flow to compensate and to protect,” Baban says. But when they looked at their ARDS model, apelin didn’t do either, and instead decreased in both the lung tissue itself and the general circulation. Until they gave CBD.

    They reported this summer in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research that treatment with CBD reduced excessive lung inflammation, enabling improvements in lung function, heathier oxygen levels, and repair of some of the structural damage to the lungs that are classic with ARDS. The investigators said then more work was needed, including finding how CBD produced the significant changes as well as human trials, before it should be included as part of a treatment regimen for COVID-19. […]

    AAAS Public News Release: CBD helps reduce lung damage from COVID by increasing levels of protective peptide

    Related Journal Article: Cannabidiol (CBD) modulation of apelin in acute respiratory distress syndrome

  10. Servetus says:

    Obsessive compulsive disorder is reduced by half in the short-term within 4 hours of smoking marijuana according to WSU study:

    20-Oct-20 – People with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, report that the severity of their symptoms was reduced by about a half within four hours of smoking cannabis, according to a Washington State University Study. The researchers analyzed data inputted into the Strainprint app by people who self-identified as having OCD, a condition characterized by intrusive, persistent thoughts and repetitive behaviors such as compulsively checking if a door is locked. After smoking cannabis, users with OCD reported it reduced their compulsions by 60%, intrusions, or unwanted thoughts, by 49% and anxiety by 52%.

    The study, recently published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, also found that higher doses and cannabis with higher concentrations of CBD, or cannabidiol, were associated with larger reductions in compulsions.

    “The results overall indicate that cannabis may have some beneficial short-term but not really long-term effects on obsessive-compulsive disorder,” said Carrie Cuttler, the study’s corresponding author and WSU assistant professor of psychology. “To me, the CBD findings are really promising because it is not intoxicating. This is an area of research that would really benefit from clinical trials looking at changes in compulsions, intrusions and anxiety with pure CBD.”

    The WSU study drew from data of more than 1,800 cannabis sessions that 87 individuals logged into the Strainprint app over 31 months. The long time period allowed the researchers to assess whether users developed tolerance to cannabis, but those effects were mixed. As people continued to use cannabis, the associated reductions in intrusions became slightly smaller suggesting they were building tolerance, but the relationship between cannabis and reductions in compulsions and anxiety remained fairly constant.

    WSU Public News Release: Cannabis reduces OCD symptoms by half in the short-term

    Related Journal Article: Acute Effects of Cannabis on Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

  11. DdC says:

    Antibiotic potential of cannabis: CBG compound resistant to MRSA



    Antibacterial Mechanism of Hemp Fiber

    Cannabis Use and the Lungs

    Cannabis sativa L. and its antimicrobial properties
    – A review

    Hemp Fabric Kills Staph Bacteria

  12. Servetus says:

    Ozone in the air breaks down THC. The low volativity of THC and its oxides means they are unlikely to be emitted into the air. Tactile transfers can still occur:

    2-DEC-2020…Smoking emits reactive chemicals that remain in the air (so-called secondhand smoke) or deposit onto surfaces, including walls, windows, clothing and upholstery (thirdhand smoke). Unlike the secondhand variety, thirdhand smoke lingers long after a person stops smoking. Nicotine is semi-volatile and reacts with other chemicals on surfaces, producing new compounds that, if volatile, can also become airborne. Because cannabis smoke is chemically distinct from tobacco smoke, Aaron Wylie and Jonathan Abbatt wanted to characterize the compounds formed when THC, by itself or in cannabis smoke, on surfaces reacts with ozone in the air.

    The researchers coated glass and cotton cloth, to simulate windows and clothing, with a THC solution. Then, they exposed the surfaces to concentrations of ozone that could exist in indoor air. In their analysis, they found that over time, the amount of THC on glass and cotton decreased, while the quantities of three THC oxidation products increased. In other experiments, the team used a smoking machine to deposit cannabis smoke onto cotton. Upon exposure to ozone, the same three compounds formed at roughly the same rate as observed for the THC-coated cloth. Because of the low volatility of THC and its oxidation products, the compounds are unlikely to be emitted to the air where they could be inhaled in as large amounts as nicotine, the researchers say. They say that somebody could still be exposed to THC and its derivatives, whose health effects are unknown, if they, for example, lick their fingers after touching a surface contaminated by cannabis smoke.

    AAAS Research Pubic News Release: Ozone breaks down THC deposited on surfaces from thirdhand cannabis smoke

    Abstract: Heterogeneous Ozonolysis of Tetrahydrocannabinol: Implications for Thirdhand Cannabis Smoke,
    Aaron D. L. Wylie and Jonathan P. D. Abbatt

  13. Servetus says:

    Viral mediated gene delivery reduces cocaine cravings:

    30 November 2020…New research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) has discovered that GLP-1Rs are expressed on specific cell types and neural circuits in the brain that reduce cocaine-seeking behavior. Investigators have also discovered that GLP-1Rs are expressed primarily on GABAergic neurons in the hindbrain and that the efficacy of the GLP-1R agonist exendin-4 to reduce cocaine seeking depends, in part, on activation of these GABA circuits. Moreover, activating these endogenous anti-craving circuits in the brain using viral-mediated gene delivery methods was sufficient to reduce cocaine-seeking behavior. These findings highlight GLP-1R-expressing anti-craving circuits in the brain that could serve as potential targets to reduce cocaine craving-induced relapse. The findings are published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

    “Overall, the translational implications of these findings are profound in that they support GLP-1R-focused therapeutic approaches for the treatment of cocaine craving and relapse,” says lead investigator Heath D. Schmidt, PhD, Associate Professor of Nursing at Penn Nursing. […]

    Penn Nursing Research News Release: Novel Anti-Craving Mechanism Discovered to Treat Cocaine Relapse

    Research Source: GLP-1 receptor signaling in the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus attenuates cocaine seeking by activating GABAergic circuits that project to the VTA

  14. Servetus says:

    The biological mechanisms of empathy are linked to changes in the oxytocin gene and may one day provide new information with regard to how psychedelics affect empathy:

    7-DEC-2020…When it comes to biological mechanisms of empathy, scientists are particularly interested in oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” High oxytocin levels predict sensitive parenting, but it isn’t clear how the oxytocin-related gene might generate variation in empathy and parental behavior. One possible explanation is epigenetic changes to the gene–a way of altering gene function without changing the actual DNA sequence. Specifically, “DNA methylation”–the addition of a chemical group called the “methyl” group at specific locations–in the oxytocin gene (called OXT) has been associated with personality traits and brain structure in humans. This raises a question: can methylation of OXT influence empathy in mothers? A team of scientists at University of Fukui in Japan, led by Prof. Akemi Tomoda, decided to find out, in a study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology

    Specifically, the scientists wanted to investigate how methylation of OXT, brain structure, and empathy are related in mothers. For this, they measured OXT methylation through analyses of saliva samples from 57 Japanese mothers who were caring for at least one young child. Moreover, they used an MRI technique called “voxel-based morphometry” to examine the size of brain regions related to OXT methylation, aiming to identify any connections between brain morphology and DNA methylation. This is part of an exciting new field called “imaging epigenetics” that seeks to explain behavior through linking epigenetic changes with brain structures and/or functions. Finally, they used a well-established psychology questionnaire to determine the levels of cognitive and affective empathy they have.

    The findings showed that OXT methylation was positively correlated with a mother’s “personal distress,” relating to harsh parenting. Additionally, OXT methylation was negatively correlated with the volume of gray matter in the right inferior temporal gyrus. In other words, high methylation of the oxytocin gene lowered brain volume in the inferior temporal gyrus while increasing personal distress. “This is the first study to find a correlation between DNA methylation of the oxytocin gene with empathy, and the first to link that methylation with both empathy and variation in brain structure,” Prof. Tomoda commented. “So, we’ve gained very important insight into the relationship between this gene and the phenotype–or the physical manifestation of gene expression.” […]

    University of Fukui Public Release: Deep rooted — mother’s empathy linked to ‘epigenetic’ changes to the oxytocin gene:
    Modification of the oxytocin gene is correlated with personal distress, an emotional response related to empathy, scientists show

    Original Publication: Epigenetic modification of the oxytocin gene is associated with gray matter volume and trait empathy in mothers

  15. Servetus says:

    Ibogaine analogue treats addiction and depression:

    9-DEC-2020 — A non-hallucinogenic version of the psychedelic drug ibogaine, with potential for treating addiction, depression and other psychiatric disorders, has been developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis. A paper describing the work is published Dec. 9 in Nature. […]

    Ibogaine is extracted from the plant Tabernanthe iboga. There are anecdotal reports that it can have powerful anti-addiction effects such as reducing drug cravings and preventing relapse. But there are also serious side-effects, including hallucinations and cardiac toxicity, and the drug is a Schedule 1 controlled substance under U.S. law.

    Olson’s laboratory at UC Davis is one of a few in the U.S. licensed to work with Schedule 1 substances. They set out to create a synthetic analog of ibogaine which retained therapeutic properties without the undesired effects of the psychedelic compound. Olson’s team worked through a series of similar compounds by swapping out parts of the ibogaine molecule. They engineered a new, synthetic molecule which they named tabernanthalog or TBG. […]

    Unlike ibogaine, the new molecule is water-soluble and can be synthesized in a single step. Experiments with cell cultures and zebrafish show that it is less toxic than ibogaine, which can cause heart attacks and has been responsible for several deaths.

    TBG increased formation of new dendrites (branches) in rat nerve cells, and of new spines on those dendrites. That’s similar to the effect of drugs like ketamine, LSD, MDMA and DMT (the active component in the plant extract ayahuasca) on connections between nerve cells. […]

    Mice trained to drink alcohol cut back their consumption after a single dose of TBG. Rats were trained to associate a light and tone with pressing a lever to get a dose of heroin. When the opiate is taken away, the rats develop signs of withdrawal and press the lever again when given the light and sound cues. Treating the rats with TBG had a long-lasting effect on opiate relapse.

    Olson thinks that TBG works by changing the structure of neurons in key brain circuits involved in depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. […]

    AAAS Public Research News Release: New compound related to psychedelic ibogaine could treat addiction, depression

    Related Journal Article: A non-hallucinogenic psychedelic analogue with therapeutic potential: Lindsay P. Cameron, Robert J. Tombari, David E. Olson

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