Thursday, November 15, 2007


A couple of really intriguing studies showing the pharmaceutical potential, aka TECHNOCORRECTIONS, for dealing with human aggression. First, this:

A news story in Nature News this week shows that aggressiveness may be treated with a serotonin-acting ligand. At least in rats, but nevertheless the study holds the promise for human treatment as well. Serotonin levels are known to be associated with aggression. The lower the serotonin level, the more aggression.
So this is more or less a replication and strengthening of previous research, only this model seems to have additional advantages. But the big news came when the team tried to manipulate the serotonin levels in the rats. Here, they found that…

“(…) they could alter the aggressive behaviour of their rats by manipulating the serotonin system. They gave the rats S-15535, a compound that binds exclusively to a neuron ‘autoreceptor’ that acts to dampen the serotonin system. This autoreceptor is called 5-HT1a. Binding to it seems to bring serotonin levels in the rats back to normal. When even very low doses of S-15535 were used to bind to the receptors, de Boer found that both the serotonin and the violence of the pathologically aggressive rats returned to normal levels.”

Better still, the drug did not seem to affect other behaviour, and did not seem to be generally sedative. So the study suggests that (pathological) aggression might be controlled better using a serotonin-acting drug.

Naturally, there are those pesky ramifications to ponder:

Of course, the ethical questions are unanswered still. Indeed, if we are able to synthesize these drugs, and they work, who should have them? Should they be forced upon a subject? And let’s make it even more edgy: should it be taken by people (men) going to football matches, and could one convict a hooligan to take a pill before attending a game? Is this the cure for domestic violence, bar fights, hooliganism?

How about “our budgets are too tight for us to keep just locking people away, especially when we can stick a very adhesive (or sown on) patch on or into these guys to keep them under control, whether they like it or not”?

Then, second:

The anxiety and aggression that result from social isolation have been traced to altered levels of an enzyme that controls production of a brain hormone.

The study, done in mice by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, is reported in the online addition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We use this animal model for human stress because social isolation in both animals and humans can be responsible for a range of psychological effects, including anxiety, aggression and memory impairment," said Dr. Erminio Costa, director of the UIC Psychiatric Institute, professor of biochemistry and one of the authors of the study.

Previous studies had suggested that the neural pathways that underlie aggression, anxiety and fear include activation of specific types of neural circuitry that leads into the amygdala, the region of the brain responsible for emotion.

"Humans respond to similar stress in very similar ways," said Dr. Alessandro Guidotti, UIC scientific director and professor of biochemistry in psychiatry. "By identifying the mechanism we may be able to identify drugs that can treat these effects of stress."

And the aggression that stress causes. Pharmaceutical companies, get those former college cheerleaders prepped on their presentations to legislators!! Your day is nigh!!!

I gotta start buying their stock.

[Does anybody know what “nigh” means?]

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