Category: evolution

Evolution of Heroin Addiction

Evolution of Heroin Addiction

Science and Addiction

Scientists began studying addictive behaviors in people in the 1930s. That was when people with addiction were either labeled as immoral or known to have weaker willpower. But as the world progressed, and more scientific studies were conducted, it was understood that drug addiction is anything but representative of an immoral character, rather it was proved that addiction is a disease of the brain and the patient should be taken to a drug addiction rehab at the earliest. Had it not been for scientific study, it would still be regarded as a punishable act rather than a health problem.

What Is Drug Addiction?

A drug creates an adrenaline rush in the brain which makes an individual happy but that feeling is short lived. However, the rush which it creates initially is the major contributing factor to addiction, later turning it into depression. An addict continues to take the drug for temporary relief, getting trapped in a vicious cycle. A drug such as nicotine, alcohol, cocaine and prescription drugs (PO) create the same effect of pleasure that you experience when you eat, fall in love or indulge in an activity that is pleasurable. It is a chronic disease of the brain which changes brain functionality, structure and adversely affects the productivity of an individual. It is an irresistible impulse which takes a lot more to quit than just strong willpower despite harmful consequences.

A review on the scientific evidence of drug addiction has proven that people who have had failing relationship at an early age and psychological/familial problems are more likely to develop an addictive behavior than the ones who haven’t faced these issues. Although, social behavior has also been characterized as a contributing factor but it is not fitting in most cases. Abuse and childhood trauma have also been listed down as key factors for developing drug addiction.

It has been further stated that just like obesity can cause cholesterol and heart diseases, trauma can significantly contribute to drug addiction. But as research has progressed, drug addiction rehab options have increased significantly, too.

Recent Scientific Studies About Drug Addiction

Drug addiction rehab centers have been better able to help patients by means of thorough research conducted on the disease, some of which are as follows:

  • Genes and its effects on addiction

A study indicates that just like many other diseases, addictive behavior tendencies can be ruled out in individuals by testing their genes. Researchers came across genes that can contribute in the development of addictive behavior. Although, it goes on to mention that genes cannot always be the determining factor, they can help in early detection.

  • Stress hormones and its positive effects on drug addiction

Research conducted in 2015 proved that stress hormones can significantly reduce heroin craving in low-dose addicts. An experiment conducted by the University of Basel, Switzerland showed that 29 addicts were given cortisol (the stress hormone) before they were given heroine and the results showed 25 percent decrease of interest in heroine consumption.

Drug addiction has been thoroughly researched and various drug addiction rehab faculties are available worldwide. Although, chances of relapse are always looming, but seeking help can have significant positive results.

 

My review of A Troublesome Inheritance for the Los Angeles Review of Books

My review of A Troublesome Inheritance for the Los Angeles Review of Books

World Map - Abstract Acrylic
Image by Lara Mukahirn.

I’ve written (another) review of Nicholas Wade’s “science of race” book A Troublesome Inheritance, this time for the Los Angeles Review of Books. If you’ve read the my previous review for The Molecular Ecologist, you won’t find much new here, but the LARB piece is pitched at a less technical audience, and takes a somewhat different point of entry:

CHARLES DARWIN is more usually cited for his scientific discoveries than his moral insights. In the closing pages of his travelogue The Voyage of the Beagle however, he condemns the practice of slavery — which he observed firsthand in the colonized New World — in blistering, heartfelt terms worthy of an Old Testament prophet

In this testimony against the great social sin of his age, Darwin makes an observation that should unsettle us even here and now: “if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.”

I’m extremely pleased for the chance to contribute to a great literary magazine, and I’m also quite happy to see that LARB went with my suggested, punny headline: “Cluster-struck.”
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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Why evolutionary biologists are stoked about pot

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Why evolutionary biologists are stoked about pot

Verde

Photo by Diego Charlón Sánchez.

This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!, guest contributor Daniela Vergara explains how CGRI, the initiative to sequence the genome-wide genetic variation of Cannabis, will answer cool evolutionary questions.

At the CGRI, we would like to understand first, how much genetic variation there is in the numerous pure C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis accessions and heirloom varieties. This will lead us to understand the relationships among the major lineages within the genus, the spread of Cannabis throughout the globe, and rates of historical hybridization between the named species.

For Daniela’s detailed run-down of important evolutionary questions in Cannabis, go read the whole thing.◼
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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Making sense of pollination syndromes

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Making sense of pollination syndromes

 

2010.07.15 - Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Pollinator at work. Photo by jby.

Over at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! I’m discussing pollination syndromes—suites of traits held in common by plants that use similar pollinators.

  • Bee-pollinated flowers are usually blue or yellow, often with contrasting “guides” that point towards nectar rewards, and they usually have some sort of scent.
  • Bird-pollinated flowers tend to be red and tubular, and often open downwards. They produce lots of relatively weak nectar, and generally don’t have very strong scents …
  • Moth-pollinated flowers are usually white, opening in the evenings, and strongly scented.

To find out how evolution makes sense of these handy rules of natural historical thumb, go read the whole thing, and check out the new meta-analysis of pollination syndromes that I discuss.◼
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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Chipmunks have no respect for species boundaries

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Chipmunks have no respect for species boundaries

A yellow pine chipmunk, Tamias amoenus. Photo by Noah Reid, via Nothing in Biology Makes Sense.

At Nothing in Biology Makes Sens, Sarah Hird explains some of her own research, recently published at the journal Heredity, which documented just how “leaky” species boundaries can be in the chipmunks of western North America.

While doing a comparative phylogeography study, the Sullivan lab discovered that one particular subspecies, T. a. canicaudus, had a mitochondrial genome that was most closely related to the red-tailed chipmunk (T. ruficaudus), instead of the other yellow-pine subspecies. Additional data show that the T. a. canicaudus nuclear genome is in fact most similar to other yellow-pines – it’s just that the mitochondria is of red-tailed origin.

For all the sordid phylogenetic details, go read the whole post, and check out the original paper.◼
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The Molecular Ecologist: More functions, stronger selection?

The Molecular Ecologist: More functions, stronger selection?

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife

Photo by James Case.

Over at The Molecular Ecologist I’m discussing a new paper in the journal Genetics, which demonstrates that selection acts more strongly on genes that affect multiple traits:

Genes that have roles in multiple traits—pleiotropic genes—have long been thought to be under stronger selection as a result of those multiple functions. The basic logic is that, when a gene produces a protein that has a lot of different functional roles, there are more functions that will be disrupted by changes to that protein. Which would be more inconvenient: if your smartphone suddenly needed a new type of power connector, or if every electrical outlet in your house suddenly accepted only plugs with four prongs?

A team at the University of Queensland tested this idea using a lot of fruit flies and some cleverly applied gene expression resources. To find out how it all worked, go read the whole post, and check out the original paper.◼
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The Molecular Ecologist: Scanning the genome for local adaptation

The Molecular Ecologist: Scanning the genome for local adaptation

The collection locations for plant lines sampled in my analysis. Figure 1 from Yoder et al. (2014).

This week at The Molecular Ecologist, I’ve just posted a new discussion of the latest publication to come out of my postdoctoral research with the Medicago HapMap Project. It’s an attempt to find genome regions that might be important for adaptation to climate, by scanning through a whole lot of genetic data from plants collected in different climates.

This is what’s known as a “reverse ecology” approach—it skips over the process of identifying specific traits that are important for surviving changing climates, and instead uses population genetic patterns to infer what’s going on. One approach for such a scan is presented in my latest paper, which is in this month’s issue of Genetics. Essentially I think of this as what you can do, given a lot of genetic data for a geographically distributed sample—in this case for barrel medick, or Medicago truncatula. Medicago truncatula is a model legume species, which has been used in a great deal of laboratory and greenhouse experimentation—but in this project, I tried to treat M. truncatula as a “field model” organism.

For a run-down of what I did, and what I found, go read the whole post—or check out the paper itself [PDF].◼
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Is corn the new milk? Evolutionarily speaking, that is.

Is corn the new milk? Evolutionarily speaking, that is.

 

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colorful fall corn Corn. Photo by srqpix.

ResearchBlogging.orgIt is a widespread misconception that, as we developed the technology to reshape our environment to our preferences, human beings neutralized the power of natural selection. Quite the opposite is true: some of the best-known examples of recent evolutionary change in humans are attributable to technology. People who colonized high-altitude environments were selected for tolerance of low-oxygen conditions in the high Himalayas and Andes; populations that have historically raised cattle for milk evolved the ability to digest milk sugars as adults.

A recent study of population genetics in Native American groups suggests that another example is ripening in the experimental fields just a few blocks away from my office at the University of Minnesota: Corn, or maize, may have exerted natural selection on the human populations that first cultivated it.

The target of this new study is an allele called 230Cys, a variant of a gene involved in transporting cholesterol. 230Cys is known only in Native American populations, and it’s associated with abnormally low production of HDL cholesterol (that’s the “good” kind of cholesterol) and thereby increased risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. In Native American populations, the genetic code near 230Cys shows the reduced diversity associated with a selective sweep, which suggests that, although it’s not particuarly helpful now, this variant may have been favored by selection in the past.

Read more …

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Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Music, evolved?

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Music, evolved?

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SATB Choral Music Music. Photo by Andy Buscemi.

Over at the collaborative science blog Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!, guest contributor James Gaines writes about the evolutionary context of music-making.

Music is one of the few social constructs that truly permeates human culture, and reasons for this have fascinated scientists and philosophers for centuries. Even Darwin himself wrote on the subject, speculating about whether and how natural selection could explain it. Today, there seem to be three major ideas behind why music evolved.

For a breakdown of those three evolutionary hypotheses, go read the whole thing.◼


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