Chapter 5. Hormones and the Brain

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By Lauren J. Young Kimberly Chauche, a corporate secretary in Lincoln, Neb., says she’s always been overweight. When she was as young as five years old, her doctors started trying to figure out why. Since then her life has involved nutritionists and personal trainers, and eventually she sought therapists to treat her compulsive eating and weight-related anxiety. Yet answers never arrived, and solutions never lasted. At 43, Chauche was prescribed a weight-loss medi­cation called Wegovy—one of a new class of drugs that mimic a hormone responsible for insulin pro­duction. She took her first dose in March 2024, in­jecting it into herself with a needle. Within a couple of months she had lost almost 20 pounds, and that felt great. But the weight loss seemed like a bonus com­pared with a startling change in how she reacted to food. She noticed the shift almost immediately: One day her son was eating popcorn, a snack she could never resist, and she walked right past the bowl. “All of a sudden it was like some part of my brain that was always there just went quiet,” she says. Her eating habits improved, and her anxiety eased. “It felt almost surreal to put an injector against my leg and have happen in 48 hours what decades of intervention could not ac­complish,” she says. “If I had lost almost no weight, just to have my brain working the way it’s working, I would stay on this medication forever.” Chauche is hardly alone in her effusive descriptions of how Wegovy vanquished her intrusive thoughts about food—an experience increasingly referred to as the “quieting of food noise.” Researchers—some of whom ushered in the development of these blockbuster drugs—want to understand why. Among them is biochemist Svetlana Mojsov of the Rockefeller University, who has spent about 50 years investigating gut hormones that could be key to regulating blood glucose levels. In seeking potential treatments for type 2 diabetes, Mojsov ultimately focused on one hormone: glucagonlike peptide 1, or GLP-1. Her sequence of the protein in the 1980s became the initial template for drugs like Wegovy. The medications, called GLP-1 receptor agonists, use a synthetic version of the natural substance to activate the hormone’s receptors. The first ones arrived in 2005. In 2017 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved semaglutide—now widely known as Ozempic. © 2024 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN,

Keyword: Obesity; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 29373 - Posted: 06.26.2024

By Meghan Rosen An experimental weight loss procedure cranks up the heat to dial down hunger. Blasting a patch of patients’ stomach lining with thermal energy curbed hunger and cut pounds, researchers reported in a small pilot study to be presented at the annual Digestive Disease Week meeting on May 19 in Washington, D.C. Called gastric fundus mucosal ablation, the procedure relies on an endoscope, a thin tube that can be threaded down the throat. It takes less than an hour and doesn’t require hospitalization. “The advantage of this is that it’s a relatively straightforward procedure,” says Cleveland Clinic surgical endoscopist Matthew Kroh, who was not involved with the work. Side effects, which included mild nausea and cramping, are minimal, one study author said in a news conference on May 8. That’s a big difference from bariatric surgery, considered the gold standard treatment for obesity, which includes many techniques to restrict stomach size or affect food absorption. Patients can be hospitalized for days and take weeks to recover. Obese people often avoid these treatments because they don’t want to endure surgery, Kroh says. The new procedure could one day offer an easier option — if the results hold up in larger groups of patients. “There’s potential,” Kroh says, “but I think we have to be cautious.” The trial included 10 women, so the method is still at the proof-of-concept stage. On average, the women lost nearly 8 percent of their body weight, some 19 pounds, over six months. That’s less than patients typically see from bariatric surgery or pharmaceutical treatments like the anti-obesity drug Wegovy (SN 12/13/23). © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2024.

Keyword: Obesity; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 29311 - Posted: 05.18.2024

By Michael S. Rosenwald Prairie voles are stocky rodents and Olympian tunnellers that surface in grassy areas to feast on grass, roots and seeds with their chisel-shaped teeth, sprouting migraines in farmers and gardeners. But to Larry Young, they were the secret to understanding romance and love. Professor Young, a neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta, used prairie voles in a series of experiments that revealed the chemical process for the pirouette of heart-fluttering emotions that poets have tried to put into words for centuries. He died on March 21 in Tsukuba, Japan, where he was helping to organize a scientific conference. He was 56. The cause was a heart attack, his wife, Anne Murphy, said. With their beady eyes, thick tails and sharp claws, prairie voles are not exactly cuddly. But among rodents, they are uniquely domestic: They are monogamous, and the males and females form a family unit to raise their offspring together. “Prairie voles, if you take away their partner, they show behavior similar to depression,” Professor Young told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution in 2009. “It’s almost as if there’s withdrawal from their partner.” That made them ideal for laboratory studies examining the chemistry of love. In a study published in 1999, Professor Young and his colleagues exploited the gene in prairie voles associated with the signaling of vasopressin, a hormone that modulates social behavior. They boosted vasopressin signaling in mice, which are highly promiscuous. Headline writers were amused. “Gene Swap Turns Lecherous Mice Into Devoted Mates,” The Ottawa Citizen declared. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Genetic Science Makes Mice More Romantic.” The Independent in London: “‘Perfect Husband’ Gene Discovered.” © 2024 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 29288 - Posted: 05.03.2024

By Angie Voyles Askham Larry Young, a neuroscientist known for illuminating oxytocin’s outsized role in social bonding, died of a heart attack last month at the age of 57. In his 30-year career at Emory University, Young teased apart the neurobiology of love and relationships—from the receptors that make voles monogamous to the hormones that shape sociability in psychiatric disorders. He founded and directed both the Center for Translational Social Neuroscience and the Silvio O. Conte Center for Oxytocin and Social Cognition at Emory, and he helped establish the Laboratory of Social Neural Networks in Tsukuba, Japan. “His impact has been enormous,” says Steven Phelps, professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin, who was Young’s first postdoctoral researcher at Emory. “He brought molecular biology to what we would call non-model organisms, the species that are normally neglected by mainstream science.” Young also fostered collaborations through the many international conferences he organized, and he raised the public profile of neuroscience research through his dedication to science communication. He served as a hub within the field of social neuroscience—someone who connected others across continents and research modalities—says Steve Chang, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Yale University. “Everyone feels there is now a giant hole.” Young grew up on a farm in Sylvester, Georgia, a small town that claims the title of “Peanut Capital of the World.” As a child, he loved animals and kept many pets—including, for a time, a possum that he carried around on his head, Young recalled on a podcast in 2022. He had thoughts of becoming a veterinarian but pivoted to medicine when, in his biochemistry classes at the University of Georgia, he became fascinated with genetics and how nature manages to translate a string of letters to the behaviors necessary for survival. © 2024 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 29257 - Posted: 04.16.2024

Jon Hamilton A sibling can change your life — even before you're born. That's because when males and females share a womb, sex hormones from one fetus can cause lasting changes in the others. It's called the intrauterine position phenomenon, or intrauterine position effects, and different versions of it have been observed in rodents, pigs, sheep — and, probably, humans. "It's really kind of strange to think something so random as who you develop next to in utero can absolutely change the trajectory of your development," says Bryce Ryan, a professor of biology at the University of Redlands. The phenomenon is more than a scientific oddity. It helped establish that even tiny amounts of hormone-like chemicals, like those found in some plastics, could affect a fetus. Cattle breeders in ancient Rome may have been the first people to recognize the importance of a sibling's sex. They realized that when a cow gives birth to male-female twins, the female is usually sterile. These females, known as freemartins, also act more like males when they grow up. Scientists began to understand why in the early 1900s. They found evidence that hormones from the male twin were affecting the female's development. The effect is less obvious in other mammals, Ryan says. Female offspring in rodents, for example, can still reproduce, but they have measurable differences in sexual development and tend to be more aggressive. © 2024 npr

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 29250 - Posted: 04.11.2024

By Catherine Offord Bone marrow transplants between mice can transmit symptoms and pathology associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a controversial study published today in Stem Cell Reports. Its authors found that healthy mice injected with marrow from a mouse strain carrying an extremely rare, Alzheimer’s-linked genetic mutation later developed cognitive problems and abnormal clumping of proteins in the brain. In claims that other scientists in the field have criticized as overstated, the team says its findings demonstrate “Alzheimer’s disease transmission” and support screening of human bone marrow, organ, and blood donors for mutations related to neurodegeneration. “The findings are not by any means conclusive,” says Lary Walker, a neuroscientist at Emory University. Although the team’s approach offers an interesting way to study potential causes of neurodegeneration, he says, “the mice do not have Alzheimer’s disease,” only certain symptoms that mimic those of the disorder and require further study. He and other scientists stress that the new findings should not deter people who medically need bone marrow or other transplants. Alzheimer’s is partly characterized by so-called plaques of beta amyloid, a fragment of a larger protein called APP, around cells in the brain. Although there are rare, early-onset versions of the disease driven by specific mutations in the gene coding for APP or related proteins, most cases arise in people over age 65 and don’t have a single known cause. Some research hints that in very unusual scenarios, Alzheimer’s could be transmitted via human tissue or medical equipment contaminated with disease-causing proteins. Earlier this year, for example, U.K. scientists described dementia and beta amyloid buildup in several people who had received injections of growth hormone from the brains of deceased donors. (The procedure was once a medical treatment for certain childhood disorders but was abandoned in the 1980s.)

Keyword: Alzheimers; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 29225 - Posted: 03.30.2024

By Gina Jiménez Being pregnant and giving birth changes a person’s brain, but the brain looks different depending on whether it’s examined during pregnancy or after a person gives birth, a recent study found. The research is helping disentangle some of the mysteries in the long-ignored field of maternal neuroscience. The study, published in January in Nature Neuroscience, followed more than 100 new mothers from near the end of their pregnancy until about three weeks on average after they had their baby. Previous research had examined birthing parents’ brain before they gave birth or during the postpartum period, but this study observed them both before and after birth, and it also took into account whether they had a vaginal birth or C-section. The findings reveal temporary changes in some brain regions and more permanent ones in a brain circuit that activates when people are not engaged in an active task and that is also involved in self-reflection and empathizing with others. The study has “ordered” some of the scientific disagreements in the field, says its senior author Susana Carmona, a neuroscience researcher now at Gregorio Marañón General University Hospital in Spain.* “It fills important gaps—that is why it’s novel,” says Joe Lonstein, a neuroscientist who studies animal parenting behaviors at Michigan State University but was not involved with the new paper. “There were things we just didn’t know about the timing of events.” Much of the scientific literature on pregnancy and postpartum neuroscience is only around a decade old. A 2016 study found that gray matter decreased in women after they had a baby for the first time, and the reductions persisted for at least six years after pregnancy. In contrast, other studies have observed that gray matter increases in the first weeks after people give birth. The new paper helps reconcile these results: the researchers found that women indeed lost gray matter during pregnancy and childbirth but got it back in most brain areas after they had their baby. © 2024 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN,

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 29197 - Posted: 03.19.2024

Ian Sample Science editor Human tears carry a substance that dampens down aggression, according to researchers, who believe the drops may have evolved over time to protect wailing babies from harm. Sniffing emotional tears from women reduced male aggression by more than 40% in computerised tests, and prompted corresponding changes in the brain, though the scientists behind the study think all human tears would have a similar effect. “The reduction in aggression was impressive to us, it seems real,” said Noam Sobel, a professor of neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. “Whatever is in tears actually lowers aggression.” Charles Darwin puzzled over the point of weeping. Writing in The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals in 1872, the great naturalist declared sobbing as “purposeless as the secretion of tears from a blow outside the eye”. But in the 150 years since, researchers have proposed all manner of roles, from signalling vulnerability and helplessness to clearing bacteria from the eyes. Previous work at Sobel’s lab found that sniffing women’s tears reduced male testosterone but it was unclear whether this affected behaviour. In animals, the picture is clearer: subordinate mole rats, for example, cover themselves in tears to protect themselves from aggressors. For the latest study, Dr Shani Agron and others in Sobel’s lab collected tears rolling down women’s faces as they watched sad movies. The researchers did not specifically advertise for female tear donors but nearly all who came forward were women, of whom six were selected because they produced tears in such quantities. The experiments involved 31 men who sniffed either saline or women’s tears before having swabs dabbed with the droplets stuck to their upper lip. The men then took part in a computerised game used in psychology to provoke aggressive behaviour by unfairly deducting players’ points. © 2023 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Aggression; Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 29063 - Posted: 12.22.2023

Maria Godoy What do you do when you can't get your kids to settle down to go to sleep? For a growing number of parents, the answer is melatonin. Recent research shows nearly one in five school-age children and adolescents are now using the supplement on a regular basis. Pediatricians say that's cause for alarm. "It is terrifying to me that this amount of an unregulated product is being utilized," says Dr. Cora Collette Breuner, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington. Melatonin is a hormone produced by your brain that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. It's also sold as a dietary supplement and is widely used as a sleep aid. Sponsor Message Lauren Hartstein, a postdoctoral researcher who studies sleep in early childhood at the University of Colorado, Boulder, says she first got an inkling of melatonin's growing use in children and adolescents while screening families to participate in research. "All of a sudden last year, we noticed that there was a big uptick in the number of parents who were regularly giving [their kids] melatonin," Hartstein says. Hartstein and her colleagues wanted to learn more about just how widely melatonin is being used in kids. So they surveyed the parents of nearly 1,000 children between the ages of 1 to 14 across the country. She was surprised by just how many kids are taking the supplement. "Nearly 6% of preschoolers, [ages] 1 to 4, had taken it, and that number jumped significantly higher to 18% and 19% for school-age children and pre-teens," she says. As Hartstein and her co-authors recently reported in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, most of the kids that were using melatonin had been on it for a year or longer. And 1 in 4 kids were taking it every single night. © 2023 npr

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Sleep
Link ID: 29047 - Posted: 12.16.2023

By Meeri Kim A woman’s menstrual cycle is driven by the ebb and flow of hormones that prepare the body for pregnancy. This symphony of hormones not only transforms the reproductive organs, but, according to recent research, also reshapes the brain. Live well every day with tips and guidance on food, fitness and mental health, delivered to your inbox every Thursday. Two studies released in October performed detailed brain scans of women at multiple points across the menstrual cycle, finding that the volume or thickness of certain regions change in sync with hormone levels. The areas of the brain highlighted by both studies are those in the limbic system, a group of brain structures that govern emotions, memory and behavior. “It’s like the brain being on a roller coaster every 28 days or so, depending on the length of the cycle,” said Erika Comasco, associate professor of women and children’s health at Uppsala University in Sweden, who was not involved in the research. “The importance of these studies is that they are building knowledge about the impact of these hormonal fluctuations on how the brain is structured.” “These brain changes may or may not alter the way we actually act, think and feel in our everyday lives. So the important next steps for the science are to put those pieces of the puzzle together,” said Adriene Beltz, associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, who was also not involved in the research. “Do the hormonal effects on brain structure influence how the brain works?” How hormones drive the menstrual cycle During a woman’s period, which marks the beginning of the menstrual cycle, hormones are at low levels. But they rise dramatically over a few weeks. Estrogen levels in the blood become eight times higher at ovulation around Day 14, while progesterone levels increase by 80-fold approximately seven days later. The production of follicle-stimulating hormone prompts the growth of an ovarian follicle into a mature egg, while a surge of luteinizing hormone triggers the release of the egg.

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 29026 - Posted: 12.02.2023

Claudia López Lloreda The idea that the nervous system passes messages from one nerve cell to another only through synapses — the points where the cells link up end to end — is changing. Two studies show how messages can pass between cells over longer distances, through a ‘wireless’ nerve network in the worm Caenorhabditis elegans. Researchers had not appreciated the extent of this wireless communication, which happens when a molecule called a neuropeptide is released by one neuron and intercepted by another some distance away. The new studies, published in Nature1 and in Neuron2, map out the entire network of neuropeptide communication in a model organism for the first time. “We knew that these chemical connections existed, but this is probably the most comprehensive study in an entire nervous system,” says Gáspár Jékely, a neuroscientist at Heidelberg University in Germany who was not involved in the work. And what the research shows, he adds, is that “it’s not all about the synapses”. Researchers had previously worked out anatomical wiring maps — connectomes — showing how all the neurons in the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) and in C. elegans are linked by their synapses. However, William Schafer, a neuroscientist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, wondered about the role of neuropeptides, which had been considered merely helpers in nervous-system messaging. “When I first started talking about this,” he says, “some people wondered, ‘is it all just kind of a soup’” where neuropeptides randomly float from one neuron to the next, “or can you really think about it like a network?” He and his colleagues analysed which neurons in the C. elegans nervous system expressed genes for certain neuropeptides and which ones expressed genes for the receptors of those neuropeptides. Using this data, the team predicted which pairs of nerve cells might be communicating wirelessly. On the basis of these results, the researchers generated a potential map of wireless connections in the worm, finding dense connectivity that looks very different from the anatomical wiring diagram of C. elegans. They published their findings in Neuron2 last week. © 2023 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 29017 - Posted: 11.22.2023

By Sandra G. Boodman Bridget Houser felt despairing. In the months before her 2018 wedding, Houser, who had never struggled with her weight, noticed that it inexplicably began to creep up. In response she doubled the length of her runs to eight miles, took back-to-back high intensity workout classes and often consumed only water, coffee and fruit during the day before a spartan, mostly vegetable, dinner. Yet no matter what Houser did, her weight stubbornly increased and her oval face grew round, a transformation that was glaringly obvious in comparison with her identical twin sister. Houser wondered whether the five pounds she gained despite her herculean effort was a corollary of other problems. For the previous two years she had battled a string of maladies: first daily headaches, then crippling anxiety, followed by insomnia, hair loss and acne, something she’d never endured as a teenager. “Stress was the universal explanation,” recalled Houser, a controller for a small business in Chicago. When doctors suggested that her upcoming marriage might be a cause of her problems, Houser considered, then rejected, the theory. It just didn’t jibe with her feelings. In early 2019, about six months after her wedding, Houser insisted that her doctors perform several tests. They ultimately revealed that her symptoms weren’t the result of stress or marital misgivings but of a serious illness that had been smoldering for years. After successful treatment followed by a long recovery Houser, now 34, feels far better than she did during those miserable years in her late 20s. “I wish I’d been nicer to myself and not blamed myself for what was going on,” she said.

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 28951 - Posted: 10.10.2023

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent Pregnancy leads to a permanent rewiring of neurons, according to research that gives new insights into the influence of hormones on behaviour. The research, in mice, revealed that their parenting instincts were triggered by changes in the brain that occur in response to oestrogen and progesterone late in pregnancy. Similar changes are likely to occur in the human brain, according to scientists, who said the work could pave the way for fresh understanding into parenting behaviour and postpartum mental health. Dr Jonny Kohl, who led the research at London’s Francis Crick Institute, said: “We know that the female body changes during pregnancy to prepare for bringing up young. One example is the production of milk, which starts long before giving birth. Our research shows that such preparations are taking place in the brain, too.” The findings are consistent with brain imaging research in women showing changes to brain volume and brain activity that endure long after pregnancy. Although Kohl pointed out that “parenting is obviously a lot more complex in humans”. “We have NCT classes, observational learning, all these environmental influences,” he added. “We don’t have to rely on those hormonal changes to such a degree.” a newborn baby boy is checked by nurses in a hospital maternity theatre Smoking in pregnancy increases risk of premature birth threefold, study finds Read more The studies were carried out in mice, which undergo a dramatic shift in behaviour, with virgin females showing no interest in pups, and mouse mothers spending most of their time looking after young. Previously it had been widely assumed that the onset of this behaviour occurred during or just after birth, possibly triggered by hormones such as oxytocin. However, the latest research puts the change at an earlier stage and also suggests that the changes may be permanent. © 2023 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 28949 - Posted: 10.07.2023

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent The brain circuit that causes the sound of a newborn crying to trigger the release of breast milk in mothers has been uncovered by scientists. The study, in mice, gives fresh insights into sophisticated changes that occur in the brain during pregnancy and parenthood. It found that 30 seconds of continuous crying by mouse pups triggered the release of oxytocin, the brain chemical that controls the breast-milk release response in mothers. “Our findings uncover how a crying infant primes its mother’s brain to ready her body for nursing,” said Habon Issa, a graduate student at NYU Langone Health and co-author of the study. “Without such preparation, there can be a delay of several minutes between suckling and milk flow, potentially leading to a frustrated baby and stressed parent.” The study showed that once prompted, the surge of hormones continued for roughly five minutes before tapering off, enabling mouse mothers to feed their young until they were sated or began crying again. The observation that a mother’s breasts can leak milk when they hear a crying baby is not new. But the latest research is the first to identify the brain mechanisms behind what the scientists described as the “wail-to-milk pipeline”, and could pave the way for a better understanding of the challenges of breastfeeding for many women. The findings, published in Nature, showed that when a mouse pup starts crying, sound information travels to an area of its mother’s brain called the posterior intralaminar nucleus of the thalamus (PIL). This sensory hub then sends signals to oxytocin-releasing brain cells (neurons) in another region called the hypothalamus. Most of the time these hypothalamus neurons are “locked down” to prevent false alarms and wasted milk. However, after 30 seconds of continuous crying, signals from the PIL built up and overpowered the in-built inhibitory mechanism, setting off oxytocin release. © 2023 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 28919 - Posted: 09.21.2023

Nicola Davis Science correspondent Whether it’s seeing Jesus in burnt toast, a goofy grin in the grooves of a cheese grater, or simply the man in the moon, humans have long perceived faces in unlikely places. Now researchers say the tendency may not be fixed in adults, suggesting it appears to be enhanced in women who have just given birth. The scientists suggest the finding could be down to postpartum women having higher levels of oxytocin, colloquially referred to as the “love” or “trust” hormone because of its role in social bonding. “These data, collected online, suggest that our sensitivity to face-like patterns is not fixed and may change throughout adulthood,” the team write. Writing in the journal Biology Letters, researchers from Australia’s University of Queensland and the University of the Sunshine Coast describe how they set out to investigate whether the propensity to see faces in inanimate objects – a phenomenon known as face pareidolia – changes during life. Previous research has suggested that when humans are given oxytocin, their ability to recognise certain emotions in faces increases. As a result, the team wanted to explore if the hormone could play a role in how sensitive individuals are towards seeing faces in inanimate objects. The researchers used an online platform to recruit women, with participants asked if they were pregnant or had just given birth – the latter being a period when oxytocin levels are generally increased. The women were each shown 320 images in a random order online and asked to rate on an 11-point scale how easily they could see a face. While 32 of the images were of human faces, 256 were of inanimate objects with patterns that could be said to resemble a face, and 32 depicted inanimate objects with no such facial patterns. The team gathered data from 84 pregnant women, 79 women who had given birth in the past year, and 216 women who did not report being pregnant or having recently had a baby. © 2023 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Attention
Link ID: 28906 - Posted: 09.13.2023

By Freda Kreier The only cure to being drunk is to wait it out. But that might not always be the case: Injecting drunk mice with a naturally occurring hormone helped them sober up more quickly than they otherwise would have, a new study shows. Mice that received a shot of FGF21 — a hormone made by the liver — woke up from a drunken stupor roughly twice as fast as those that didn’t, researchers report in the March 7 Cell Metabolism. The find could one day be used to help treat alcohol poisoning, a sometimes-deadly side effect of heavy drinking that lands millions of people in the emergency room every year, says molecular endocrinologist David Mangelsdorf. The sobering effect of FGF21 isn’t the first time the hormone has been linked to drinking. Scientists have previously shown that livers ramp up production of this hormone when alcohol floods the bloodstream. And while FGF21 doesn’t help break down alcohol, researchers have found that the hormone can help protect livers from the toxic effects of liquor while dampening the desire to continue drinking in mice and monkeys. Those findings made Mangelsdorf, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and his colleagues curious whether FGF21 also plays a role in recovering from too much alcohol. So the team fed mice enough alcohol to knock them out and waited to see how long it took for them to wake up. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2023.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 28711 - Posted: 03.23.2023

By Lisa Sanders, M.D. “It’s happening,” the 58-year-old man said quietly. Dr. Mark Chelmowski looked over to observe his patient. He was leaning forward, elbows on table, head propped up on his hands. Beads of sweat suddenly appeared on the man’s brow. More popped up on his cheeks, then his jaw. Rivulets ran down the contours of his face, then dripped off his chin onto the table. The man’s eyes were closed. He almost seemed asleep. Chelmowski said his name. “Yes, doctor” was the only response the normally chatty man gave. It was as if he were somehow distracted by the profound sweating. The patient’s vital signs were normal. He didn’t have a fever. His blood pressure and heart rate were normal. Throughout the exam, the patient sat quietly sweating. The collar, front and back of his shirt darkened. Then, as abruptly as it started, it was over. He opened his eyes and looked at Chelmowski. The patient could see the surprise in his doctor’s face. Chelmowski knew about his episodes of sweating — the two of them had been trying to figure them out for the past five months — but he had not yet witnessed one. The first time it happened, the patient was in his car on the way to the gym when suddenly he felt intensely hot. It was a bright July day in the Milwaukee area and seasonably warm. But this heat felt as if it came from inside his body. A vague prickling sensation spread down his face and neck to his chest and back. His heart seemed to speed up and then — pow — he was drenched in sweat. He turned the car around and headed home. He was describing the strange event to his partner when it happened again. And again. Each episode lasted only a couple of minutes, but it was strange. The sweating was so excessive. After a fourth episode, the patient’s partner insisted they go to the emergency room. He had another bout in front of the E.R. doctor, who immediately admitted him to the hospital. He was worried the patient might be having a heart attack. Profuse sweating often accompanies myocardial infarctions, the doctor told him. But it wasn’t his heart. He was discharged the next day and encouraged to follow up with his primary-care doctor. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Epilepsy; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 28696 - Posted: 03.11.2023

By Azeen Ghorayshi For decades, male mice have been the default in scientific experiments that test new drugs or examine the connections of the brain. The reason? Female mice, which experience a four- to five-day cycle of fluctuating ovarian hormones, were thought to be too complicated. Accounting for the hormonal changes was viewed as too cumbersome and too expensive. But the estrous cycle has little to do with how female mice behave, according to a new study that used machine-learning software to track the second-to-second behavior of animals exploring an open space. Male mice actually exhibited more erratic behavior than females did. The study, published in the journal Current Biology on Tuesday, challenges century-old stereotypes that kept female animals out of laboratory research — and, until the 1990s, barred women from clinical trials. The new research is “tipping all of these assumptions about sex differences and the influence of hormones on their head,” said Rebecca Shansky, a behavioral neuroscientist at Northeastern University and a co-author of the new study. The cost of excluding females — whether human or animal — from scientific research is high. Women are almost twice as likely as men to experience severe side effects from drugs, most of which have dosages based on the initial testing done in men. Women also may not derive the same benefits from the drugs. Women “capable of becoming pregnant,” as the federal government put it, were largely excluded from clinical trials of drugs until 1993, when a new law required researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health to include women and minority groups. In the decades since, women have made up close to half of clinical research participants, though they still lag behind in studies of certain drugs, like those used to treat cardiovascular disease and psychiatric disorders. But a large sex gap persisted in basic science research using lab animals, studies that pave the way to medical breakthroughs. In neuroscience, according to a review published in 2010, studies of male lab animals outnumbered female ones by a factor of five. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 28694 - Posted: 03.08.2023

By Susan Dominus For the past two or three years, many of my friends, women mostly in their early 50s, have found themselves in an unexpected state of suffering. The cause of their suffering was something they had in common, but that did not make it easier for them to figure out what to do about it, even though they knew it was coming: It was menopause. The symptoms they experienced were varied and intrusive. Some lost hours of sleep every night, disruptions that chipped away at their mood, their energy, the vast resources of good will that it takes to parent and to partner. One friend endured weeklong stretches of menstrual bleeding so heavy that she had to miss work. Another friend was plagued by as many as 10 hot flashes a day; a third was so troubled by her flights of anger, their intensity new to her, that she sat her 12-year-old son down to explain that she was not feeling right — that there was this thing called menopause and that she was going through it. Another felt a pervasive dryness in her skin, her nails, her throat, even her eyes — as if she were slowly calcifying. Then last year, I reached the same state of transition. Technically, it is known as perimenopause, the biologically chaotic phase leading up to a woman’s last period, when her reproductive cycle makes its final, faltering runs. The shift, which lasts, on average, four years, typically starts when women reach their late 40s, the point at which the egg-producing sacs of the ovaries start to plummet in number. In response, some hormones — among them estrogen and progesterone — spike and dip erratically, their usual signaling systems failing. During this time, a woman’s period may be much heavier or lighter than usual. As levels of estrogen, a crucial chemical messenger, trend downward, women are at higher risk for severe depressive symptoms. Bone loss accelerates. In women who have a genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease, the first plaques are thought to form in the brain during this period. Women often gain weight quickly, or see it shift to their middles, as the body fights to hold onto the estrogen that abdominal fat cells produce. The body is in a temporary state of adjustment, even reinvention, like a machine that once ran on gas trying to adjust to solar power, challenged to find workarounds. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 28658 - Posted: 02.08.2023

Heidi Ledford The humble prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) has long been revered for its unusual commitment to family. Pair-bonded couples huddle together, raise pups together and mate exclusively together — at least most of the time. Drop another couple’s pups into a cage with pair-bonded prairie voles and the adults will often foster those young as their own — highly unusual behaviour for a rodent. But a study published on 27 January in Neuron1 challenges decades of research that suggests a protein that detects the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin is responsible for the voles’ domestic bliss. Using CRISPR gene-editing, researchers found that prairie voles lacking the protein were still responsible parents and still formed monogamous relationships. These surprising results highlight the importance of revisiting accepted dogma when new scientific techniques emerge, says neuroscientist Bianca Jones Marlin at the Columbia University Zuckerman Institute in New York City. “Neuroscientists grew up in our field understanding that prairie voles pair bonded because of the distribution of oxytocin receptors and oxytocin,” she says. “That was canon.” For decades, neuroscientists interested in understanding the biological underpinnings of human social behaviours have been fascinated by prairie voles. “There’s a sort of eerie similarity between prairie vole social behaviours and human social behaviours,” says Nirao Shah, a neuroscientist at Stanford University in California. “Prairie voles are one of the few mammalian species that exhibit social attachment.” Social attachment The hormone oxytocin has long been thought to have a pivotal role in social behaviours. A protein that binds to oxytocin, called oxytocin receptor, is expressed differently in prairie vole brains than in the brains of other voles that do not form monogamous relationships. In humans, oxytocin levels rise in response to social interactions, and the hormone is important in stimulating uterine contractions during childbirth and the production of milk afterwards. © 2023 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 28653 - Posted: 02.01.2023