Amongst all the obtaining of Programmatic scoop from the NIDA Director and assorted Program Officers, schmoozing with the senior scientists, rallying the junior scientist troops, reconnecting with old pals, taking care of committee business and whatnot...
There is occasionally time for some actual science...
Emily Jaehne presented what seemed to be a contradiction of the Malberg and Seiden finding that ambient temperature modulated the direction of the thermoregulatory response to MDMA in rats with a corresponding modulation of the severity of brain serotonin depletions. Jaehne showed data indicating that similar reductions in the serotonin metabolite 5-HIAA were observed in brain after a 6 week dosing schedule (10 mg/kg; once per day for four days/week, iirc) whether rats were treated at low (no hyperthermia produced) or high ambient (pronounced hyperthermia) temperature. If this holds up this has some fairly interesting implications for the little cottage industry of ambient temp / MDMA / tox studies in rats.
Carl Hart presented a comparison of the effects of methamphetamine (two doses) and MDMA in humans. One fascinating thing was that the subjects (which were Ecstasy experienced) were unable to accurately discriminate the three active treatment conditions. This sort of observation is a partial defense for those that studied MDMA like any other amphetamine back in the day.
Response Inhibition: If I hear "go/no-go task" or "stop-signal paradigm" one more time I swear I'm gonna.... Ok, there is reason to believe that impulsive behavior or the inability to inhibit responses may have some connection to certain human drug abuse phenomena. Consequently, there is a great deal of excitement for using response inhibition tasks in humans and in animal models.Delay-discounting too but that's even geekier and harder to explain briefly. In short these tasks look at the preference for immediate, smaller rewards over larger, albeit delayed, rewards. Guess what drug abusers do?
Roland Griffiths had a followup to his provocative paper on "mystical-type experiences" of humans treated with psilocybin [YHN, Abel Pharmboy]. I think the new story was dose-dependency of the effects and a replication of the subject reports that the drug experience was in their top few spiritual experiences.
John Halpern [prior discussion] was right next door to Griffiths with a poster on Ayahuasca "sacrament" use in the Santo Daime Church tradition. (Ayahuasca active ingredient: dimethyltryptamine, DMT) His main point was that the well-experienced subjects were essentially normal on psychological measures of mental health; he was, naturally, advancing the "perfectly safe" agenda.
A trio of posters on inhalant abuse. This is an understudied area (and YHN is not really up on it) and the handful of labs looking into this are still working on some basics. Methods for self-admin are not simple, dose-response functions not established for the usual endpoints, PK uncertain. Good to see some newer labs taking this up.
Vaccines, vaccines, vaccines! Finally figured out what Director Volkow had been referring to when she mentioned something about increasing the immunogenicity of vaccines. Paul Pentel showed essentially independent and additive effects of two anti-nicotine vaccines. The point is that if the part of the nicotine molecule that is presented to the immune system with two different immunogens is different enough, two parallel antibody responses can be generated. This led to additive reductions in the passage of nicotine into the brains of immunized rats.
Random career: My agents tell me that the workshop on "academic success and tenure" was a mixed bag. Surprise, surprise, the worst time things got bogged down in bad advice was a member of the geezer patrol taking exception to a comment that perhaps he wasn't the best mentor for the NIH funding aspects of current young scientists' careers. I was unsurprised to hear this since the gentleman in question irritated YHN a few years ago with some out-of-touch nonsense about how if an Institution was only offering you a soft-money job "I don't know why you'd want to work there anyway". Sheesh.
Update 06/19/08: Just noticed that Matt Baggott of Psychedelic Research put up his poster from the meeting...Open Access fans are rejoicing.