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2.  Rat Ultrasonic Vocalizations and Behavioral Neuropharmacology: From the Screening of Drugs to the Study of Disease 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(2):164-179.
Several lines of evidence indicate that rats emit ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) in response to a wide range of stimuli that are capable of producing either euphoric (positive) or dysphoric (negative) emotional states. On these bases, recordings of USVs are extensively used in preclinical studies of affect, motivation, and social behavior. Rat USVs are sensitive to the effects of certain classes of psychoactive drugs, suggesting that emission of rat USVs can have relevance not only to neurobiology, but also to neuropharmacology and psychopharmacology. This review summarizes three types of rat USVs, namely 40-kHz USVs emitted by pups, 22-kHz USVs and 50-kHz USVs emitted by young and adult animals, and relevance of these vocalizations to neuropharmacological studies. Attention will be focused on the issues of how rat USVs can be used to evaluate the pharmacological properties of different classes of drugs, and how rat USVs can be combined with other behavioral models used in neuropharmacology. The strengths and limitations of experimental paradigms based on the evaluation of rat USVs will also be discussed.
PMCID: PMC4598429  PMID: 26411760
Analgesic; antidepressant; anxiolytic; drug abuse; drug toxicity; psychostimulant
3.  Pharmacology of Ultrasonic Vocalizations in adult Rats: Significance, Call Classification and Neural Substrate 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(2):180-192.
Pharmacological studies of emotional arousal and initiation of emotional states in rats measured by their ultrasonic vocalizations are reviewed. It is postulated that emission of vocalizations is an inseparable feature of emotional states and it evolved from mother-infant interaction. Positive emotional states are associated with emission of 50 kHz vocalizations that could be induced by rewarding situations and dopaminergic activation of the nucleus accumbens and are mediated by D1, D2, and partially D3 dopamine receptors. Three biologically significant subtypes of 50 kHz vocalizations have been identified, all expressing positive emotional states: (1) flat calls without frequency modulation that serve as contact calls during social interactions; (2) frequencymodulated calls without trills that signal rewarding and significantly motivated situation; and (3) frequency-modulated calls with trills or trills themselves that are emitted in highly emotional situations associated with intensive affective state. Negative emotional states are associated with emission of 22 kHz vocalizations that could be induced by aversive situations, muscarinic cholinergic activation of limbic areas of medial diencephalon and forebrain, and are mediated by M2 muscarinic receptors. Two biologically significant subtypes of 22 kHz vocalizations have been identified, both expressing negative emotional sates: (1) long calls that serve as alarm calls and signal external danger; and (2) short calls that express a state of discomfort without external danger. The positive and negative states with emission of vocalizations are initiated by two ascending reticular activating subsystems: the mesolimbic dopaminergic subsystem as a specific positive arousal system, and the mesolimbic cholinergic subsystem as a specific negative arousal system.
PMCID: PMC4598430  PMID: 26411761
Appetitive state; aversive state; cholinergic system; dopaminergic system; emotional arousal; 22 kHz calls; 50 kHz calls; ultrasonic calls
4.  Ultrasonic Vocalizations as a Measure of Affect in Preclinical Models of Drug Abuse: A Review of Current Findings 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(2):193-210.
The present review describes ways in which ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) have been used in studies of substance abuse. Accordingly, studies are reviewed which demonstrate roles for affective processing in response to the presentation of drug-related cues, experimenter- and self-administered drug, drug withdrawal, and during tests of relapse/reinstatement. The review focuses on data collected from studies using cocaine and amphetamine, where a large body of evidence has been collected. Data suggest that USVs capture animals’ initial positive reactions to psychostimulant administration and are capable of identifying individual differences in affective responding. Moreover, USVs have been used to demonstrate that positive affect becomes sensitized to psychostimulants over acute exposure before eventually exhibiting signs of tolerance. In the drug-dependent animal, a mixture of USVs suggesting positive and negative affect is observed, illustrating mixed responses to psychostimulants. This mixture is predominantly characterized by an initial bout of positive affect followed by an opponent negative emotional state, mirroring affective responses observed in human addicts. During drug withdrawal, USVs demonstrate the presence of negative affective withdrawal symptoms. Finally, it has been shown that drug-paired cues produce a learned, positive anticipatory response during training, and that presentation of drug-paired cues following abstinence produces both positive affect and reinstatement behavior. Thus, USVs are a useful tool for obtaining an objective measurement of affective states in animal models of substance abuse and can increase the information extracted from drug administration studies. USVs enable detection of subtle differences in a behavioral response that might otherwise be missed using traditional measures.
PMCID: PMC4598431  PMID: 26411762
Addiction; affect; emotion; stimulant; ultrasonic vocalizations
5.  Changes in Rat 50-kHz Ultrasonic Vocalizations During Dopamine Denervation and Aging: Relevance to Neurodegeneration 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(2):211-219.
Vocal communication is negatively affected by neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson disease, and by aging. The neurological and sensorimotor mechanisms underlying voice deficits in Parkinson disease and aging are not well-understood. Rat ultrasonic vocalizations provide a unique behavioral model for studying communication deficits and the mechanisms underlying these deficits in these conditions. The purpose of this review was to examine the existing literature for methods using rat ultrasonic vocalization with regard to the primary disease pathology of Parkinson disease, dopamine denervation, and aging. Although only a small amount of papers were found for each of these topics, results suggest that both shared and unique acoustic deficits in ultrasonic vocalizations exist across conditions and that these acoustic deficits are due to changes in either dopamine signaling or denervation and in aging models changes to the nucleus ambiguus, at the level of the neuromuscular junction, and the composition of the vocal folds in the larynx. We conclude that ultrasonic vocalizations are a useful tool for studying biologic mechanisms underlying vocal communication deficits in neurodegenerative diseases and aging.
PMCID: PMC4598432  PMID: 26411763
Aging; dopamine; rat; ultrasonic vocalization; voice; 6-OHDA.
6.  Environmental and Pharmacological Modulation of Amphetamine-Induced 50-kHz Ultrasonic Vocalizations in Rats 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(2):220-232.
Rats emit high-frequency 50-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations (USV) in appetitive situations like social interactions. Drugs of abuse are probably the most potent non-social elicitors of 50-kHz USV, possibly reflecting their euphorigenic properties. Psychostimulants induce the strongest elevation in 50-kHz USV emission, particularly amphetamine (AMPH), either when applied systemically or locally into the nucleus accumbens (Nacc). Emission of AMPH-induced 50-kHz USV depends on test context, such as the presence of conspecifics, and can be manipulated pharmacologically by targeting major neurotransmitter systems, including dopamine (DA), noradrenaline (NA), and serotonin (5-HT), but also protein kinase C (PKC) signaling. Several D1 and D2 receptor antagonists, as well as typical and atypical antipsychotics block the AMPH-induced elevation in 50-kHz USV. Inhibiting D1 and D2 receptors in the Nacc abolishes AMPH-induced 50-kHz USV, indicating a key role for this brain area. NA neurotransmission also regulates AMPH-induced 50-kHz USV emission given that α1 receptor antagonists and α2 receptor agonists exert attenuating effects. Supporting the involvement of the 5-HT system, AMPH-induced 50-kHz USV are attenuated by 5-HT2C receptor activation, whereas 5-HT2C receptor antagonism leads to the opposite effect. Finally, treatment with lithium, tamoxifen, and myricitrin was all found to result in a complete abolishment of the AMPH-induced increase in 50-kHz USV, suggesting the involvement of PKC signaling. Neurotransmitter systems involved in AMPH-induced 50-kHz USV emission only partially overlap with other AMPH-induced behaviors like hyperlocomotion. The validity of AMPH-induced 50-kHz USV as a preclinical model for neuropsychiatric disorders is discussed, particularly with relevance to altered drive and mood seen in bipolar disorder.
PMCID: PMC4598433  PMID: 26411764
Amphetamine; antipsychotics; dopamine; lithium; serotonin; ultrasonic vocalizations.
8.  Postranslational Modification of Ion Channels in Colonic Inflammation 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(2):234-238.
Voltage-gated ion channels are key regulators of cell excitability. There is significant evidence that these channels are subject to modulation by redox status of the cells. Here we review the post-translational modifications of ion channels that occur in colonic inflammation. The redox mechanisms involve tyrosine nitration, covalent modification of cysteine residues and sulfhydration by hydrogen sulfide in experimental colitis. In the setting of colonic inflammation, modifications of cysteine and tyrosine are likely to occur at several sites within the same channel complex. In this review we describe alterations in channel function due to specific modifications of tyrosine and cysteine residues by reactive nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen-sulfide resulting in altered motility.
PMCID: PMC4598435  PMID: 26411766
Calcium channel; hydrogen sulfide; oxidative stress; tyrosine nitration.
9.  TRPV1 Channel: A Potential Drug Target for Treating Epilepsy 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(2):239-247.
Epilepsy has 2-3% incidence worldwide. However, present antiepileptic drugs provide only partial control of seizures. Calcium ion accumulation in hippocampal neurons has long been known as a major contributor to the etiology of epilepsy. TRPV1 is a calcium-permeable channel and mediator of epilepsy in the hippocampus. TRPV1 is expressed in epileptic brain areas such as CA1 area and dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. Here the author reviews the patent literature on novel molecules targeting TRPV1 that are currently being investigated in the laboratory and are candidates for future clinical evaluation in the management of epilepsy.
A limited number of recent reports have implicated TRPV1 in the induction or treatment of epilepsy suggesting that this may be new area for potential drugs targeting this debilitating disease. Thus activation of TRPV1 by oxidative stress, resiniferatoxin, cannabinoid receptor (CB1) activators (i.e. anandamide) or capsaicin induced epileptic effects, and these effects could be reduced by appropriate inhibitors, including capsazepine (CPZ), 5'-iodoresiniferatoxin (IRTX), resolvins, and CB1 antagonists. It has been also reported that CPZ and IRTX reduced spontaneous excitatory synaptic transmission through modulation of glutaminergic systems and desensitization of TRPV1 channels in the hippocampus of rats. Immunocytochemical studies indicated that TRPV1 channel expression increased in the hippocampus of mice and patients with temporal lobe epilepsy
Taken together, findings in the current literature support a role for calcium ion accumulation through TRPV1 channels in the etiology of epileptic seizures, indicating that inhibition of TRPV1 in the hippocampus may possibly be a novel target for prevention of epileptic seizures.
PMCID: PMC4598436  PMID: 26411767
Anadamide; Calcium ion; Epilepsy; Hippocampus; Seizures; TRPV1 channels
10.  Psychiatric Disorders and TRP Channels: Focus on Psychotropic Drugs 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(2):248-257.
Psychiatric and neurological disorders are mostly associated with the changes in neural calcium ion signaling pathways required for activity-triggered cellular events. One calcium channel family is the TRP cation channel family, which contains seven subfamilies. Results of recent papers have discovered that calcium ion influx through TRP channels is important. We discuss the latest advances in calcium ion influx through TRP channels in the etiology of psychiatric disorders.
Activation of TRPC4, TRPC5, and TRPV1 cation channels in the etiology of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, fear-associated responses, and depression modulate calcium ion influx. Evidence substantiates that anandamide and its analog (methanandamide) induce an anxiolytic-like effect via CB1 receptors and TRPV1 channels. Intracellular calcium influx induced by oxidative stress has an significant role in the etiology of bipolar disorders (BDs), and studies recently reported the important role of TRP channels such as TRPC3, TRPM2, and TRPV1 in converting oxidant or nitrogen radical signaling to cytosolic calcium ion homeostasis in BDs. The TRPV1 channel also plays a function in morphine tolerance and hyperalgesia. Among psychotropic drugs, amitriptyline and capsazepine seem to have protective effects on psychiatric disorders via the TRP channels. Some drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine also seem to have an important role in alcohol addiction and substance abuse via activation of the TRPV1 channel.
Thus, we explore the relationships between the etiology of psychiatric disorders and TRP channel-regulated mechanisms. Investigation of the TRP channels in psychiatric disorders holds the promise of the development of new drug treatments.
PMCID: PMC4598437  PMID: 26411768
Anandamide; anxiety; bipolar disorders; calcium ion; depression; TRP channels
11.  Deciphering Subtype-Selective Modulations in TRPA1 Biosensor Channels 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(2):266-278.
The transient receptor potential (TRP) proteins are a family of ion channels that act as cellular sensors. Several members of the TRP family are sensitive to oxidative stress mediators. Among them, TRPA1 is remarkably susceptible to various oxidants, and is known to mediate neuropathic pain and respiratory, vascular and gastrointestinal functions, making TRPA1 an attractive therapeutic target. Recent studies have revealed a number of modulators (both activators and inhibitors) that act on TRPA1. Endogenous mediators of oxidative stress and exogenous electrophiles activate TRPA1 through oxidative modification of cysteine residues. Non-electrophilic compounds also activate TRPA1. Certain non-electrophilic modulators may act on critical non-cysteine sites in TRPA1. However, a method to achieve selective modulation of TRPA1 by small molecules has not yet been established. More recently, we found that a novel N-nitrosamine compound activates TRPA1 by S-nitrosylation (the addition of a nitric oxide (NO) group to cysteine thiol), and does so with significant selectivity over other NO-sensitive TRP channels. It is proposed that this subtype selectivity is conferred through synergistic effects of electrophilic cysteine transnitrosylation and molecular recognition of the non-electrophilic moiety on the N-nitrosamine. In this review, we describe the molecular pharmacology of these TRPA1 modulators and discuss their modulatory mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC4598439  PMID: 26411770
Electrophile; non-electrophilic compound; oxidative stress; transnitrosylation; TRP channel; TRPA1
12.  TRP Channels in Respiratory Pathophysiology: The Role of Oxidative, Chemical Irritant and Temperature Stimuli 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(2):279-291.
There is rapidly growing evidence indicating multiple and important roles of Ca2+-permeable cation TRP channels in the airways, both under normal and disease conditions. The aim of this review was to summarize the current knowledge of TRP channels in sensing oxidative, chemical irritant and temperature stimuli by discussing expression and function of several TRP channels in relevant cell types within the respiratory tract, ranging from sensory neurons to airway smooth muscle and epithelial cells. Several of these channels, such as TRPM2, TRPM8, TRPA1 and TRPV1, are discussed in much detail to show that they perform diverse, and often overlapping or contributory, roles in airway hyperreactivity, inflammation, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory disorders. These include TRPM2 involvement in the disruption of the bronchial epithelial tight junctions during oxidative stress, important roles of TRPA1 and TRPV1 channels in airway inflammation, hyperresponsiveness, chronic cough, and hyperplasia of airway smooth muscles, as well as TRPM8 role in COPD and mucus hypersecretion. Thus, there is increasing evidence that TRP channels not only function as an integral part of the important endogenous protective mechanisms of the respiratory tract capable of detecting and ensuring proper physiological responses to various oxidative, chemical irritant and temperature stimuli, but that altered expression, activation and regulation of these channels may also contribute to the pathogenesis of respiratory diseases.
PMCID: PMC4598440  PMID: 26411771
Airway disease; air pollution; calcium signaling; oxidative stress; TRP channel
13.  Meet Our Editorial Board Member 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(2):1-0.
PMCID: PMC4598427
14.  Anabolic-androgenic Steroid use and Psychopathology in Athletes. A Systematic Review 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(1):101-121.
The use of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AASs) by professional and recreational athletes is increasing worldwide. The underlying motivations are mainly performance enhancement and body image improvement. AAS abuse and dependence, which are specifically classified and coded by the DSM-5, are not uncommon. AAS-using athletes are frequently present with psychiatric symptoms and disorders, mainly somatoform and eating, but also mood, and schizophrenia-related disorders. Some psychiatric disorders are typical of athletes, like muscle dysmorphia. This raises the issue of whether AAS use causes these disorders in athletes, by determining neuroadaptive changes in the reward neural circuit or by exacerbating stress vulnerability, or rather these are athletes with premorbid abnormal personalities or a history of psychiatric disorders who are attracted to AAS use, prompted by the desire to improve their appearance and control their weights. This may predispose to eating disorders, but AASs also show mood destabilizing effects, with longterm use inducing depression and short-term hypomania; withdrawal/discontinuation may be accompanied by depression. The effects of AASs on anxiety behavior are unclear and studies are inconsistent. AASs are also linked to psychotic behavior. The psychological characteristics that could prompt athletes to use AASs have not been elucidated.
PMCID: PMC4462035  PMID: 26074746
Anabolic-androgenic steroids; doping; mood disorders; psychopathology; psychosis
15.  Synthetic Cathinones: A New Public Health Problem 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(1):12-20.
New psychoactive substances (NPS) have completely modified the drug scene and the current landscape of addiction. Synthetic substances, such as substituted or synthetic cathinones, also known as « legal highs », are often produced and used to mimic the effects of controlled drugs such as cocaine, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy), and methamphetamine. The overwhelming majority of synthetic cathinones are produced in China and South East Asian countries. The Internet has emerged as the new marketplace for NPS, playing a major role in providing information on acquisition, synthesis, extraction, identification, and substance use. All these compounds are intentionally mislabeled and sold on-line under slang terms such as bath salts, plant food, plant feeders and research chemicals. They are sometimes labeled « not for human use » or « not tested for hazards or toxicity ». The rapid spread of NPS forces member countries of the European Union to adapt their response to the potential new dangers that may cause. To date, not only health actors but also the general public need to be clearly informed and aware of dangers resulting from NPS spread and use. Here, we review the major clinical effects of synthetic cathinones to highlight their impact on public health. A literature search was conducted from 2009 to 2014 based on PubMed, Google Scholar, Erowid, and governmental websites, using the following keywords alone or in combination: “new psychoactive substances”, “synthetic cathinones”, “substituted cathinones”, “mephedrone”, “methylone”, “MDPV”, “4-MEC”, “addiction”, and “substance use disorder”.
PMCID: PMC4462036  PMID: 26074740
Addiction; MDPV; 4-MEC; mephedrone; methylone; new psychoactive substances; substance use disorder; substituted cathinones; synthetic cathinones
16.  The Impact of Nandrolone Decanoate on the Central Nervous System 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(1):122-131.
Nandrolone is included in the class II of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) which is composed of 19-nor-testosterone-derivates. In general, AAS is a broad and rapidly increasing group of synthetic androgens used both clinically and illicitly. AAS in general and nandrolone decanoate (ND) in particular have been associated with several behavioral disorders. The purpose of this review is to summarize the literature concerning studies dealing with ND exposure on animal models, mostly rats that mimic human abuse systems (i.e. supraphysiological doses). We have focused in particular on researches that have investigated how ND alters the function and expression of neuronal signaling molecules that underlie behavior, anxiety, aggression, learning and memory, reproductive behaviors, locomotion and reward.
PMCID: PMC4462037  PMID: 26074747
Nandrolone decanoate (ND); Anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS); neurological effects; anxiety; aggression; learning and memory
17.  Neurotoxicity by Synthetic Androgen Steroids: Oxidative Stress, Apoptosis, and Neuropathology: A Review 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(1):132-145.
Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are synthetic substances derived from testosterone that are largely employed due to their trophic effect on muscle tissue of athletes at all levels. Since a great number of organs and systems are a target of AAS, their adverse effects are primarily on the following systems: reproductive, hepatic, musculoskeletal, endocrine, renal, immunological, infectious, cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and hematological. Neuropsychiatric and behavioral effects as a result of AAS abuse are well known and described in the literature. Mounting evidence exists suggesting that in addition to psychiatric and behavioral effects, non-medical use of AAS carries neurodegenerative potential. Although, the nature of this association remains largely unexplored, recent animal studies have shown the recurrence of this AAS effect, ranging from neurotrophin unbalance to increased neuronal susceptibility to apoptotic stimuli.
Experimental and animal studies strongly suggest that apoptotic mechanisms are at least in part involved in AAS-induced neurotoxicity. Furthermore, a great body of evidence is emerging suggesting that increased susceptibility to cellular oxidative stress could play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of many neurodegenerative disorders and cognitive impairment. As in other drug-evoked encephalopathies, the key mechanisms involved in AAS – induced neuropathology could represent a target for future neuroprotective strategies. Progress in the understanding of these mechanisms will provide important insights into the complex pathophysiology of AAS-induced neurodegeneration, and will pave the way for forthcoming studies. Supplementary to abandoning the drug abuse that represents the first step in reducing the possibility of irreversible brain damage in AAS abusers, neuroprotective strategies have to be developed and implemented in future.
PMCID: PMC4462038  PMID: 26074748
Androgen-anabolic steroids; apoptosis; biochemical mechanisms; excitotoxic neuronal death; neurotrophin unbalance; neuroprotective strategies; neurotoxicity; oxidative-stress
18.  Anabolic Androgenic Steroid (AAS) Related Deaths: Autoptic, Histopathological and Toxicological Findings 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(1):146-159.
Anabolic androgenic steroids (AASs) represent a large group of synthetic derivatives of testosterone, produced to maximize anabolic effects and minimize the androgenic ones. AAS can be administered orally, parenterally by intramuscular injection and transdermally. Androgens act by binding to the nuclear androgen receptor (AR) in the cytoplasm and then translocate into the nucleus. This binding results in sequential conformational changes of the receptor affecting the interaction between receptor and protein, and receptor and DNA.
Skeletal muscle can be considered as the main target tissue for the anabolic effects of AAS, which are mediated by ARs which after exposure to AASs are up-regulated and their number increases with body building. Therefore, AASs determine an increase in muscle size as a consequence of a dose-dependent hypertrophy resulting in an increase of the cross-sectional areas of both type I and type II muscle fibers and myonuclear domains. Moreover, it has been reported that AASs can increase tolerance to exercise by making the muscles more capable to overload therefore shielding them from muscle fiber damage and improving the level of protein synthesis during recovery.
Despite some therapeutic use of AASs, there is also wide abuse among athletes especially bodybuilders in order to improve their performances and to increase muscle growth and lean body mass, taking into account the significant anabolic effects of these drugs.
The prolonged misuse and abuse of AASs can determine several adverse effects, some of which may be even fatal especially on the cardiovascular system because they may increase the risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD), myocardial infarction, altered serum lipoproteins, and cardiac hypertrophy.
The aim of this review is to focus on deaths related to AAS abuse, trying to evaluate the autoptic, histopathological and toxicological findings in order to investigate the pathophysiological mechanism that underlines this type of death, which is still obscure in several aspects. The review of the literature allowed us to identify 19 fatal cases between 1990 and 2012, in which the autopsy excluded in all cases, extracardiac causes of death.
PMCID: PMC4462039  PMID: 26074749
Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS); cardiovascular effects; sudden cardiac death; toxicity
19.  Cathinone Neurotoxicity (“The “3Ms”) 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(1):21-25.
Synthetic cathinones are designer drugs of the phenethylamine class, structurally and pharmacologically similar to amphetamine, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), cathinone and other related substances. New analogues, legal at least, until formally banned (a time consuming process), are introduced almost daily The United Nations estimates nearly 250 new drug analogues are produced per year. Various combinations of these drugs are sold under the name of “bath salts”. They can be ingested by any route and some appear capable of causing great harm, mostly behavioral. One drug in particular, MDVP, appears to frequently cause symptoms indistinguishable from the classic findings in Excited Delirium Syndrome (ExDS). Little is known about the pathology or clinical toxicology of these drugs but their molecular mechanism of action seems to be identical with that of cocaine. This mini-review examines what little is known on the subject and explains the suspected mechanisms of excited delirium syndrome.
PMCID: PMC4462040  PMID: 26074741
“Bath salts”; cathinones; methedrone; methelone; MDMA; MDVP
20.  Recreational Use, Analysis and Toxicity of Tryptamines 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(1):26-46.
The definition New psychoactive substances (NPS) refers to emerging drugs whose chemical structures are similar to other psychoactive compounds but not identical, representing a “legal” alternative to internationally controlled drugs. There are many categories of NPS, such as synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones, phenylethylamines, piperazines, ketamine derivatives and tryptamines. Tryptamines are naturally occurring compounds, which can derive from the amino acid tryptophan by several biosynthetic pathways: their structure is a combination of a benzene ring and a pyrrole ring, with the addition of a 2-carbon side chain. Tryptamines include serotonin and melatonin as well as other compounds known for their hallucinogenic properties, such as psilocybin in ‘Magic mushrooms’ and dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in Ayahuasca brews.
To review the scientific literature regarding tryptamines and their derivatives, providing a summary of all the available information about the structure of these compounds, their effects in relationship with the routes of administration, their pharmacology and toxicity, including articles reporting cases of death related to intake of these substances.
A comprehensive review of the published scientific literature was performed, using also non peer-reviewed information sources, such as books, government publications and drug user web fora.
Information from Internet and from published scientific literature, organized in the way we proposed in this review, provides an effective tool for specialists facing the emerging NPS threat to public health and public security, including the personnel working in Emergency Department.
PMCID: PMC4462041  PMID: 26074742
Clinical effects; Emergency Departments; Fatalities; Forensic Toxicology; Intoxication;  New Psychoactive Substances (NPS); Tryptamines.
21.  GHB Pharmacology and Toxicology: Acute Intoxication, Concentrations in Blood and Urine in Forensic Cases and Treatment of the Withdrawal Syndrome 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(1):47-70.
The illicit recreational drug of abuse, γ-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a potent central nervous system depressant and is often encountered during forensic investigations of living and deceased persons. The sodium salt of GHB is registered as a therapeutic agent (Xyrem®), approved in some countries for the treatment of narcolepsy-associated cataplexy and (Alcover®) is an adjuvant medication for detoxification and withdrawal in alcoholics. Trace amounts of GHB are produced endogenously (0.5-1.0 mg/L) in various tissues, including the brain, where it functions as both a precursor and a metabolite of the major inhibitory neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Available information indicates that GHB serves as a neurotransmitter or neuromodulator in the GABAergic system, especially via binding to the GABA-B receptor subtype. Although GHB is listed as a controlled substance in many countries abuse still continues, owing to the availability of precursor drugs, γ-butyrolactone (GBL) and 1,4-butanediol (BD), which are not regulated. After ingestion both GBL and BD are rapidly converted into GHB (t½ ~1 min). The Cmax occurs after 20-40 min and GHB is then eliminated from plasma with a half-life of 30-50 min. Only about 1-5% of the dose of GHB is recoverable in urine and the window of detection is relatively short (3-10 h). This calls for expeditious sampling when evidence of drug use and/or abuse is required in forensic casework. The recreational dose of GHB is not easy to estimate and a concentration in plasma of ~100 mg/L produces euphoria and disinhibition, whereas 500 mg/L might cause death from cardiorespiratory depression. Effective antidotes to reverse the sedative and intoxicating effects of GHB do not exist. The poisoned patients require supportive care, vital signs should be monitored and the airways kept clear in case of emesis. After prolonged regular use of GHB tolerance and dependence develop and abrupt cessation of drug use leads to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. There is no evidence-based protocol available to deal with GHB withdrawal, apart from administering benzodiazepines.
PMCID: PMC4462042  PMID: 26074743
Analogues; γ-hydroxybutyrate (GBH); intoxication; overdose; pharmacodynamics; pharmacokinetics; treatment; withdrawal syndrome
22.  Smart Drugs and Synthetic Androgens for Cognitive and Physical Enhancement: Revolving Doors of Cosmetic Neurology 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(1):5-11.
Cognitive enhancement can be defined as the use of drugs and/or other means with the aim to improve the cognitive functions of healthy subjects in particular memory, attention, creativity and intelligence in the absence of any medical indication. Currently, it represents one of the most debated topics in the neuroscience community. Human beings always wanted to use substances to improve their cognitive functions, from the use of hallucinogens in ancient civilizations in an attempt to allow them to better communicate with their gods, to the widespread use of caffeine under various forms (energy drinks, tablets, etc.), to the more recent development of drugs such as stimulants and glutamate activators. In the last ten years, increasing attention has been given to the use of cognitive enhancers, but up to now there is still only a limited amount of information concerning the use, effect and functioning of cognitive enhancement in daily life on healthy subjects. The first aim of this paper was to review current trends in the misuse of smart drugs (also known as Nootropics) presently available on the market focusing in detail on methylphenidate, trying to evaluate the potential risk in healthy individuals, especially teenagers and young adults. Moreover, the authors have explored the issue of cognitive enhancement compared to the use of Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) in sports. Finally, a brief overview of the ethical considerations surrounding human enhancement has been examined.
PMCID: PMC4462043  PMID: 26074739
Anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS); cosmetic neurology; Human enhancement; methylphenidate; smart drugs
23.  Caffeine: Cognitive and Physical Performance Enhancer or Psychoactive Drug? 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(1):71-88.
Caffeine use is increasing worldwide. The underlying motivations are mainly concentration and memory enhancement and physical performance improvement. Coffee and caffeine-containing products affect the cardiovascular system, with their positive inotropic and chronotropic effects, and the central nervous system, with their locomotor activity stimulation and anxiogenic-like effects. Thus, it is of interest to examine whether these effects could be detrimental for health. Furthermore, caffeine abuse and dependence are becoming more and more common and can lead to caffeine intoxication, which puts individuals at risk for premature and unnatural death. The present review summarizes the main findings concerning caffeine’s mechanisms of action (focusing on adenosine antagonism, intracellular calcium mobilization, and phosphodiesterases inhibition), use, abuse, dependence, intoxication, and lethal effects. It also suggests that the concepts of toxic and lethal doses are relative, since doses below the toxic and/or lethal range may play a causal role in intoxication or death. This could be due to caffeine’s interaction with other substances or to the individuals' preexisting metabolism alterations or diseases.
PMCID: PMC4462044  PMID: 26074744
Abuse; caffeine; coffee; dependence; energy drinks; safety doses; toxicity
24.  Synthetic Androgens as Designer Supplements 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(1):89-100.
Anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) are some of the most common performance enhancing drugs (PED) among society. Despite the broad spectrum of adverse effects and legal consequences, AAS are illicitly marketed and distributed in many countries. To circumvent existing laws, the chemical structure of AAS is modified and these designer steroids are sold as nutritional supplements mainly over the Internet. Several side effects are linked with AAS abuse. Only little is known about the pharmacological effects and metabolism of unapproved steroids due to the absence of clinical studies. The large number of designer steroid findings in dietary supplements and the detection of new compounds combined with legal loopholes for their distribution in many countries show that stricter regulations and better information policy are needed.
PMCID: PMC4462045  PMID: 26074745
AAS; designer steroids; dietary supplements; performance enhancing drugs.
25.  Can Tea Consumption be a Safe and Effective Therapy Against Diabetes Mellitus-Induced Neurodegeneration?  
Current Neuropharmacology  2014;12(6):475-489.
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a metabolic disease that is rapidly increasing and has become a major public health problem. Type 2 DM (T2DM) is the most common type, accounting for up to 90-95% of the new diagnosed DM cases. The brain is very susceptible to glucose fluctuations and hyperglycemia-induced oxidative stress (OS). It is well known that DM and the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases are associated. Tea, Camellia sinensis L., is one of the most consumed beverages. It contains several phytochemicals, such as polyphenols, methylxanthines (mainly caffeine) and L-theanine that are often reported to be responsible for tea’s health benefits, including in brain. Tea phytochemicals have been reported to be responsible for tea’s significant antidiabetic and neuroprotective properties and antioxidant potential. Epidemiological studies have shown that regular consumption of tea has positive effects on DM-caused complications and protects the brain against oxidative damage, contributing to an improvement of the cognitive function. Among the several reported benefits of tea consumption, those related with neurodegenerative diseases are of great interest. Herein, we discuss the potential beneficial effects of tea consumption and tea phytochemicals on DM and how their action can counteract the severe brain damage induced by this disease.
PMCID: PMC4428023  PMID: 25977676
Brain; caffeine; catechins; diabetes mellitus; L-theanine; tea

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