Trafficked people often seek treatment for adolescents, but stubborn conditions such as PTSD are difficult to cure. The adult brain, unfortunately, is not so open to changes as in adolescence. A new study published on Wednesday in Nature shows how a MDMA drug can open the door again for a more open adolescent brain.
In a study, the team headed by Ph.D., Ph.D., MD, shows that the effect of MDMA on hormone oxytocin seems to open the "critical period" in the adult brain of the brain, which is usually only in adolescence. This period requires a certain level of neuroplasticity ̵
In particular, MDMA seems to open the critical period of social rewards training, the developmental period, when someone finds out that he's good to be a member of the group. In adulthood, this critical period ends, which may be the cause of PTSD treatment, which requires close social interaction with the therapist – and why it seems to work better when MDMA is involved
. The period of social remuneration was the first step in the study of how to re-enter it from adults.
"The first thing that was really a fascinating and great surprise was that there was a critical period that we could measure with mice for this social behavior," says Dolen, chief investigator of the laboratory where the study was conducted, Inverse .
"There are many brain diseases that, in our opinion, will be influenced by the existence of a critical period for social rewards."
Opening the "critical period"
For a long time known as a recreational drug, MDMA is undergoing a renaissance as a therapeutic drug for people with PTSD, as well as for adults with autism spectrum that has problems with social anxiety. Several phases of FDA approved clinical trials have shown that MDMA, when taken under the direction of the therapist and in combination with several treatment sessions, offers rapid relief from PTSD symptoms that persist long after the effects of the drug have disappeared. It is unclear how MDMA actually affects the brain. The Dölen team suggests in a new study that the drug can act with the oxytocin hormone to promote plasticity in adults, similar to that observed in adolescent mice
. , each with different types of bedding. In one case, the mouse could talk with other mice, and in the other they were themselves. The idea was that, because of social rewards, they would become conditioned by having one type of bedding with friends, and the other with social isolation.
After conditioning, the mice had open access to both buildings, and the researchers watched how much time the mouse spent in each.
It turned out that only teen mice (from 42 to 98 days) were susceptible to social assistance, choosing to spend more time in bedding. associated with other mice. Adult mice, meanwhile, did not seem to be able to master the bond between bedding and communication.
That is, until they were given MDMA.
The opening of the door to plasticity with MDMA
then waited for 48 hours so that the medication was washed away from their systems – adult mice learned to wear one type of bedding with the company, as well as adolescents. This result has shown that MDMA not only affects neuroplasticity, but also that it lasts long after reducing the acute effects of the drug.
"This refers to the long-term effects of the drug on the brain," says Dylan. 19659002] These data suggest that MDMA and other drugs similar to them can actually induce neuroplasticity in a child's state in which a person can learn new behaviors – and refuse from the old ones. This can be especially important for people with psychological states that are difficult to cure throughout their lives. Previous studies have found that in mice, hormone oxytocin plays a decisive role in social rewards by interacting with oxytocin receptors in the nucleus accumbens, part of the brain rewarded with rewards. In a new study, the team shows that MDMA can also activate these oxytocin receptors, also apparently opening a critical period during which social rewards are possible.
Combined with traditional methods of treatment, Dölen suspects that MDMA may be supported by some people in need of treatment, especially if they are not relieved by typical psychotherapy.
"Everyone who tried to treat brain disorders, had this in the thought that perhaps these things did not work as we would like to, because of the critical periods of brain plasticity, but we just did not have effective ways to restore these windows , "Says Dölen.
MDMA: Probably not only for PTSD
Anthony Gabai, a Ph.D., is a researcher at Oxford University who did not participate in this study, but did research on the influence of MDMA on social behavior. He says Inverse that this study adds valuable knowledge about the effects of MDMA on serotonin and oxytocin.
"The fact that the authors report specific context-related effects reflects our own findings from people that some of the MDMA's social cognitive effects are context-dependent," he says. "As the authors point out, with MDMA, which undergoes Phase 3 clinical trials, it is important to understand these mechanisms and how they can play a role in the medical process."
In addition to ongoing research on PTSD, Dölen suspects MDMA to be an ally in the treatment of other psychological problems with social components.
"Another major type of disease, where it would be important, was things like dependence, where the disease is not necessarily due to social behavior, but your ability to potentially treat, which can be alleviated if the period of social behavior was discovered, "says Dylan. It points to 12-step recovery programs in which peer support is an essential component of treatment, but when early life experiences can make it difficult for members to form these relationships.
"The emotion that occurs between group members or between a patient and a psychiatrist may be stronger if this critical period can be reopened," says Dylan.
Next, the team will work with other Johns Hopkins researchers to investigate whether other systems in the human body reveal signs of critical periods and see whether there is the idea of restoring critical periods. can be generalized by systems. It is important to note that studies similar to this may stimulate further research on a medicinal product that has a long history, which is considered to be purely recreational. psychological effects can be.
"For people who use these medications in a recreational way, I think it is important to remember that when you make these medications, they reopen the sensitivity window so that you want to make sure that you do them around people you trust who is not going to take advantage of your sensitive state of mind and who will respect what huge opportunities and potential effects of these drugs on your brain really are, she says.
"These drugs should not be taken without taking into account the enormity of what these drugs do for you. "
Abstract:  The critical period is the era of development in which the nervous system is clearly sensitive to the specific environmental stimuli necessary for the correct organization and training of the chain.Mechanical characteristics of critical periods have shown an important role for rapid brain plasticity during early development, as well as for limitations, which are superimposed on these mechanisms in the maturation of the brain.In the states of disease, the closure of critical periods restricts the ability of the brain to adapt even when restoration of optimal conditions. Thus, the detection of manipulations that reopen critical periods was a priority for translational neurology. Here we provide evidence that the regulation of the development of oxytocin-mediated synaptic plasticity (long-term depression) in the nucleus accumbens establishes a critical period for social rewards. In addition, we show that a single dose of (+/-) – 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) opens a critical period for social rewards and leads to metaplastic regulation of long-term depression dependent on oxytocin. MDMA-induced discovery of this critical period requires the activation of oxytocin receptors in the nucleus accumbens and recapitulation by stimulation of oxytocin terminals in nucleus accumbens. These findings are important for understanding the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental diseases characterized by social disorders and disorders that are responsive to social influences or are a consequence of social trauma.