Teenagers shape each other’s views on how risky a situation is

9 04 2015

Young adolescents’ judgements on how risky a situation might be are most influenced by what other teenagers think, while most other age groups are more influenced by adults’ views


Credit: Petr Kratochvil/public domain

Young adolescents’ judgements on how risky a situation might be are most influenced by what other teenagers think, while most other age groups are more influenced by adults’ views, finds new UCL research.

For the study, published in Psychological Science, 563 visitors to the London Science Museum were asked to rate the riskiness of everyday situations such as crossing a road on a red light or taking a shortcut through a dark alley. Ratings were given on a continuous scale from low to high risk, and children (aged 8-11) generally rated situations as more risky than all other age groups.

Participants were then told how other people, either teenagers or adults, had rated the same situations, before being asked to rate each situation again. These risk levels from ‘adults’ or ‘teenagers’ were in fact randomly generated.

The results showed that all age groups were socially influenced and changed their risk ratings in the direction of other people’s, but this social influence effect decreased with age. Most age groups adjusted their ratings more to conform to the ratings of adults than those of teenagers, except for young adolescents (aged 12-14).

“Young adolescents were more strongly influenced by other teenagers than by adults, suggesting that in early adolescence the opinions of other teenagers about risk matter more than the opinions of adults,” explains lead author Dr Lisa Knoll (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience). “Our findings suggest that the target of public health interventions should be adolescent social norms, rather than simply focusing on the potential health risks associated with certain situations and choices.”

Risk ratings were given on a continuous low-high scale without numbers, however they were converted onto a 0-10 scale for the analysis. On average, the first ratings given by each age group were as follows:

  • Ages 8-11: 6.2
  • Ages 12-14: 5.6
  • Ages 15-18: 5.2
  • Ages 19-25: 5.1
  • Ages 26-59: 5.5


After seeing a randomly-generated ‘adult’ or ‘teenager’ rating on screen, the average change in participants’ risk ratings was dependent on their age group. Illustrative examples of the average changes in risk are given below:

  • Children aged 8-11: change 36% towards the adult rating, 31% towards the teenager rating.
  • Young adolescents aged 12-14: change 29% towards the teenager rating, 25% towards the adult rating.
  • Mid-adolescents aged 15-18: change 19% towards the adult rating, 17% towards the teenager rating.
  • Young adults aged 19-25: change 14% towards the adult rating, 11% towards the teenager rating.
  • Adults aged 26-59: change 8% towards the adult rating, 6% towards the teenager rating.


As people get older, they become more confident in their own judgement of risk and less swayed by other people,” says senior author Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience). “We know that adolescents are more likely to take risks when with peers than alone. Our study showed that young adolescents do not perceive situations as less risky than older age groups, but do tend to change their risk perception in the direction of the opinions of similar aged peers. So other teenagers’ opinions about risk seem to influence young adolescents into judging a situation as less risky than they originally thought it was.”


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 @uclnews http://www.ucl.ac.uk




Eurekalert.org [en línea] London (UK): eurekalert.org, 09 de abril de 2015 [ref. 27 de marzo de 2015] Disponible en Internet: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-03/ucl-tse032615.php

Antidepressant use during pregnancy may lead to childhood obesity and diabetes

1 12 2014

Women who take antidepressants during pregnancy may be unknowingly predisposing their infants to type 2 diabetes and obesity later in life, according to new research from McMaster University.

The study finds a correlation between the use of the medication fluoxetine during pregnancy and an increased risk of obesity and diabetes in children.

From left: PhD student Nicole De Long and Alison Holloway, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at McMaster University


Currently, up to 20 per cent of woman in the United States and approximately seven per cent of Canadian women are prescribed an antidepressant during pregnancy.

“Obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children is on the rise and there is the argument that it is related to lifestyle and availability of high calorie foods and reduced physical activity, but our study has found that maternal antidepressant use may also be a contributing factor to the obesity and diabetes epidemic,” said the study’s senior investigator Alison Holloway, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at McMaster University.

Previous studies have found that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to depression, and it is estimated that up to one in five pregnant women have symptoms of depression during pregnancy.

“While it is known that these drugs can increase the risk of obesity in adults, it is unknown whether a woman’s antidepressant use during pregnancy increases the risk of metabolic disturbances in her children,” Holloway says, adding the goal of their project was to determine whether maternal exposure to a commonly used antidepressant is related to the development of fatty liver, an outcome commonly seen with obesity, in the offspring.

“We have demonstrated for the first time in an animal model that maternal use of a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, resulted in increased fat accumulation and inflammation in the liver of the adult offspring, raising new concerns about the long-term metabolic complications in children born to women who take SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy,” says PhD student Nicole De Long, who presented this research on June 22nd at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and The Endocrine Society.

Their study does not suggest women should avoid taking antidepressants during pregnancy, only that there may be risks associated with antidepressants that haven’t been previously identified, Holloway says.

“The benefit of the study is it may help in the identification of a high-risk group of children who may require specific interventions to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life,” she says.

The next stage of their research will be to understand the mechanistic pathways behind why these drugs pose a risk. “If we can understand how the antidepressant causes adverse metabolic outcomes in the offspring than we can design therapeutic strategies to prevent the damage while allowing women who require these drugs to be treated but reduce the potential harm to the offspring.”

Funding for this project was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Salary support was provided by the CIHR training program in Reproduction, Early Development and the Impact on Health.



Fhs.mcmaster.ca [en línea] Hamilton, ON (CAN): fhs.mcmaster.ca, 01 de diciembre de 2014 [ref. 08 de julio de 2014] Disponible en Internet: http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/main/news/news_2014/antidepressants_during_pregnancy_study.html

ADHD brain study finds slower development of key connections

13 10 2014

Slow to mature, quick to distract: ADHD brain study finds slower development of key connections.

Brain networks to handle internal & external tasks mature more slowly in ADHD.

A peek inside the brains of more than 750 children and teens reveals a key difference in brain architecture between those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and those without.


The new research may help lead to the development of a ‘neuromarker’ — a way to use brain imaging to improve diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.

Kids and teens with ADHD, a new study finds, lag behind others of the same age in how quickly their brains form connections within, and between, key brain networks.

The result: less-mature connections between a brain network that controls internally-directed thought (such as daydreaming) and networks that allow a person to focus on externally-directed tasks. That lag in connection development may help explain why people with ADHD get easily distracted or struggle to stay focused.

What’s more, the new findings, and the methods used to make them, may one day allow doctors to use brain scans to diagnose ADHD — and track how well someone responds to treatment. This kind of neuroimaging “biomarker” doesn’t yet exist for ADHD, or any psychiatric condition for that matter.

The new findings come from a team in the University of Michigan Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry. They used highly advanced computing techniques to analyze a large pool of detailed brain scans that were publicly shared for scientists to study. Their results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lead author Chandra Sripada, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues looked at the brain scans of 275 kids and teens with ADHD, and 481others without it, using “connectomic” methods that can map interconnectivity between networks in the brain.

The scans, made using function magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners, show brain activity during a resting state. This allows researchers to see how a number of different brain networks, each specialized for certain types of functions, were “talking” within and amongst themselves.

The researchers found lags in development of connection within the internally-focused network, called the default mode network or DMN, and in development of connections between DMN and two networks that process externally-focused tasks, often called task-positive networks, or TPNs. They could even see that the lags in connection development with the two task-related networks — the frontoparietal and ventral attention networks –  were located primarily in two specific areas of the brain.


The new findings mesh well with what other researchers have found by examining the physical structure of the brains of people with and without ADHD in other ways.

Such research has already shown alterations in regions within DMN and TPNs. So, the new findings build on that understanding and add to it.

The findings are also relevant to thinking about the longitudinal course of ADHD from childhood to adulthood. For instance, some children and teens “grow out” of the disorder, while for others the disorder persists throughout adulthood. Future studies of brain network maturation in ADHD could shed light into the neural basis for this difference.

“We and others are interested in understanding the neural mechanisms of ADHD in hopes that we can contribute to better diagnosis and treatment,” says Sripada, an assistant professor and psychiatrist who holds a joint appointment in the U-M Philosophy department and is a member of the U-M Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics. “But without the database of fMRI images, and the spirit of collaboration that allowed them to be compiled and shared, we would never have reached this point.”

Sripada explains that in the last decade, functional medical imaging has revealed that the human brain is functionally organized into large-scale connectivity networks. These networks, and the connections between them, mature throughout early childhood all the way to young adulthood. “It is particularly noteworthy that the networks we found to have lagging maturation in ADHD are linked to the very behaviors that are the symptoms of ADHD,” he says.

Studying the vast array of connections in the brain, a field called connectomics, requires scientists to be able to parse through not just the one-to-one communications between two specific brain regions, but the patterns of communication among thousands of nodes within the brain. This requires major computing power and access to massive amounts of data – which makes the open sharing of fMRI images so important.

“The results of this study set the stage for the next phase of this research, which is to examine individual components of the networks that have the maturational lag,” he says. “This study provides a coarse-grained understanding, and now we want to examine this phenomenon in a more fine-grained way that might lead us to a true biological marker, or neuromarker, for ADHD.”

Sripada also notes that connectomics could be used to examine other disorders with roots in brain connectivity – including autism, which some evidence has suggested stems from over-maturation of some brain networks, and schizophrenia, which may arise from abnormal connections. Pooling more fMRI data from people with these conditions, and depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and more could boost connectomics studies in those fields.


Volunteers needed for research:

To develop such a neuromarker, Sripada has embarked on follow-up research. One study is enrolling children between the ages of 7 and 17 who have ADHD and a comparison group of those without it; information is at http://umhealth.me/adhdchild. Another study is enrolling adults between the ages of 18 and 35 who have ADHD and a comparison group of those without it; information is at http://umhealth.me/adhdadult. Of note, fMRI scans do not expose a person to radiation. Anyone interested in these studies can email Psych-study@med.umich.edu or call (734) 232-0353; for the study of children, parents should make the contact and consent to research on behalf of their children.

Besides Sripada, the study’s authors are Psychiatry computer specialists Daniel Kessler and Mike Angstadt. Kessler, a graduate of U-M with a degree in neuroscience and statistics, helped develop the key connectomic methods used in the study and plans to pursue this research further in a graduate program starting in 2015. The research was funded by a National Institutes of Health grant (AA020297), a UMCCMB pilot grant, and the John Templeton Foundation. It used fMRI scans from the ADHD-200 and ABIDE projects.

Reference: www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1407787111





Uofmhealth.org [en línea] Ann Arbor, MI (USA): uofmhealth.org, 13 de octubre de 2014 [ref. 15 de septiembre de 2014] Disponible en Internet: http://www.uofmhealth.org/news/archive/201409/slow-mature-quick-distract-adhd-brain-study-finds-slower

A blood test for suicide?

8 09 2014

Alterations to a single gene could predict risk of suicide attempt

Johns Hopkins researchers say they have discovered a chemical alteration in a single human gene linked to stress reactions that, if confirmed in larger studies, could give doctors a simple blood test to reliably predict a person’s risk of attempting suicide.

The discovery, described online in ¬The American Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that changes in a gene involved in the function of the brain’s response to stress hormones plays a significant role in turning what might otherwise be an unremarkable reaction to the strain of everyday life into suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

“Suicide is a major preventable public health problem, but we have been stymied in our prevention efforts because we have no consistent way to predict those who are at increased risk of killing themselves,” says study leader Zachary Kaminsky, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “With a test like ours, we may be able to stem suicide rates by identifying those people and intervening early enough to head off a catastrophe.”

For his series of experiments, Kaminsky and his colleagues focused on a genetic mutation in a gene known as SKA2. By looking at brain samples from mentally ill and healthy people, the researchers found that in samples from people who had died by suicide, levels of SKA2 were significantly reduced.

Within this common mutation, they then found in some subjects an epigenetic modification that altered the way the SKA2 gene functioned without changing the gene’s underlying DNA sequence. The modification added chemicals called methyl groups to the gene. Higher levels of methylation were then found in the same study subjects who had killed themselves. The higher levels of methylation among suicide decedents were then replicated in two independent brain cohorts.

In another part of the study, the researchers tested three different sets of blood samples, the largest one involving 325 participants in the Johns Hopkins Center for Prevention Research Study found similar methylation increases at SKA2 in individuals with suicidal thoughts or attempts. They then designed a model analysis that predicted which of the participants were experiencing suicidal thoughts or had attempted suicide with 80 percent certainty. Those with more severe risk of suicide were predicted with 90 percent accuracy. In the youngest data set, they were able to identify with 96 percent accuracy whether or not a participant had attempted suicide, based on blood test results.

The SKA2 gene is expressed in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is involved in inhibiting negative thoughts and controlling impulsive behavior. SKA2 is specifically responsible for chaperoning stress hormone receptors into cells’ nuclei so they can do their job. If there isn’t enough SKA2, or it is altered in some way, the stress hormone receptor is unable to suppress the release of cortisol throughout the brain. Previous research has shown that such cortisol release is abnormal in people who attempt or die by suicide.

Kaminsky says a test based on these findings might best be used to predict future suicide attempts in those who are ill, to restrict lethal means or methods among those a risk, or to make decisions regarding the intensity of intervention approaches.

He says that it might make sense for use in the military to test whether members have the gene mutation that makes them more vulnerable. Those at risk could be more closely monitored when they returned home after deployment. A test could also be useful in a psychiatric emergency room, he says, as part of a suicide risk assessment when doctors try to assess level of suicide risk. The test could be used in all sorts of safety assessment decisions like the need for hospitalization and closeness of monitoring. Kaminsky says another possible use that needs more study could be to inform treatment decisions, such as whether or not to give certain medications that have been linked with suicidal thoughts.

“We have found a gene that we think could be really important for consistently identifying a range of behaviors from suicidal thoughts to attempts to completions,” Kaminsky says. “We need to study this in a larger sample but we believe that we might be able to monitor the blood to identify those at risk of suicide.”

Along with Kaminsky, other Johns Hopkins researchers involved in the study include Jerry Guintivano; Tori Brown; Alison Newcomer, M.Sc.; Marcus Jones; Olivia Cox; Brion Maher, Ph.D.; William Eaton, Ph.D.; Jennifer Payne, M.D.; and Holly Wilcox, Ph.D.

The research was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health, the Center for Mental Health Initiatives, The James Wah Award for Mood Disorders, and The Solomon R. and Rebecca D. Baker Foundation.


By Lauren Nelson and Helen Jones



Hub.jhu.edu [en línea] Baltimore, MD (USA): hub.jhu.edu, 08 de septiembre de 2014 [ref. 29 de julio de 2014] Disponible en Internet: http://hub.jhu.edu/2014/07/29/blood-test-for-suicide

Antipsychotic drugs linked to slight decrease in brain volume

7 08 2014

A study published on 2014, July 18 has confirmed a link between antipsychotic medication and a slight, but measureable, decrease in brain volume in patients with schizophrenia. For the first time, researchers have been able to examine whether this decrease is harmful for patients’ cognitive function and symptoms, and noted that over a nine year follow-up, this decrease did not appear to have any effect.

As we age, our brains naturally lose some of their volume – in other words, brain cells and connections. This process, known as atrophy, typically begins in our thirties and continues into old age. Researchers have known for some time that patients with schizophrenia lose brain volume at a faster rate than healthy individuals, though the reason why is unclear.


“The loss of brain volume doesn’t appear to have any effect on people, and patients should not stop their medication on the basis of this research”

-Graham Murray

Now, in a study published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, a team of researchers from the University of Oulu, Finland, and the University of Cambridge has identified the rate of decrease in both healthy individuals and patients with schizophrenia. They also documented where in the brain schizophrenia patients have more atrophy, and have examined links between atrophy and antipsychotic medication.

By comparing brain scans of 33 patients with schizophrenia with 71 control subjects over a period of 9 years – from age 34 to 43 – the researchers were able to show that schizophrenia patients lost brain volume at a rate of 0.7% each year. The control participants lost brain volume at a rate of 0.5% per year.

Scientists have previously speculated that antipsychotic medication used to treat schizophrenia may be linked to this decrease in brain volume. Today’s research confirms this association, showing that the rate of decrease in volume was greater when the dose of medication was higher. However, the mechanisms behind this – and whether it was in fact the medication that was causing this greater loss of tissue – are not clear. Some researchers have previously argued that whilst older antipsychotic medications might cause brain volume decreases, newer antipsychotic medications may protect against these decreases. However, today’s research suggests that both classes of antipsychotic medication are associated with similar declines in brain volume.


The researchers also looked at whether there was any link between the volume of brain lost and the severity of symptoms or loss of cognitive function, but found no effect.


Professor Juha Veijola from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oulu, Finland says: “We all lose some brain tissue as we get older, but people with schizophrenia lose it at a faster rate. We’ve shown that this loss seems to be linked to the antipsychotic medication people are taking. Research like this where patients are studied for many years can help to develop guidelines about when clinicians can reduce the dosage of antipsychotic medication in the long term treatment of people with schizophrenia.”


“It’s important to stress that the loss of brain volume doesn’t appear to have any effect on people over the nine year follow-up we conducted, and patients should not stop their medication on the basis of this research, ” adds Dr Graham Murray from the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute and the Department of Psychiatry at University of Cambridge. “A key question in future will be to examine whether there is any effect of this loss of brain volume later in life. We need more research in larger studies with longer follow-ups to evaluate the significance of these brain changes.”


The research was supported by the Academy of Finland, Medical Research Council, Sigrid Jusélius Foundation, and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.




Cam.ac.uk [en línea] Cambridge (UK): cam.ac.uk, 07 de agosto de 2014 [ref. 18 de julio de 2014] Disponible en Internet: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/antipsychotic-drugs-linked-to-slight-decrease-in-brain-volume

CNEP researchers target brain circuitry to treat intractable mental disorders

24 07 2014

Neuroscientists, engineers and physicians are teaming up for an ambitious five-year, $26 million project to develop new techniques for tackling mental illness. By using devices implanted in the brain, they aim to target and correct malfunctioning neural circuits in conditions such as clinical depression, addiction and anxiety disorders.


CNEP researchers plan to target malfunctioning neural circuits to treat intractable mental disorders. (iStockphoto)

CNEP researchers plan to target malfunctioning neural circuits to treat intractable mental disorders. (iStockphoto)

The project was announced on Tuesday, May 27 by the U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of its Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) program.

The heart of the project lies at the Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses (CNEP), a UC Berkeley-UC San Francisco collaboration that kicked off in 2011 with a pioneering vision to use engineering techniques to repair neural circuits that have gone awry. Eleven of the researchers on the project are members of CNEP.

In addition to the investigators from UCSF and UC Berkeley, the multi-institutional project brings together researchers from Cornell University and New York University with industry partners from Cortera Neurotechnologies and Posit Science. Project members will be working under a collaborative agreement between UCSF and DARPA, and in conjunction with scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is receiving separate funding from DARPA as part of this research.

“By analyzing patterns of interaction among brain regions known to be involved in mental illness, we can get a more detailed look than ever before at what might be malfunctioning, and we can then develop technology to correct it,” said CNEP co-director Dr. Edward Chang, UCSF neurosurgeon and principal investigator of the project.


Moving beyond motor networks

Brain implants emitting electrical signals have been used for more than 15 years to treat the motor symptoms of disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor, a nerve system disorder characterized by involuntary shaking.

“We will use new technology to record from large-scale brain networks that are relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders, and apply precise electrical stimulation to unlearn dysfunction in these networks,” said CNEP co-director Jose Carmena, UC Berkeley associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and of neuroscience. “This project could dramatically change the landscape of treatment options for a range of mental conditions.”

Carmena, an expert in brain-machine interfaces, will coordinate the UC Berkeley research team on this project, which officially launches June 1. The other UC Berkeley researchers are Jonathan Wallis and Dr. Robert Knight, professors of psychology and of neuroscience; Jan Rabaey, Elad Alon and Michel Maharbiz, professor and associate professors, respectively, of electrical engineering and computer sciences; and Friedrich (Fritz) Sommer, adjunct associate professor at the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience.

Knight is former director of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, where Carmena, Sommer and Wallis also have appointments. Rabaey and Maharbiz are also co-founders of Cortera, a Berkeley-based company which designs medical devices to treat neurological conditions.


Imagen de previsualización de YouTube

Funded through President Obama’s Brain Initiative, a team of scientists and physicians is embarking on a $26 million project to develop a revolutionary and long-lasting treatment for depression, anxiety disorders, addiction and other neuropsychiatric disorders.


More targeted than current treatments

The researchers noted that limited treatment options are now available for mental disorders. There are drugs that affect a specific molecular target, but since any one target might be involved in multiple pathways, use of these medications can lead to unwanted side effects. Another option is psychotherapy, which is expensive, with mixed rates of success.

“The exciting thing about this project is that it enables us to do something that is not just incrementally better,” said Wallis. “This can be a big leap. We’re developing an entirely different approach to the treatment of mental illness by using brain implants to target a small population of neurons involved in neuropsychiatric disorders instead of using drugs that change broad swaths of activity.”

The project also opens up the possibility that maladaptive circuits can be permanently changed, essentially curing patients of their psychiatric disorders.


Mapping, designing, testing

The project begins with physician researchers from UCSF measuring and identifying brain signaling pathways specifically associated with anxiety and depression. The UC Berkeley, UCSF and NYU neuroscientists will then be charged with designing and testing in animal models devices that will monitor neural activity and deliver electrical stimulation when needed to correct abnormal brain patterns and to strengthen alternative circuits to bypass malfunctioning ones. By the end of the project, the plan is to have the devices ready for human trials.

Engineers from UC Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Cortera have already made headway in developing a state-of-the-art neuromodulation medical device for this project. Called OMNI, the device consists of low-power, miniaturized electronics that sense and stimulate neural networks to counteract dysfunctional circuits.

“The brain implant we’re developing has capabilities way beyond what exists today,” said UC Berkeley’s Alon. “With a 64-fold increase in the number of electrodes and the ability to cover different areas simultaneously, we will enable a much more complete view of the brain.”

“We obviously have many societal problems that stem from mental illness, and I’m excited to be developing state-of-the-art electronics that contribute toward a solution,” Alon added.

DARPA’s SUBNETS program supports President Barack Obama’s BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) initiative to develop new tools for treating, curing and even preventing a range of brain disorders.

The establishment of CNEP was spearheaded by Knight; Shankar Sastry, dean of the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley; and Dr. Mitchel Berger, professor and chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at UCSF.



By Sarah Yang

Newscenter.berkeley.edu [en línea] Berkeley, CA (USA): newscenter.berkeley.edu, 24 de julio de 2014 [ref. 27 de mayo de 2014] Disponible en Internet: http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2014/05/27/cnep-targets-brain-circuitry-to-treat-mental-disorders/

Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, psychedelic pioneer, RIP

9 06 2014


 Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, maverick chemist, psychedelic pioneer, and inspiring human being, died June, 2 at 88 years old. Sasha is best known for popularizing MDMA (Ecstasy) and introducing it to the psychological community, and synthesizing hundreds of new psychoactive chemicals that he first tested on himself. His scientific research is detailed in a huge output of papers and books including the seminal tomes TIHKAL and PIHKAL, co-authored with his wife and research partner Ann Shulgin.

As Sasha once said, everyone deserves “the license to explore the nature of his own soul.”

Sasha, you will be missed, and rest-assured the research will continue.


By David Pescovitz


Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, Ph.D., was a pharmacologist and chemist known for his creation of new psychoactive chemicals. After serving in the Navy, he earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from U.C. Berkeley in 1954. In the late 50s and early 60s he did post-doctorate work in psychiatry and pharmacology at U.C. San Francisco and worked briefly as research director at BioRad Laboratories before becoming a senior research chemist at Dow Chemical Co.

In 1960, Sasha tried mescaline for the first time. He the experimented with synthesizing chemicals with structures similar to mescaline such as DOM. After leaving Dow in 1966 to become an independent consultant, Sasha taught public health at Berkeley and San Francisco General Hospital. Although he didn’t invent it, Sasha first synthesized MDMA in 1965; however, he did not try it at that time. In 1976, the effects of MDMA were described to Sasha by an undergrad at San Francisco State University. Sasha was inspired to cook up a batch of the drug, which he began testing on himself in September of that year. Finding the compound to have worthwhile qualities, in 1977 he introduced the material to Leo Zeff, an Oakland psychologist who worked with psychedelics in his therapy practice. Zeff introduced hundreds of therapists to MDMA and word quickly spread outside the therapist community. Sasha’s partner Ann Shulgin also conducted psychedelic therapy sessions with MDMA before it was scheduled in 1985.

Since that time, Sasha Shulgin synthesized and bioassayed (self-tested) hundreds of psychoactive chemicals, recording his work in five books and more than two hundred papers. He was a fixure in the psychedelic community, who has spoken at countless conferences, granted frequent interviews, and instilled a sense of rational scientific thought into the world of self-experimentation and psychoactive ingestion. In April of 2010, Sasha and Ann Shulgin were honored for their lifetime of achievements in the field at the Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century conference in San Jose, CA, where a portrait of the couple painted by Alex Grey was unveiled for the first time.

On November 17, 2010, Sasha had a stroke. His recovery went well, but he continued to face a variety of age-related health challenges. On June 2nd, 2014, he died at home in bed surrounded by friends and family.


Imagen de previsualización de YouTube


Boingboing.net [en línea] San Francisco, CA (USA): boingboing.net, 09 de junio de 2014 [ref. 03 de junio de 2014] Disponible en Internet: http://boingboing.net/2014/06/03/alexander-sasha-shulgin-p.html

Psiconnect: plataforma de comunicación en Psiquiatría

23 12 2013

El proyecto, denominado Psiconnect, ha obtenido una de las becas de la quinta edición del programa Prometeo


Isabel de la Torre Díez

Isabel de la Torre Díez


La psiquiatría es una especialidad en la que las TIC aún no están muy presentes, pese a tener un gran potencial de aplicación. Por ello, el alumno de la Universidad de Valladolid Diego Velasco Morejón ha desarrollado una plataforma software cuyo fin último es la comunicación entre personal médico, cuidadores y pacientes con problemas psiquiátricos. El proyecto, denominado Psiconnect, ha obtenido una de las becas de la quinta edición del programa Prometeo de la Universidad de Valladolid, cuyo objetivo es proteger resultados de proyectos y prototipos innovadores desarrollados por alumnos de la Institución académica.


La tutora del trabajo, la profesora del Departamento de Teoría de la Señal y Comunicaciones e Ingeniería Telemática Isabel de la Torre Díez, explica en palabras recogidas por DiCYT que hoy día “muchas personas tienen problemas psiquiátricos como depresiones o problemas de esquizofrenia”, y sin embargo la psiquiatría “es una especialidad donde apenas existen plataformas sociales”.


De aquí la idea de desarrollar Psiconnect, una plataforma online “destinada a la comunicación entre los psiquiatras, los cuidadores y los propios pacientes de forma directa, a distancia y compartiendo todo tipo de información y recursos relativos a la psiquiatría”. “Se trata de prestar un servicio de comunicación en un sector como es el de la psiquiatría donde una plataforma de este tipo es muy necesaria. Además es una herramienta que, utilizada en una organización, puede ser de gran utilidad tanto para el personal médico como para el paciente y con una gran proyección de futuro”, asegura.


La plataforma, disponible tanto para dispositivos fijos como móviles, tiene como fin último aportar “comodidad y efectividad” a los usuarios, permitiendo la consulta de segundas opiniones médicas, la solución de dudas a distancia tanto entre personal sanitario como entre los propios pacientes, e incluso el diagnostico y tratamiento a distancia.


“La plataforma posibilita tanto hacer terapias online como un seguimiento directo de los pacientes con problemas psiquiátricos. Entre los servicios que se ofrecen hay noticias, donde el personal médico puede compartir publicaciones; una sección de recursos, en la que se pueden compartir libros o artículos tanto en versión online como física, una serie de foros de discusión, mensajería, chat y videollamada, de forma que se pueden realizar terapias online a través de la plataforma en cualquier dispositivo fijo o móvil”, precisa.

Como ha apuntado la tutora, en base a este trabajo el alumno que ha llevado a cabo la plataforma, Diego Velasco Morejón, se encuentra actualmente en Reino Unido trabajando en un proyecto de desarrollo de software, en concreto en el ámbito de las aplicaciones móviles.


Protección de resultados


Un total de 11 iniciativas desarrolladas por alumnos se han protegido mediante patente o registro de la propiedad intelectual en la quinta edición del programa de becas Prometeo de la Universidad de Valladolid, cuyo fin último es la protección de proyectos innovadores desarrollados por alumnos de la Universidad. Del total de 11 proyectos seleccionados, seis (tres del Campus de Valladolid, dos del Campus de Segovia y uno del Campus de Palencia) se corresponden con software y han sido inscritos en el Registro de Propiedad Intelectual; mientras que cinco (cuatro del Campus de Valladolid y uno del Campus de Palencia) son trabajos protegidos mediante patente.


Cada una de las becas Prometeo está dotada de 500 euros (en el caso de los software) y de 1.000 euros (en el caso de las patentes). Además de la protección de los trabajos, los alumnos reciben formación específica en materia de propiedad industrial e intelectual. El programa de becas Prometeo forma parte del Proyecto de Transferencia de Conocimiento Universidad-Empresa (T-CUE), financiado por la Junta de Castilla y León en el marco de la Estrategia Universidad-Empresa 2008-2013, y coordinado por la Fundación Universidades y Enseñanzas Superiores de Castilla y León (Fuescyl).



Salamanca24horas.com [en línea] Salamanca (ESP): salamanca24horas.com, 23 de diciembre de 2013 [ref. 15 de diciembre de 2013] Disponible en Internet: http://www.salamanca24horas.com/local/100220-una-plataforma-para-comunicar-a-medicos-cuidadores-y-pacientes-con-problemas-psiquiatricos