Meth-Craving Snails

This is one of the silliest studies I've read about in a long time. In the UK, a study was done of meth-using snails. The findings:

They discovered that the drug enhanced the creatures' abilities to learn and remember a task. This gives insight into how some addictive drugs produce memories that are hard to forget, and that can even cause addicts to relapse.

"These drugs of abuse produce very persistent memories," explained Dr Sorg. "It's a learning process - drug addiction is learning unwittingly. ...So addicts might be able to kick their habit in a treatment centre, but when they return to their old haunts, all those cues trigger craving and relapse."

If the meth high produces a memory, so would the meth crash, which is a very powerful and miserable experience. Who would seek to replicate that memory? And if they are suggesting that meth users only recall good memories while being able to forget the bad ones, I'm not buying it.

This was a Pavlovian experiment tinkering with the snail's physical ability to breathe. The snail wasn't trying to feel good, he was trying to stay alive. What bunk.

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    Who knew snails had brains, memories, (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by oculus on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:54:04 AM EST
    and/or ability to learn?

    Interesting fact about snails (none / 0) (#19)
    by CST on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:04:12 AM EST
    Apparently there has been some serious genetic inbreeding of snails, due to the existence of "blocks".  In essence, snails that live in one block are completely unrelated to snails that live in another block.  The reason for this... snails move too slowly to cross streets without getting killed.  So they no longer cross streets.

    I guess they can learn after all.


    More learning capacity... (none / 0) (#20)
    by kdog on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:07:04 AM EST
    than human beings it seems...I mean we're still paying taxes, funding our own demise:)

    Snails haven't learned not to (none / 0) (#25)
    by MyLeftMind on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:23:30 PM EST
    cross streets, they just don't often make it to the other side. Hence the localized inbreeding.

    Properly interpreting patterns we observe in nature is a tricky skill.


    Goldfish (none / 0) (#21)
    by jbindc on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:14:31 AM EST
    Have attention spans of 3 seconds.  Now tell me how they tested that!

    video games? (none / 0) (#22)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:23:11 AM EST
    As I recall, on the show Mythbusters they (none / 0) (#23)
    by tigercourse on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:56:52 AM EST
    tested Goldfish memory by placing food in different parts of a maze.

    More from the article (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by jbindc on Fri May 28, 2010 at 09:09:23 AM EST
    Dr Sorg's colleague, Professor Kenneth Lukowiak from the University of Calgary in Canada had previously identified the one critical cell, or neuron, in the brain of these snails that is crucial to learning and remembering how to regulate their breathing.

    This cell releases a signalling chemical called dopamine; a chemical that, in mammals, is involved in the brain circuitry associated with addiction.

    "That's why we decided [this snail] would be a good system to study," said Dr Sorg.

    "Now we want to look in that brain cell and find what has changed. It's a big task but some recent studies in our lab point to changes at the level of the cell's DNA that are caused by the drug."

    The researchers say that this work lays the foundations for ultimately targeting memory in the treatment of drug addiction and other disorders, such as post traumantic stress disorder.

    The ultimate idea would be to target specific memories - these pathological memories - to be forgotten or diminished.

    Dr Sorg concluded: "If we know something about how these memories are formed, and just as importantly, how they're forgotten, and if we can understand something about the process that promotes forgetting in a single cell, we might be able to translate that to higher animals, including humans."

    Professor George Kemenes from the University of Sussex, studies memory in molluscs in work that is funded by the UK's Medical Research Council.

    "Molecular level findings in snails can be highly instructive for learning and memory research in mammals, and can help us to understand how humans learn and remember," he said.

    Snails have also been used to study Alheimer's and possible causes.

    If they can figure out why people get addicted to drugs, and that in turn leads to a cure (or at least a way to deal with it), then all the better for those individuals and for society.

    Scientific Research (5.00 / 4) (#9)
    by mhenderson on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:28:26 AM EST
    I usually lurk, since I'm in math, not law. However this is one of my bugaboos.

    Scientific research is very very rarely correctly summarized for the general public. Studies which sound stupid often are aimed at a very specific question, which isn't easily phrased or put into context.

    I'm not a biologist, but having a simple organism which exhibits any reaction similar to that in humans would allow them to get a handle on where to start looking for how the drug works. There are probably also groups working on biochemistry and nervous system of snails, which would explain why they chose snails.

    An example I do know something about is the question of morphogenesis. We start as one cell, which splits and splits and splits. There has been a lot of work tracing the heritage of each cell in simple worms. Seems silly maybe, but knowing how a simple organism develops gives insight into the process. There's a feeling that things like nervous systems come in so many configurations and yet do such similar things that there should be some relatively simple principle involved. Like the link between DNA and proteins in cells.

    OK, just my 2 cents. "Silly" isn't obvious and beware of popularized explanations of science (and math!).

    From the abstract (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by mhenderson on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:44:27 AM EST
    Kathleen Carter, Ken Lukowiak, James O. Schenk, and Barbara A. Sorg
        Repeated cocaine effects on learning, memory and extinction in the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis
        J. Exp. Biol. 209: 4273-4282.

    "Our findings suggest that repeated exposure to cocaine modifies the interaction between the original memory trace and active inhibition of this trace through extinction training. An understanding of these basic processes in a simple model system may have important implications for treatment strategies in cocaine addiction."


    Thanks for adding (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by standingup on Fri May 28, 2010 at 12:07:17 PM EST
    this to the conversation.  This sounds like a promising study with the potential for others to build upon the findings.  

    People familiar with drug and alcohol addiction treatment know that overcoming the urge of to use a drug involves actively retraining the mind to remember the negative aspects of using instead of the high.  This study would appear to reinforce that experience.  If people addicted to a drug are so easily able to recall the bad experiences, how would one explain people going through the experience of an overdose and relapsing, some even overdosing again?  

    The saddest cases are the people who are never able to overcome the intense craving for the high and end up paying for it with their lives.  One of my best friends lost her job, then her children and finally her own life since she lacked the ability to remember anything beyond how good the drugs made her feel.


    The nervous system of a snail (none / 0) (#2)
    by Watermark on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:24:58 AM EST
    is entirely different than the nervous system of a human being. Even amongst mammals drugs have wildly different effects. Who funded this crap study? The fact that any group of scientists (all of them certainly PHD's) were dumb enough to give a thumbs up to this strains my faith in humanity.

    molluscs are a favored animal of study for neural (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by Compound F on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:21:03 AM EST
    studies.  Aplysia & hermissenda are the types of simplified neural plans that win Nobel prizes.    You'd be surprised at how valuable such studies are.  It requires an education in the field to understand that.  

    I suggest that the know-nothings who don't know what they are trashing here step away from their inner know-it-all.

    At the same time, I wish scientists worked harder at explaining their often recondite purposes.


    Not my field (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by mhenderson on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:50:59 AM EST
    It takes at least four years of college and four years of graduate study (I'd guess more like 6 for this kind of stuff) to get to the point where you can do this stuff. Just because it sounds silly to you....

    If my lawyer tells me to stand on my head, I don't tell her that it's a stupid thing to do. I do it. I'd probably ask why afterwards ...


    More clients. (none / 0) (#4)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Fri May 28, 2010 at 05:49:37 AM EST

    well (none / 0) (#6)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 09:31:36 AM EST
    having used meth socially, like many upscale and unaddicted gay men do many weekends, the remembering thing doesnt seem so far fetched to me.

    the high produced is like nothing else.  it absolutely does increase cognitive ability so its easy for me to believe it makes them learn and remember.  as far as remembering the crash, I think that could be like many unpleasant things and be conveniently blocked.  as I get older I am more and more amazed how efficiently people block things they just dont want to remember.

    I thought it was sort of interesting.  

    it a little silly.  I wonder, did it make them go faster?

    Meth was supposedly what (none / 0) (#10)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:39:46 AM EST
    put the blitz in the German blitzkrieg, or so I've heard. Apparently two thirds of the German Army were meth heads, including Der Fuhrer, if the travelers tales are to be believed..

    entirely believable (none / 0) (#13)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:47:10 AM EST

    google says (none / 0) (#26)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:40:33 PM EST
    meth is a significant factor contributing to the transmission of STDs and AIDS within the gay community.

    that may be true (none / 0) (#27)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:44:11 PM EST
    it certainly does give you, um, energy.

    google says too much gives you droopage, (none / 0) (#28)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:50:43 PM EST
    known in the gay community as "crystal dick." Everything in moderation...

    you know (none / 0) (#31)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:18:19 PM EST
    I have heard that too.  all I can say is it doesnt have that effect on me.  on me it has exactly the opposite effect.  and on many other people I know.

    I should say (none / 0) (#32)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:22:26 PM EST
    in the way of a disclaimer that I havent done it in quite a long time.  since I was in Hotlanta 05-07 where it is a biiiiiig thing on the circuit.

    once I discovered adderall (which is essentially the same thing but much much more refined so as to basically eliminate the crash and other bad side effects) it was good bye Tina hello CVS.


    What do you think (none / 0) (#33)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:28:06 PM EST
    of the big E, capt? I've been thinking about doing a first time, experimental trial run.

    its great. (none / 0) (#34)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:30:35 PM EST
    not my choice for clubbing, I like to be walking on the ceiling instead of bobbing around on it, but to each his own.

    I would say more for a fun time at home.  ifyouknowwhatImean.


    which reminds me (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:45:23 PM EST
    if you like stupid comedies see Hangover.

    ok, its really really stupid but I can almost guarantee you will laugh out loud at least once.


    My favorite semi "stupid" (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:51:08 PM EST
    movie from the last year was Zombieland.

    Btw, Not to indulge in malicious gossip but, did you know that Woodie Harrelson's father was one of the first people they investigated after the JFK assassination?


    zombieland (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by CST on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:16:25 PM EST
    was awesome.

    I don't watch real zombie movies.  But zombieland and shaun of the dead are classics.

    Rule # 1 - CARDIO

    I feel like that could be applied to every disaster scenario imaginable.


    I did not know that (none / 0) (#39)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:54:13 PM EST
    thats very interesting.

    The rumor for awhile (none / 0) (#42)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:12:21 PM EST
    was that he was one of the "three tramps" that they found hiding in the train yard.

    thats (none / 0) (#44)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:15:59 PM EST
    fascinating.  really.  
    I had no idea.

    Well, (none / 0) (#43)
    by jbindc on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:14:04 PM EST
    He did assassinate a federal judge.

    While on meth (none / 0) (#46)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:21:25 PM EST
    he was also respected by his fellow assassins for his encyclopedic knowledge of snails (another little known fact)

    ok (none / 0) (#47)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:27:52 PM EST
    this is starting to get creepy.

    how did Ollie Stone miss this?


    made that last part up. (none / 0) (#48)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:30:38 PM EST
    I mean, I misspoke..

    I concur... (none / 0) (#36)
    by kdog on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:45:40 PM EST
    best when used with someone to rub.

    or at the very least (none / 0) (#40)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:55:52 PM EST
    high speed internet.

    Gotchya (none / 0) (#37)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:47:27 PM EST
    I always thought it (none / 0) (#29)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 01:50:56 PM EST
    was all that listening to "Liza: with a Z" over and over..

    that would definitely (none / 0) (#30)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 02:17:14 PM EST
    give me droopage.  
    speaking only for me, as they say.

    This is the first headline (none / 0) (#7)
    by lilburro on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:22:08 AM EST
    I saw this morning.  I don't know if I should hope it sets the tone for the day or not.

    Sounds like (none / 0) (#8)
    by jbindc on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:27:12 AM EST
    The name of a band.

    Now who's on drugs? :) (none / 0) (#11)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:40:58 AM EST
    Hey (none / 0) (#15)
    by jbindc on Fri May 28, 2010 at 10:53:46 AM EST
    If bands named Kajagoogoo, Alien Ant Famr, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Wang Chung, Weezer, the Dad Kennedys, Butthole Surfers, and Oingo Boingo can have hits, why not one about snails on meth?  :)

    Indeed (none / 0) (#16)
    by jondee on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:01:59 AM EST
    the other day (none / 0) (#17)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:03:30 AM EST
    I saw a flier for Millimeter Peter and the Chilly Willies.

    Meth Craving Snails (none / 0) (#18)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 28, 2010 at 11:03:52 AM EST
    which is better

    And their first single (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by lilburro on Fri May 28, 2010 at 03:02:02 PM EST
    "Salt Me Up"