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Altruistic decision making focus of NIDA's Addiction Science Award
Date:5/13/2011

eartbeats Go LOKO, investigated the effects of the alcoholic caffeinated beverage branded as Four Loko on the heart rate of the water flea (Daphnia). She chose to use this invertebrate model to test the effects of Four Loko not only because Daphnias show clear signs of intoxication when exposed to alcohol, but also because their heart rate can be easily monitored through their translucent bodies. She was able to demonstrate that alcohol, a depressant, and caffeine, a stimulant, can lower and boost Daphnia's heart rate, respectively. The caffeine content in Four Loko appears to have partially mitigated the depressant effect of the alcohol present in this beverage, supporting the notion that the caffeine in alcoholic energy drinks could mask some of alcohol's behavioral effects, making the user less aware of the true extent of their impairment.

"Ms. Schumacher took a simple model of a nervous system that recreates some of the most basic features of human physiology to show how the combination of a stimulant and a depressant can affect heart function," said Dr. Susan Weiss, NIDA's head judge and acting director of the Office of Science Policy and Communications. "She took a systematic and elegant approach to demonstrate why these drinks can be dangerous." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warning notices to manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages in November 2010.

Third place went to 16-year-old Yamini T. Naidu, a student at Valley Catholic High School in Beaverton, Ore., for her entry, From Models to Medications: Identification of Medication Leads for Treating Methamphetamine Addiction. Using molecular modeling software that incorporated eye-catching 3D structural illustrations and vivid computer animations, Naidu discovered two potential sites in the methamphetamine binding TAA receptor. Her work predicted that these sites could have the ability to modulate the binding affinity of methamphetamine for this receptor. This work has
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Contact: Stephanie Older
media@nida.nih.gov
301-443-6245
NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse
Source:Eurekalert

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