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Brookhaven scientists explore brain's reaction to potent hallucinogen
Date:4/28/2008

UPTON, NY - Brain-imaging studies performed in animals at the U.S. Department of Energys (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory provide researchers with clues about why an increasingly popular recreational drug that causes hallucinations and motor-function impairment in humans is abused. Using trace amounts of Salvia divinorum also known as salvia, a Mexican mint plant that can be smoked in the form of dried leaves or serum Brookhaven scientists found that the drugs behavior in the brains of primates mimics the extremely fast and brief high observed in humans. Their results are now published online in the journal NeuroImage.

Quickly gaining popularity among teenagers and young adults, salvia is legal in most states, but is grabbing the attention of municipal lawmakers. Numerous states have placed controls on salvia or salvinorin A the plants active component and others, including New York, are considering restrictions.

This is probably one of the most potent hallucinogens known, said Brookhaven chemist Jacob Hooker, the lead author of the study, which is the first to look at how the drug travels through the brain. Its really important that we study drugs like salvia and how they affect the brain in order to understand why they are abused and to investigate their medicinal relevance, both of which can inform policy makers.

Hooker and fellow researchers used positron emission tomography, or PET scanning, to watch the distribution of salvinorin A in the brains of anesthetized primates. In this technique, the scientists administer a radioactively labeled form of salvinorin A (at concentrations far below pharmacologically active doses) and use the PET scanner to track its site-specific concentrations in various brain regions.

Within 40 seconds of administration, the researchers found a peak concentration of salvinorin A in the brain nearly 10 times faster than the rate at which cocaine enters the brain. About 16 minutes l
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Contact: Kendra Snyder
ksnyder@bnl.gov
631-344-8191
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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