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Hank tells us about two interesting new studies that explore the brain and its interaction with drugs, investigating how cannabinoids can repress fear, and bringing forth a possible vaccine for cocaine addiction.

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References:
http://interactive.snm.org/index.cfm?PageID=11723
http://www.eurekalert.org/emb_releases/2012-06/sonm-cvg060512.php
http://www.eurekalert.org/emb_releases/2012-06/du-wab060812.php
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/09/us/suicides-eclipse-war-deaths-for-us-troops.html
Hello, today we are back for some more SciShow News: today, we're going to learn some new developments in the world of drugs, legal and not-so-legal.

For starters, how about a cure for fear? Yesterday researchers at Duke University and the National Institute of Health announced that they had developed a drug that calms fear by tinkering with your brain chemistry. They say its effects are similar to those of marijuana because, guess what, it turns out that your brain pretty much makes its own pot. Specifically, your brain produces endocannabinoids: secretions that, as you can tell by the name, affect the same receptors that cannabis does. Now, if you haven't seen me explain how weed does what weed does, you can watch that video there - [LINK].

Now studies have shown that our brains release these chemicals when we do pleasurable things, like eat fatty foods, and they may also be responsible for the 'runner's high' that can happen during strenuous exercise, though I wouldn't know anything about that. Anyway, the reason that we're not walking around high all the time is because our brains also produce enzymes that break down these cannabinoids: this new drug blocks the worst of these buzz-killers, called 'fatty acid amide hydrolase'. The researchers tested this drug on mice who had been trained to be fearful by being given shocks on their feet - that's just a horrible thing to do to a mouse - but the mice that received the drug not only acted less anxious, the region of their brain that registers fear, called the Amygdala, also showed much less activity.

Now they haven't tested the drug on people yet; the researchers say it could eventually be used on patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And since, sadly, we are now losing more soldiers to suicide than to combat, this might be the kind of treatment we need to be looking into.

In related news, on Monday we got a step closer to having a vaccine for cocaine addiction, and I know that sounds weird, but it is indeed true. It was developed by Ronald Crystal at Cornell University's Medical College and it doesn't prevent a craving for the drug - instead, it prevents the high. It works by attaching a cocaine-like molecule to part of a common cold virus: when injected, the body actually produces antibodies that bind to cocaine in the blood and prevent it from entering the brain. This week Cornell researchers said that a new brain scan technique proves that the vaccine works.

So the part of the brain that's affected most by cocaine is the Basal Ganglia, which includes the Amygdala which I just mentioned, and the new scanning method shows that in the brains of vaccinated animals that have been given cocaine, the Basal Ganglia are totally unaffected. As with the fear-fighting drug, the cocaine vaccine isn't ready to be tested on people yet, but they both convinced me that our brains are so freaking amazing at being brains, I'm not sure why we like to stick chemicals in them to make them better at it.

Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow News, if you have questions or ideas or suggestions, please leave them down in the comments below. We'll see you next time.

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