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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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High on Genes?
7 April 1997 8:00 pm
Peer pressure from high school potheads isn't the only reason people start smoking marijuana: A new study suggests that some people inherit an ability to enjoy a marijuana high. The findings, reported in this month's issue of Addiction, highlight the need for more research on marijuana's biological effects to understand better why people abuse it.
Psychiatrist Ming Tsuang and his colleagues at Boston University figured that if genes help control what people feel when they smoke pot, then genetically identical twins should experience a similar kind of high or low when they use the drug. To test their hypothesis, the researchers used the all-male Vietnam Era Twin Registry. They asked 607 pairs of identical or fraternal twins who had reported having used marijuana at least five times in their lives to recall how they had felt when they smoked: whether they were, for instance, relaxed and creative or anxious and unable to concentrate. They also asked how often people had smoked and for how long.
Tsuang's group found, not surprisingly, that twins who said they used the drug more frequently and over a longer period were more apt to report having a good time. Identical twins--who share the same genes--reported similar experiences, while fraternal twins, with some different sets of genes, often differed in their responses. The researchers' analysis suggested that shared environmental factors, such as being raised in the same household in the same region, did not appear to influence experience with the drug. Peer pressure and other factors may encourage someone to experiment with marijuana, says Tsuang, but genetic factors keep them interested.
Other marijuana researchers agree that genetic factors underlie at least part of the drug's allure. "It makes sense that there's going to be some genetic variability that can account for the effects of marijuana use," says neuroscientist Billy Martin of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. "The challenge is to figure out what [neural] system is associated with a particular sensation" and trace that to specific genes.