Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Do We Really Need A Pill To Counter Teenage Mood Swings?

Ever wonder why teens have mood swings? Well, Sheryl Smith has managed to make a dent in that question. From The Guardian:

Scientists have found that the mechanism normally used by the brain to calm itself down in stressful situations seems to work in the opposite way in teenagers, making them even more anxious.

When the brain senses a stressful situation, it reacts by switching on receptors, using a range of chemicals, including a steroid called THP. In an adult or even a younger individual, THP would reduce anxiety. But in experiments on adolescent mice, THP increased anxiety.

The experiments, by Sheryl Smith, a physiologist at the State University of New York, offer the first physiological explanation for adolescent mood swings. Previous work has focused on analysing behavioural changes in teenagers during adolescence. Her results are published today in Nature Neuroscience.

The research raises an interesting question: Now that we know what causes mood swings in teenagers, should scientists make a pill to counter the effects of THP on their developing brains?

As a practical matter, I'm sure some drug companies are reading the findings of Dr. Smith with considerable interest. But do you think they actually should develop a pill to counter THP?

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