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A new target for alcoholism treatment: Kappa opioid receptors

Brendan Walker
Brendan Walker

The list of brain receptor targets for opiates reads like a fraternity: Mu Delta Kappa. Until now, the mu opioid receptor received the most attention in alcoholism research.

A new study in Biological Psychiatry, led by Brendan Walker, WSU associate professor of psychology, used a rat model of alcohol dependence to directly investigate the kappa opioid receptor (KOR) system following chronic alcohol exposure and withdrawal. These findings provide researchers with a potentially successful path to developing new drugs for the treatment of alcoholism.

Read more about this compelling research in Science Codex

Is exploding head syndrome the reason you can’t sleep?

Brian Sharpless, Director, Psychology Clinic
Brian Sharpless

Exploding head syndrome may sound like a made-up condition, but it’s a real and frightening medical disorder that’s also surprisingly common, according to a study led by Brian Sharpless, assistant professor of psychology at WSU.

People with exploding head syndrome (EHS) hear loud noises when going to sleep or on waking up. The type of noise can vary from explosions and fireworks to slammed doors, the sound of a gun firing, an enormous roar, shouting, thunder or a crack of lightning. The noises start suddenly and last for a few seconds.

“It can be very frightening and scary for those who do not know what is happening,” Sharpless said. It can lead to sleeping problems and worse: an attack may cause temporary tachycardia.

The study published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews suggests that the disorder may affect as many as one in 10 people at some time during their life. The most likely explanation  is that there is some kind of temporary blip in the nerve cells of the brain during the switch from being awake to sleeping, Sharpless said.

Read more at WSU News
Read more in the Daily Mail

45 undergraduates named top researchers in SURCA competition

SURCA 2014 Applied Sciences Winners
SURCA 2014 Applied Sciences Winners

Thirty-nine awards were presented recently to 45 WSU students—many in the College of Arts and Sciences—at the third annual Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) 2014.

The work of 192 students University-wide was detailed in 11 oral and 145 poster presentations open to faculty, staff, students, and guests. More than 100 judges evaluated the presentations. The judges included WSU emeriti faculty and retirees, faculty, staff, and post-doctoral students as well as experts from companies outside of WSU.

While many students from urban campuses traveled to participate, SURCA was made available to two place-bound students thanks to web conferencing provided by the Global Campus. A Pullman student studying abroad in Mexico and a WSU Vancouver student who was unable to attend SURCA in person talked “live” to their judges who were in the senior ballroom of the Compton Union Building.

More about the competition and list of winners

The Confidence Gap

Joyce Ehrlinger
Joyce Ehrlinger

For years, women have kept their heads down and played by the rules, certain that, with enough hard work, their natural talents would be recognized and rewarded. Meanwhile, the men around them have continued to be promoted faster and paid more.

Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that success depends as much on confidence as on competence. WSU assistant professor of psychology Joyce Ehrlinger’s research is helping to explain why and what women can do about it.

Ehrlinger has studied the impact of women’s preconceived notions about their own ability on their confidence. She found that women’s comparatively lower confidence “led them not to want to pursue future opportunities.”

Find out more about The Confidence Gap in The Atlantic.

Will legalization spark marijuana research?

Scientists say pot holds broad medical potential, but strict rules hinder its study

In a secluded lab at WSU Pullman, furry vermin are providing startling revelations about marijuana and its effects on the sexes.

Rebecca Craft, professor and chair of psychology, has been studying male and female rats to see if they react differently to the drug. And it looks like she’s on to something, especially when it comes to THC, the chemical in marijuana that creates a sense of euphoria for recreational users.

There are many other things Craft also wants to investigate about the plant, especially about how women react to it differently than men. “It’s something we need to be talking about, and not in a knee-jerk way,” Craft said. “It does have some reasonable uses.”

Learn more about potential marijuana research

Researcher: Pot’s effects differ in sexes; studies historically focus on males