Health Check: Experts weigh in on 2 studies involving young adults

Rhode Island health experts are weighing in on two studies that involve young adults.

Rhode Island health experts are weighing in on two studies that involve young adults.

The first one, out of Brown University, sheds light on how ADHD drugs affect the brain.

Twenty-six young people who do not have ADHD were enrolled in research that looked at two psychostimulants to see how they affect the glutamate in the brain.

Glutamate is primarily responsible for learning and memory.

What they found -- for the very first time in humans -- is a link between glutamate and emotions.

Tara White, who is the lead researcher on the study, said they used MRI brain scans of the participants and asked them subjective questions about their mood while on one of the ADHD drugs or a placebo.

They found a correlation between higher levels of the drug-induced glutamate and positive mood.

The study revealed not only the drug effect but how positive emotion works in the human brain.

The finding could also eventually lead to more individualized prescribing of psychostimulants to treat ADHD.

"There's a lot of sort of trial and error in terms of dosing and which drug will work for who, so this is maybe getting towards a more personalized medicine approach, where you might be able to match the treatment to the individual a lot better than we're able to right now,” said White.

While it was a small study, it was the first to demonstrate the possible connection.

Another study looks at data collected by the World Health Organization.

The data shows a students’ first year at college is perhaps the most difficult year, where suicidal thoughts and behaviors are more prevalent.

“One of the highest risk factors that came out was kids who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual,” said Dr. Jason Rafferty, a pediatrician and child psychiatrist who works out of a few institutions, including Bradley Hospital. “But they also found those that had same-sex partners, whether or not they identified, also had an increased risk, so it may not be just about the labeling.”

The study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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