New research on brain, hormones and behavior

New clinical and basic science research findings focusing on the interaction between hormones and the brain and its influence on behavior will be presented for the first time at the 6th International Congress of Neuroendocrinology (ICN 2006) in Pittsburgh from June 19 to 22.

Among these are results of a clinical trial finding that a daily regimen of growth hormone pills helps increase muscle strength and fitness in the elderly; a preliminary study suggesting another hormone, oxytocin, can reduce the stress in couples who bicker; and research pinpointing the causes of aggression in men.

ICN 2006 will take place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh. A staffed press room will be on site, and press briefings and media availabilities will be held each day. Members of the media unable to attend the meeting may participate in select briefings by telephone conference call.

Among the many research studies to be presented at the congress and featured in the press room are:

  • What's the secret to living longer? The answer to this age-old question might be found through research looking at neuroendocrine changes throughout the lifespan. A Polish study, which included women aged 20 to 102, will report that adinopectin, a small protein derived in fat tissue, may be an important determinant of longevity, while an American study suggests giving oral growth hormone could help extend the time that the elderly can live independently. Results of this placebo-controlled study involving nearly 400 men and women will be reported.
  • Oxytocin is a hormone that's received much attention of late, in part because of its association with building trust in relationships. A team of Swiss and American investigators will report results from a trial looking to determine if the hormone, delivered as a nasal spray, can reduce stress during tense social interactions or conflict. Their research subjects? Couples who are married or in long-term relationships. Another study involving small animals suggests oxytocin influences the development of a sweet tooth.
  • Animal and human studies are providing a greater understanding of how both nature and nurture influence the development of disease, clinical syndromes and abnormal behaviors. Now, new research is finding such links in "normal" people as well. An American researcher will report results from a study of more than 500 men that may explain why some males tend to be more macho, aggressive and confrontational than others.
  • Female athletes produce more testosterone - the male reproductive hormone - when they are in the heat of competition, making even greater amounts when they win, according to Portuguese research in female soccer players, the first known study of its kind in women. Meanwhile, Canadian researchers, who studied a hockey team for an entire season, will report that winning at home is correlated with elevated levels of testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Only recently discovered, a small protein in the brain known as neuropeptide S has been found to induce both profound wakefulness and a less anxious state in animals, and, according to new research to be presented, may represent a novel target for the treatment of psychotic behavior and schizophrenia. A U.S. team will report results of studies that found neuropeptide S can reduce the biochemical and behavioral symptoms of schizophrenia in an established animal model for this mental illness that affects some 2 million Americans.
  • Early puberty can result in abnormal eating behavior and anxiety in young adults of both sexes, according to a study involving 1,500 college students. Findings of the study will be reported and their implications discussed.

Held in a different part of the world every four years under the auspices of the International Neuroendocrine Federation, this year's congress - Bridging Neuroscience and Endocrinology - is being sponsored by the American Neuroendocrine Society and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The first full day of the program is being held in conjunction with the 10th Annual Meeting of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology.

Formerly the International Society of Neuroendocrinology, the International Neuroendocrinology Federation consists of six member societies and seven regional groups, representing all parts of the world. The federation's president is John A. Russell, MBChB, Ph.D., chair of neuroendocrinology, University of Edinburgh. The chair of the ICN 2006 scientific program is Iain J. Clarke, Ph.D., professorial fellow in the department of physiology at Monash University in Australia. Tony Plant, Ph.D., professor of cell biology and physiology and director of the Center for Research in Reproductive Physiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is chair of the local organizing committee.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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