March 30, 2011

Distinguished International Scientist Collaboration Award (DISCA) program awardee, Dr. Hwei-Hsien Chen, spent the last 5 months working with Dr. Athina Markou at the University of California, San Diego, to develop a novel pharmaceutical treatment for inhalant abusers. Dr. Chen’s research aimed to characterize the reward-enhancing effect of toluene, a clear liquid with the smell of paint thinners, using the intracranial self-stimulation procedure in mice. She also investigated whether modulation of glutamatergic transmission by sarcosine or N-acetylcysteine could counteract the threshold lowering effects of toluene. Her study results indicated that toluene, as predicted, remarkably enhances the brain stimulation reward. Conversely, her findings revealed that N-acetylcysteine effectively attenuates the toluene-enhanced brain stimulation reward. Further studies are needed to determine whether N-acetylcysteine, a clinically used expectorant, might prove effective as an inhalant cessation aid. Dr. Chen plans to continue her studies in Taiwan.