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Although legal, alcohol is addictive. Together, alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction — sometimes referred to as alcoholism or alcohol dependence — are among the nation's major health problems.
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Despite definitive proof that smoking can be fatal, nicotine still is one of the most widely abused substances. In fact, tobacco kills more than 440,000 U.S. citizens each year — more than alcohol, cocaine, heroin, homicide, suicide, car accidents, and HIV combined.
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Ecstasy, herbal ecstasy, rohypnol ("roofies"), GHB (gamma hydroxy-butyrate), and ketamine are among the drugs used by some teens and young adults as part of raves and trances. Recent research, however, is uncovering the serious damage that can occur in several parts of the brain from use of some of these drugs.
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Marijuana distorts perception and alters the sense of time, space, and self. Researchers have made some progress in uncovering the reasons for these responses.
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Plasticity itself is not unique to humans, but the degree to which our brains are able to adapt is.
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Neuron formation begins in the earliest stages of human development. Signaling molecules “turn on” certain genes and “turn off” others, beginning nerve cell induction.
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Genes and the environment converge powerfully during early sensitive windows of brain development to form the neural circuits underlying behavior. Although most neuronal cell death occurs in the embryo, the paring down of connections occurs in large part during critical periods in early postnatal life.
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Once the neurons reach their final location, they must make the proper connections so that a particular function, such as vision or hearing, can emerge.
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Touch is the sense by which we determine the characteristics of objects: size, shape, and texture.
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Neuroscientists believe that the brain can remain relatively healthy and full-functioning as it ages.
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From the first large studies monitoring the mental functioning of the same group of healthy humans over many years, scientists have uncovered unexpected results.
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Our best insights into how the normal brain ages come from long-term studies of the nervous system that began decades ago.
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