Adrian Carter

Dr Adrian Carter is an NHMRC Research Fellow at The University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research. He is investigating the impact that neuroscience has on understanding and treatment of addiction, including our notions of autonomy and responsibility, the use of coercion and the capacity to consent in addiction, and the use of emerging technologies, such as deep brain stimulation, to treat addiction. He received the 2010 Australian National Drug and Alcohol Award for Excellence in Research and the 2009 University of Queensland Dean’s Award for Outstanding Research Higher Degree Theses. He has published two books, including ‘Addiction Neuroethics: The Promises and Perils of Addiction Neuroscience’ (Cambridge University Press, in 2012). Dr Carter has over 60 publications, including reports for the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, and the Australian Ministerial Council on Drugs Strategy. He has been an advisor to the WHO and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on the use of coercion in drug treatment and the ethical treatment of opioid dependence.

An appetite for food addiction?

Natalia Lee and Adrian Carter, from the Neuroethics group at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, Australia and Members of the International Neuroethics Society

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Many of us enjoy foods that are high in sugar, fat, salt, or a combination of the three; take savoury biscuits for example. Dr. David Kessler’s The End of Overeating explores in detail the art and science behind the creation of highly palatable foods. Despite their appeal, most of us are able to exhibit adequate control when consuming or over consuming these foods. However, there is a subset of the population for whom control over these foods becomes problematic and can result in unhealthy weight gain or obesity. For these individuals, consumption can become life threatening. Why is it that some who wish to reduce their intake of these foods are not able to do so? Continue reading

Parkinson’s medication blamed for sexual offences

Adrian Carter and Wayne Hall, from the Neuroethics group at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, Australia

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The medication that provides significant relief from debilitating motor disturbances in people with Parkinson’s disease appears to cause a range of psychiatric disturbances that are as distressing and difficult to treat as the motor symptoms they aim to relieve.

Parkinson’s disease is usually treated with dopamine replacement therapy (DRT). This involves daily dosing with either levodopa (a precursor to the neurotransmitter, dopamine) or dopamine agonists (such as pramipexole and ropinirole) that mimic the effects of dopamine in the brain. The aim of DRT is to reduce the effects of the loss of dopaminergic neurons in specific regions of the brain involved in controlling bodily movement. However, dopamine is also a key neurotransmitter in a range of cognitive processes from executive control and memory to motivation and bonding. It is perhaps unsurprising that many Parkinson’s patients experience adverse psychiatric and cognitive side-effects from taking large doses of dopamine every day. 

Parkinson’s patients can experience severe anxiety, depression and mania and have a higher risk of suicide. A significant minority of Parkinson’s patients treated with dopamine replacement therapy will also develop impulsive and compulsive behaviours that appear to be caused by their medication. These include pathological gambling and hypersexuality, and compulsive eating and shopping. In rare cases, patients have committed criminal offences. Continue reading

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