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Li-Yen Mae Huang (University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas): "Opiates such as morphine have been used as analgesia for thousands of years. The mechanism of opioid action is of great interest because the information can help us understand the regulation of pain transmission and provide us with the possibility of developing new analgesics free of addictive effects. In addition, endogenous opioids and specific membrane receptors for opioids are widely distributed in different regions of the brain. The information may also be useful in elucidating the functions of opioids, aside from pain modulation.
"The direct effect of opioids on neurons is often inhibitory. For instance, opioids were found to decrease transmitter release and to reduce the excitability of neurons by decreasing Ca2+ conductance and...