A closer look into how addiction hijacks the brain

February 24th, 2011 - 2:50 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 24 (ANI): New research has provided some more answers into how substance abuse hijacks neuronal circuits involved in reward and motivation and causes profound and persistent changes in behaviour.

A special issue now provides new insight into to the most recent advances in addiction research and highlights the complexities associated with the neurobiological and societal impacts of addiction, as well as strategies for the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

The issue contains articles from leaders in the field of addiction research that shed light on genetic vulnerability to addiction, the impact of addictive drugs on neuronal transmission, the effects of addictive drugs on reward, risk and decision making, behavioural and pharmacological treatments for addiction and reward mechanisms in obesity.

It also contains societal-focused articles that highlight issues associated with the use of opiates to treat chronic pain, the abuse of cognitive enhancing drugs and why a medical approach is likely to be far more effective at treating addicts than a punitive criminal approach.

“Substance abuse disorders profoundly affect our society,” writes Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Though costs are usually translated in economic terms - approximately half a trillion dollars in the USA - their impact is much more insidious, eroding the foundation of human relationships and the established social contract.”

An accompanying Cell Press Podcast features an exclusive interview with Dr. Volkow explains how recent imaging studies have shown that drugs of abuse do not just disrupt reward pathways in the brain, but that deficits actually expand to an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex.

“This was very surprising because the prefrontal cortex, which has been recognized to be crucial for cognitive operations, was never thought to be of any relevance to the process of addiction,” he says.

The research appears in the journal Neuron, published on February 24th. (ANI)

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