UGA, Emory to study how exercise may prevent drug abuse relapse

April 29, 2010

Athens, Ga. - A team of researchers at the University of Georgia and Emory University will receive $1.9 million over the next five years from the National Institutes of Health to study the neurobiological mechanisms for how regular aerobic exercise may prevent drug abuse relapse.

"Drug abuse is closely linked to stress, and one of the most challenging aspects of treating addiction is preventing the relapse caused by stress," said Philip Holmes, professor of psychology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and a co-investigator on the project. "Despite many years of research, no universal treatment to prevent relapse exists."

Previous research in Holmes' lab has demonstrated that exercise exerts anti-stress effects. A chemical called galanin, which increases in the brain during exercise, appears to reduce cravings associated with stress.

"Stress turns on norepinephrine," said Holmes, "which turns on dopamine, which induces craving. Galanin decreases norepinephrine, so someone with high levels of galanin should experience reduced cravings."

For the project, Holmes will measure exercise-induced increases of the galanin gene activity in the rat brain. "These experiments will establish the relationship between exercise and galanin gene expression, and support the hypothesis that exercise-induced regulation of galanin protects against over-activation of the norepinephrine system, thereby preventing drug self-administration following stress."

"This research will provide new insight into how regular exercise may attenuate drug abuse in humans," said David Weinshenker, associate professor of human genetics in Emory University's School of Medicine, and a co-principal investigator on the project. "More importantly, it may reveal a neural mechanism through which exercise may prevent the relapse into drug-seeking behavior."

Dr. Gaylen Edwards, professor and head of the department of physiology and pharmacology, UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, and Mark Smith, associate professor of psychology, Davidson College, Davidson, N.C., also will assist in the investigation.

The research may also lead to the development of drugs that enhance galanin for the treatment of addiction.

"Of course, the better alternative would be to naturally increase one's galanin levels through exercise," said Holmes, "but either way may help recovering addicts in stressful environments."
-end-


University of Georgia

Related Psychology Articles from Brightsurf:

More than one cognition: A call for change in the field of comparative psychology
In a paper published in the Journal of Intelligence, researchers argue that cognitive studies in comparative psychology often wrongly take an anthropocentric approach, resulting in an over-valuation of human-like abilities and the assumption that cognitive skills cluster in animals as they do in humans.

Psychology research: Antivaxxers actually think differently than other people
As vaccine skepticism has become increasingly widespread, two researchers in the Texas Tech University Department of Psychological Sciences have suggested a possible explanation.

In court, far-reaching psychology tests are unquestioned
Psychological tests are important instruments used in courts to aid legal decisions that profoundly affect people's lives.

Psychology program for refugee children improves wellbeing
A positive psychology program created by researchers at Queen Mary University of London focuses on promoting wellbeing in refugee children.

Psychology can help prevent deadly childhood accidents
Injuries have overtaken infectious disease as the leading cause of death for children worldwide, and psychologists have the research needed to help predict and prevent deadly childhood mishaps, according to a presentation at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

Raising the standard for psychology research
Researchers from Stanford University, Arizona State University, and Dartmouth College used Texas Advanced Computing Center supercomputers to apply more rigorous statistical methods to psychological studies of self-regulation.

Psychology: Robot saved, people take the hit
To what extent are people prepared to show consideration for robots?

Researchers help to bridge the gap between psychology and gamification
A multi-disciplinary research team is bridging the gap between psychology and gamification that could significantly impact learning efforts in user experience design, healthcare, and government.

Virtual reality at the service of psychology
Our environment is composed according to certain rules and characteristics which are so obvious to us that we are scarcely aware of them.

Modeling human psychology
A human being's psychological make-up depends on an array of emotional and motivational parameters.

Read More: Psychology News and Psychology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.