New NIH-funded study to identify risks for vulnerability to drug addiction

August 23, 2016

BINGHAMTON, NY - A new study aims to better understand what makes some individuals particularly vulnerable to developing drug addiction. A team of researchers from across the country will look at how genes that influence brain function cause risk for addictions.

J. David Jentsch, Empire Innovation Professor of psychology at Binghamton University, is part of the team of investigators awarded a new grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct the research.

The five-year NIH grant totaling $11,714,623 was awarded to The Jackson Laboratory to create a new Center for Systems Neurogenetics of Addiction (CSNA). The new award will support a team of researchers from across the country that will collaboratively study how genes that influence brain function cause risk for addictions. Jentsch, is part of the team of investigators that will be leading the CSNA, with a key part of the work occurring in his lab.

For nearly 20 years, Jentsch's research has focused on the neurobiology of self-control, an ability that is compromised in people suffering from addictions.

"An individual's capacity for self control may explain the difference between those that can use drugs for a while and yet successfully quit and those that get trapped into the cycles of addiction. It is critical to understand the brain systems that make good self control possible so that we can aid people who are motivated to quit but lack the ability to do so," said Jentsch.

As part of the new research effort, he and his team will use state-of-the-art mouse models to identify the specific genes and gene pathways that contribute to poor self-control and associated risk for addictions. This work will be integrated with the efforts made by others in the collaborative group who are studying other facets of addiction vulnerability.

"Today, a key focus in treatment is to reverse or minimize the harm of an already established addiction. Ideally, we would like to identify people that are at risk and prevent their development of an addiction before it leaves its indelible mark on them. This research program advances that mission, and through its collaborative synergy, it stands an excellent chance of success," said Jentsch.

Binghamton University

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