Nav: Home

Researchers find clue to preventing addiction relapse

December 02, 2019

With any addiction in which a user has successfully resisted a chemical, activity or substance, relapse is vexing. And with opioids, it's often deadly. Fatal overdoses following relapse from an opioid addiction is reaching epidemic proportions.

In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses, making it a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those deaths, almost 68 percent involved a prescription or illicit opioid.

A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology reported that relapse can be prevented by controlling cells in a brain region called the nucleus accumbens. The study was conducted among 90 Sprague Dawley rats with genetic diversity.

"We used a tool called chemogenetic receptors to act as a light switch on the cells," said senior author Susan Ferguson, director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UW's School of Medicine. "When we changed activity of neurons in the nucleus accumbens, we were able to control relapse behavior."

She said this process could be used to prevent relapse for any addiction - including compulsive gambling and overeating - because they affect the same brain regions as drug addiction.

Among the 90 rats exposed to heroin, roughly 40% developed addiction-like behavior. The researchers used six common features of addiction to determine whether the rats were high-risk or casual users:
  • How much heroin did they ingest?

  • During periods of drug-availability, how much time was spent engaging in drug use?

  • During periods in which a cue signaled that the drug was unavailable, how much time did they spend seeking the drug?

  • How motivated were they to get heroin?

  • During treatment, were they still motivated to get drugs?

  • If they were given a cue associated with their drug use, did they relapse?
With this model, the researchers focused on identifying the brain circuitry that regulates addictive behavior, and used artificial receptors to control activity in the nucleus accumbens. Receptors are activated by chemicals such as dopamine or by medications, which cause brain cell activity to increase or decrease.

The researchers could affect the behavior only of the high-risk rats, however, and they could not discern what motivated some rats to use drugs and others to ignore the drugs. Future studies could explore that, Ferguson said.

The research confirms the influence of chemogenetic receptors, Ferguson said, and shows how technology can target specific cell populations in the brain rather than the entire brain.

"I envision and hope we could make a pill that decreases relapse but still keeps people motivated for other things, and feeling good," she said.
-end-


University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Related Brain Articles:

Unique insight into development of the human brain: Model of the early embryonic brain
Stem cell researchers from the University of Copenhagen have designed a model of an early embryonic brain.
An optical brain-to-brain interface supports information exchange for locomotion control
Chinese researchers established an optical BtBI that supports rapid information transmission for precise locomotion control, thus providing a proof-of-principle demonstration of fast BtBI for real-time behavioral control.
Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits
A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, Université libre de Bruxelles and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.
Brain scans reveal how the human brain compensates when one hemisphere is removed
Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact.
Alcohol byproduct contributes to brain chemistry changes in specific brain regions
Study of mouse models provides clear implications for new targets to treat alcohol use disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.
BRAIN Initiative tool may transform how scientists study brain structure and function
Researchers have developed a high-tech support system that can keep a large mammalian brain from rapidly decomposing in the hours after death, enabling study of certain molecular and cellular functions.
Wiring diagram of the brain provides a clearer picture of brain scan data
In a study published today in the journal BRAIN, neuroscientists led by Michael D.
Blue Brain Project releases first-ever digital 3D brain cell atlas
The Blue Brain Cell Atlas is like ''going from hand-drawn maps to Google Earth'' -- providing previously unavailable information on major cell types, numbers and positions in all 737 brain regions.
Landmark study reveals no benefit to costly and risky brain cooling after brain injury
A landmark study, led by Monash University researchers, has definitively found that the practice of cooling the body and brain in patients who have recently received a severe traumatic brain injury, has no impact on the patient's long-term outcome.
More Brain News and Brain Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.