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Researchers discover brain’s addiction switch

Drug and alcohol dependence hijacks the brain’s pleasure center and disrupts the normal function of its reward system. This was discovered by a team of researchers who were investing what they refer to as an addiction “switch.” The results of their study were published in the most recent edition of the journal Science.

This finding provides support to previous studies, which have shown that chronic drug users often experienced an increase in the number of a certain naturally-occurring protein known as BDNF or brain-derived neurothrophic found in the brain’s ventral tegmental area. This area of the brain is responsible for the brain’s reward circuit system.

The current study showed that a certain dose of BDNF introduced directly to rats’ ventral tegmental area got the animals in a drug dependent state even in the absence of actual drugs and alcohol. The study’s researchers observed that rats injected with BDNF behaved like they were addicted on opiates even without receiving the actual drug. According to them, most of the rats constantly sought a drug fix to the point of leaving their comfort zones.

Through the current study, the researchers were also able to confirm that BDNF is one of the main regulators of alcohol and drug addiction. They observed that chemicals which normally inhibited the activity of neurons in the brain’s ventral tegmental area excited these neurons instead. According to researchers, this was the switch that occurred in the brains of chronic drug dependents.

Lead author Hector Vargas-Perez of the University of Toronto explained that these current findings may reveal the mechanisms that underlie drug addiction. Scott Steffensen, a neuroscientist at the Brigham Young University, further noted that BDNF is a crucial factor in stimulating drug dependent state. H said that understanding of such drug-associated changes in the brain’s circuit system can help researchers to devise ways of medically countering the effects of drug and alcohol dependency.

In addition to Vargas-Perez and Steffensen, other researchers involved in this study included graduate student David Allison and undergraduate Christine Walton who currently works at researcher of the National Institutes of Health.

For more recent studies on drug dependency and drug addiction treatment, feel free to browse through this website. Miramar Recovery Center aims to keep the public up-to-date with the latest developments regarding drug addiction treatment by keeping tabs on recent studies and experiments related to the field. Miramar Recovery Center is an exclusive rehabilitation facility that specializes in providing individualized programs to counter drug and alcohol addiction and various co-occurring mental disorders.