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Member Research and Reports

Iowa Researchers Find Brain Region that Affects Drug Use Habits

The human brain is nimble. It can reorganize itself to learn new things, catalog memories, and even break old habits. So, what if our brains could be taught to suppress cravings, especially the destructive impulse to use drugs?

[Photo: Ms. Wensday Worth]

University of Iowa researchers studying the infralimbic cortex—a region of the brain that controls addictive behavior—performed a series of experiments in which rats were given cocaine, then taken off the drug. The scientists found that, generally speaking, this region of the brain can be reprogrammed to ease the rats’ cocaine urges.

Ms. Wensday Worth, MPH student in the University of Iowa College of Public Health was part of the research team and a contributing author on the paper.

The finding could help users kick the habit with the help of drugs that target the infralimbic cortex—or with improved behavioral treatment for substance addiction and relapse, according to Dr. Andrea Gutman, a postdoctoral researcher in the UI Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and corresponding author on the paper, published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

“No study has looked intensively at exactly how the infralimbic cortex functions, nor the importance of the first five days of treatment when it comes to curtailing drug-seeking behavior,” says Dr. Ryan LaLumiere, assistant professor in the UI Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and the paper’s co-author. “And while our experiments involved cocaine, we think the results could hold true for the infralimbic cortex’s role in conditioning withdrawal and relapse from other addictive substances, including opioids.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (a branch of the National Institutes of Health), the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation funded the research.

Read the full story here: https://now.uiowa.edu/2017/06/ui-researchers-find-brain-region-affects-drug-use-habits

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