Drug addiction study offers new insight on compulsive behavior

June 25, 2012

The same neurological mechanism involved in the transition from habitual to compulsive drug use could underlie less severe, but still harmful, compulsive behaviours.

"We're trying to understand individuality in . Many people can be exposed to drugs with addictive potential, for instance, but not everyone will become addicted," explains Eric Dumont, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences. "We believe we've identified a mechanism that makes certain people predisposed to developing addictions, and it's possible that the same mechanism underlies many - perhaps most - compulsive behaviours."

The mechanism occurs in a reward pathway of the brain. In this pathway, the brain maintains a delicate balance between pleasure and aversion, ensuring that moment-to-moment desires and dislikes remain in sync with the biological needs of the body.

Dr. Dumont and his team found unusual activity in this pathway when modeling in rats, which exhibit a to addiction comparable to humans. They believe that the pathway's balance is prone to becoming unbalanced in a certain percentage of the population. The signal to stop an activity reverses to a green light.

The team hopes that by identifying this mechanism, and possibly others like it, they will allow researchers to better understand and monitor a range of compulsive behaviours. Accordingly, Dr. Dumont's team collaborates with Dr. Cella Olmstead, associate professor of Psychology at Queen's, who recently developed an of compulsive sucrose intake.

Dr. Dumont and this team were recently awarded a $520,000 operating grant from Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to support their work for the next five years in understanding the neurological processes behind addiction behaviour.

Explore further: Sweet temptation: Brain signals amplify desire for sugary treats

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Young adults found displaying symptoms of net addiction

October 17, 2014

In 2012, Allen Frances, MD, professor emeritus and former chair of the department of psychiatry at Duke University, cautioned that "Internet Addiction" could be the next new fad diagnosis, complete with "an exuberant trumpeting ...

Can 'love hormone' oxytocin protect against addiction?

March 19, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at the University of Adelaide say addictive behaviour such as drug and alcohol abuse could be associated with poor development of the so-called "love hormone" system in our bodies during early ...

Nicotine vaccine prevents nicotine from reaching the brain

May 2, 2012

If smoking a cigarette no longer delivers pleasure, will smokers quit? It's the idea behind a nicotine vaccine being created by MIT and Harvard researchers, in which an injection of synthetic nanoparticles prompts the immune ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.