Brain circuitry that drives drug-seeking compulsion identified

February 6, 2008

In experiments with rats, researchers have identified the change in brain circuitry that drives development of a compulsion to seek drugs, even when that compulsion is self-destructive. The researchers demonstrated the function of the circuitry by selectively switching off drug-seeking in the animals. They said their findings show the key role of the brain region, known as the striatum, which is a region activated by reward.

Barry Everitt and David Belin published their findings in the February 7, 2008, issue of the journal Neuron, published by Cell Press.

The researchers drew on previous studies indicating that when drug-seeking transforms from a goal-directed behavior to a compulsion, control over that behavior shifts from the ventral to dorsal region of the striatum.
In their experiments, the researchers first trained rats to press a lever to obtain cocaine, which also activated a signal light. The researchers manipulated the schedule of cocaine-receiving and lever-pressing so that it would induce compulsive lever-pressing in the rats to obtain cocaine.

The researchers found that when they used surgery and drugs to sever the functional connection between the two striatal regions, the result was decreased drug-seeking behavior in rats, compared with rats in which the disconnection was not made.

In a second set of experiments, the researchers showed that the “disconnected” rats did not show reduced ability to acquire such training responses. Both normal and disconnected rats could learn to pull a chain to receive a sugar-water reward so long as the activity was continuously reinforced.

The researchers concluded that “The results of the present study demonstrate that intrastriatal connectivity is a key aspect of the functional organization of the striatum and also a critically important component of the complex neural mechanisms involved in the development of drug addiction.”

Source: Cell Press

Explore further: Changes in brain regions may explain why some prefer order and certainty, behavioral neuroscientists report

Related Stories

Changes in brain regions may explain why some prefer order and certainty, behavioral neuroscientists report

July 7, 2017
Why do some people prefer stable, predictable lives while others prefer frequent changes? Why do some people make rational decisions and others, impulsive and reckless ones? UCLA behavioral neuroscientists have identified ...

Oxytocin reduces cravings for methamphetamine

May 31, 2017
Many people have suggested that addiction hijacks the body's natural drives in the service of compulsive drug use. A new study now suggests that hijacking another natural system in the brain may help overcome drug addiction. ...

Scientists identify key brain circuits that control compulsive drinking in rats

July 22, 2013
A research team led by scientists from the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco has identified circuitry in the brain that drives compulsive drinking in rats, and likely plays ...

Scientists show deep brain stimulation blocks heroin relapse in rats

February 1, 2017
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found that deep brain stimulation (DBS) can greatly reduce the compulsion to use heroin in standard rat models of addiction.

Scientists find that nicotine use increases compulsive alcohol consumption

April 14, 2015
Why do smokers have a five to ten times greater risk of developing alcohol dependence than nonsmokers? Do smokers have a greater tendency toward addiction in general or does nicotine somehow reinforce alcohol consumption?

Researchers identify mechanisms that link compulsive binge eating with hypertension

March 31, 2015
An estimated eight million adults in the U.S. suffer from binge eating disorder. Now, researchers have shown that compulsive binging on foods that are high in fat and sugar can trigger specific molecular changes that can ...

Recommended for you

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

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.