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

Sweet temptation: Brain signals amplify desire for sugary treats

June 14, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- The next time you are craving sweets, blame it on your brain. The brain receiving amplified signals can trigger an intense desire to satisfy a sweet tooth with sugary foods, a new University of Michigan ...

Recommended for you

Trying to get sober? NIH offers tool to help find good care

October 3, 2017
The phone calls come—from fellow scientists and desperate strangers—with a single question for the alcohol chief at the National Institutes of Health: Where can my loved one find good care to get sober?

Medical students need training to prescribe medical marijuana

September 15, 2017
Although 29 states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana use for medical purposes, few medical students are being trained how to prescribe the drug. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis ...

Protein links alcohol abuse and changes in brain's reward center

September 8, 2017
When given access to alcohol, over time mice develop a pattern similar to what we would call "problem drinking" in people, but the brain mechanisms that drive this shift have been unclear. Now a team of UC San Francisco researchers ...

11 minutes of mindfulness training helps drinkers cut back

August 24, 2017
Brief training in mindfulness strategies could help heavy drinkers start to cut back on alcohol consumption, finds a new UCL study.

Marijuana use amongst youth stable, but substance abuse admissions up

August 15, 2017
While marijuana use amongst youth remains stable, youth admission to substance abuse treatment facilities has increased, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Report reveals underground US haven for heroin, drug users

August 8, 2017
A safe haven where drug users inject themselves with heroin and other drugs has been quietly operating in the United States for the past three years, a report reveals.

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.