Scripps Research Institute receive grants to study addiction

LA JOLLA (KUSI) – Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute announcedthat they have received a pair of grants worth a total of $3.8 million tofund a five-year study of brain mechanisms that suppress relapses of cocaineand alcohol addiction.

A team led by Nobuyoshi Suto, a newly appointed assistant professor ofmolecular and cellular neuroscience at TSRI, will be funded by a $2.1 milliongrant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on AlcoholAbuse and Alcoholism, and a $1.7 million award from the agency’s NationalInstitute on Drug Abuse.

Previous studies have shown that external stimuli or cues signaling theavailability of drugs or alcohol, like drug paraphernalia or the smell ofbeer, can activate certain types of neurons, neurochemicals and circuits inthe brain, triggering a relapse.

In the opposite direction, cues that show drugs or alcohol areunavailable can suppress relapses in well-established animal models of drugaddiction, according to preliminary studies conducted by Suto and hiscolleagues.

The next step is to learn which brain mechanisms affect the relapse-suppressing action of the cues. The research could uncover fundamentalworkings of the brain in behavioral inhibition and lead to newmethods for helping people resist relapse.

Suto’s preliminary data with rat models suggest that so-called“omission cues” activate neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex, the area ofthe brain associated with decision making.

The result is consistent with results from other human studies that displayactivity in the medial prefrontal cortex when addicts are shown images of druguse and are told to suppress their cravings, the scientists said.

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