"How Science Is Unlocking the Secrets of Addiction" - Fran Smith
Addiction hijacks the brain’s neural pathways. Scientists are challenging the view that it’s a moral failing and researching treatments that could offer an exit from the cycle of desire, bingeing, and withdrawal that traps tens of millions of people. Rita Z, Goldstein’s PhD, director, Neuropsychoimaginf of Addiction and Related Conditions Research program at Mount Sinai, neuroimaging studies help expand understanding of the brain’s reward system by exploring how addiction is associated with the prefrontal cortex and other cortical regions. Changes in this part of the brain affect judgment, self-control, and other cognitive functions tied to addiction. “Reward is important in the beginning of the addiction cycle, but the response to reward is reduced as the disorder continues,” she says. People with addiction often persist in using drugs to relieve the misery they feel when they stop. Nicole Avena, a neuroscientist at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital, has shown that rats will keep gobbling sugar if you let them, and they develop tolerance, craving, and withdrawal, just as they do when they get hooked on cocaine. She says high-fat foods and highly processed foods such as refined flour may be as problematic as sugar.
- Rita Goldstein, PhD, Professor, Psychiatry, Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Chief, Brain Imaging Core, Director, Neuropsychoimaging of Addiction and Related Conditions Research Program
- Nicole M. Avena-Blanchard, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Pharmacological Sciences, Mount Sinai St. Luke’s