Addicted Brain Changes

  by  |  October 10th, 2008  |  Published in All, Brain & Psychology, Featured


 |  Stumble |  Share on Facebook |  Tweet This | 

New research is overturning previous thoughts about how addiction permanently changes the brain. Researchers hope these new insights might lead to new ways of treating addicts.

[If you cannot see the flash video below, you can click here for a high quality mp4 video.]

Interviewee: Christopher Cowan,
University of Texas, Southwestern Med Ctr.
Produced by Chris Bergendorff– Edited by Chris Bergendorff and James Eagan
Copyright © ScienCentral, Inc.

Pan Fried Brain

Drop an egg in a frying pan and who doesn’t think “Your brain on drugs”? But in the 21 years since that image became an icon, science has tried to learn what really changes in an addicted brain.

Animal studies have shown that tiny branches coming off of brain cells, called dendritic spines, are more abundant in addiction. These spines serve to create connections for increased communication across the gaps or synapses between brain cells. For years researchers believed that they were causing addictive behaviors. Now new research challenges that notion.

“They may actually be a brain mechanism to compensate, to try to limit, the individual’s sensitivity to the sort of maladaptive changes that lead to very long-lasting aspects of addiction,” says Christopher Cowan, an addiction researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

For the last few years, Cowan has been studying the role of a certain family of proteins, collectively called MEF2, that are responsible for regulating the growth of dendritic spines as the brain develops over time. But Cowan also suspected that these proteins could perhaps be responsible for the growth of spines in addicted brains.

Says Cowan, “I wanted to ask whether, in an adult organism, an adult animal, particularly and ultimately in humans, whether these… changes in synaptic connections that are controlled by MEF2, whether these could be involved in the process of drug addiction.”

These proteins can be found in the reward or pleasure center of the brain, an area called the nucleus accumbens. This is the area in rodents, and presumably humans, where dendritic spines show increased growth when exposed to addictive drugs like cocaine. Cowan believed that MEF2 might be the culprit behind the spiny growth in this area, which would in turn be behind the incidence of addictive behaviors.

He and his colleagues ran a series of experiments, and found that in rodents, exposure to cocaine reduced the activity of MEF2, which then increased the growth of the spiny brain connections. When they tested the rodents who showed the increased spiny growth, these rats and mice exhibited more intense and long-lasting behaviors associated with addiction, such as restless motion and preference for places associated with the drug.

Also on ScienCentral

These results seemed to support the popular hypothesis, so Cowan figured that not decreasing, but instead increasing the activity of the protein MEF2 would lessen both the growth of spines and the incidence addictive behaviors. He and his team created a modified version of the MEF2 protein that made it constantly active when inserted into the brains of his rodent participants.

But as he wrote in the journal “Neuron,”Cowan found quite the opposite from what he expected.

“Rather than inhibiting the addiction related behaviors, it actually enhanced those behaviors,” he says.

Your Brain Against Drugs

Cowan believes the growth of spines may actually be the brain’s way to fight the long-term effects of addiction. By fluctuating the levels of activity of MEF2 in the nucleus accumbens, and accelerating the growth of the dendritic spines, the brain may be trying to ameliorate the damaging and intense effects of addiction on the brain, including the exhibition of addictive behaviors.

Cowan proposes that, “The brain has some natural mechanisms, or natural processes that try to limit this change in brain function, as it relates to addiction.”

Cowan hopes further research into the role of the MEF2 protein in this process could lead to new drugs that actively combat the problem of addiction. Right now there are only a limited number of behavioral therapies for addicts, many of which are not very effectual. With a better understanding of how the brain naturally fights the effects of drug addiction, Cowan hopes that we can develop artificial ways of replicating the same process. It all hinges on understanding MEF2, but Cowan is hopeful.

“This gives us good therapy targets, to be able to go in and try to manipulate the function of those proteins, to try to antagonize or reverse the process of addiction,” he says.

PUBLICATIONS: Neuron, August 2008
RESEARCH FUNDED BY: Whitehall Foundation, National Institute of Drug Abuse, National Institute of Mental Health

Elsewhere on the Web:
Neuron
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America


 |  Stumble |  Share on Facebook |  Tweet This | 


Responses

  1. rypitch says:

    October 14th, 2008 at 9:57 am (#)

    The brain is not the addict I thought it was.

  2. Emma Hill says:

    May 18th, 2010 at 1:31 am (#)

    Drug Addiction will not only ruin your body but it would also mess up your life.,,,

  3. Chris says:

    August 3rd, 2010 at 5:38 pm (#)

    I gained custody of my son Jimmy because of his mothers drug abuse.

  4. Eyelid Surgery : says:

    October 22nd, 2010 at 2:00 pm (#)

    i had a friend who is a drug addict and he was able to recover from it. now he is drug free,:.

  5. Surrogate Mother %0B says:

    December 13th, 2010 at 2:18 am (#)

    drug addiction is a menace to the society, it destroys lives and it destroys the community “”

  6. natalie says:

    October 4th, 2011 at 12:30 pm (#)

    addiction does ruin brain cells and activates a child response part in our brains that once turned on will never turn off but overcoming drugs is possible and allot of the brain cells repair them selves over time there’s many addictions besides drugs like t.v. food sex co dependance even exercising can become an addiction you people shouldn’t be so judgmental of the drug addict the child part that becomes activated yells at us THAT IT NEEDS TO FEEL BETTER even when ceasing the use the brain still is co dependent on the drug sex or food taking a long road to recovery and learning new techniques to over coming this which you should be supportive of one seeking help but not supportive over the decision to continue to use and ruin there own life’s

  7. Juan Brunfield says:

    October 16th, 2011 at 5:53 am (#)

    It’s ideal time for you to make some plans in the future and it’s really time and energy to end up being content. I’ve look at this distribute of course, if I could I would like to suggest a person a number of interesting issues or ideas. Maybe you might write following articles talking about this informative article. I wish to examine even far more reasons for that!

  8. pink mercurial vapor says:

    November 8th, 2011 at 5:17 am (#)

    There are some interesting points in time on this article but I don’t know if I see all of them middle to heart. There’s some validity however I will take hold opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as effectively

  9. Semillas de marijuana says:

    February 15th, 2012 at 7:02 am (#)

    It is rare to find educated folks in this particular subject matter, nevertheless, you seem like you do understand just what you’re referring to! Thanks

  10. Stacy Michele says:

    May 2nd, 2012 at 7:39 pm (#)

    Absolutely indited content, thanks for selective information. “You can do very little with faith, but you can do nothing without it.” by Samuel Butler.

  11. Marcie Seilheimer says:

    July 28th, 2012 at 1:07 am (#)

    Sweet site, super design , very clean and apply friendly .

  12. flight deals india says:

    March 22nd, 2013 at 3:35 pm (#)

    I like the valuable information you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I’m quite certain I will learn a lot of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!| flight deals india http://www.funtraveldeals.com/book-flights/

  13. fotograf nunta says:

    March 23rd, 2013 at 2:42 am (#)

    Hi there, I discovered your blog by way of Google while searching for a related matter, your website got here up, it seems to be great. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks. fotograf nunta http://madvideo.ro/fotograf-de-nunta/

  14. hochzeitsfotosMünchenw says:

    March 23rd, 2013 at 10:06 am (#)

    Hello, i think that i saw you visited my weblog thus i came to “return the favor”.I’m trying to find things to improve my website!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!| hochzeitsfotos München wedding photos munich http://www.fotostudioaugenblicke.de

  15. Google sucks says:

    March 24th, 2013 at 1:01 pm (#)

    Many thanks for writing this great write-up..Beloved your reports. Remember to do hold writing Google sucks http://asdasghdsdfs5hf.com

  16. Shay says:

    April 17th, 2013 at 7:52 am (#)

    Greetings I am so glad I found your website, I really found you by mistake, while I was
    looking on Aol for something else, Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say thanks a lot for a remarkable post and a all round thrilling
    blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the fantastic work.

  17. plastic surgeon new york says:

    April 18th, 2013 at 2:36 pm (#)

    I have been exploring for a little for any high quality articles or
    weblog posts on this sort of area . Exploring in Yahoo I ultimately stumbled
    upon this site. Reading this info So i am happy to express that I have an incredibly
    just right uncanny feeling I found out just
    what I needed. I such a lot definitely will make certain to don?
    t fail to remember this website and provides it a glance on a relentless basis.

  18. best male enlargement products says:

    July 22nd, 2014 at 11:29 pm (#)

    This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger.

    I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking
    more of your great post. Also, I have shared your site in my
    social networks!

    Have a look at my blog – best male enlargement products

  19. average cost of foundation repair says:

    August 13th, 2014 at 8:04 pm (#)

    This is my first time visit at here and i am in fact impressed
    to read everthing at single place.

    For an awesome informative review please check out
    this blog … average cost of foundation repair

  20. Hamster Porn says:

    November 30th, 2014 at 10:13 pm (#)

    Heya my business is in my ballet shoes here. I found this specific board so i locating It truly valuable & that helped me to outside a lot.. Hamster Porn I hope to give the one thing back and also help other folks such as you made it easier for us.

  21. xxx says:

    August 30th, 2017 at 2:00 pm (#)

    Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking the time and
    actual effort to make a really good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a lot and never
    seem to get anything done.

Leave a Response


Archives


Clicky Web Analytics