Posts Tagged ‘addiction’

Neurogenesis & Addiction

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Novel research at UT Southwestern Medical Center hints at new hope in combating addiction and dependence. The researchers’ experiments indicate that stimulating an increase in neurogenesis (brain cell growth) might help prevent addiction, dependence, or relapse. This is fascinating in the context of intensive brain training with programs such as Brain Fitness Pro.

Parallel studies show that intensive working memory training stimulates neurogenesis. Further, my own experience and the anecdotal experiences of Mind Sparke customers indicates that the training helps improve impulse control, self esteem, and elevate mood.

Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the UT team’s work is the first research to directly link addiction with neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

“More research will be needed to test this hypothesis, but treatments that increase adult neurogenesis may prevent addiction before it starts, which would be especially important for patients treated with potentially addictive medications,” said Dr. Amelia Eisch, senior study author and associate professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern. “Additionally, treatments that increase adult neurogenesis during abstinence might prevent relapse.”

Dr. Eisch and her team radiated rats’ brains to stop neurogenesis in the hippocampus. In one experiment, rats accessed cocaine by pressing a lever. The rats with radiated brains took more cocaine than rats that did not receive radiation.

In a second experiment, after becoming accustomed to taking cocaine the team radiated the rats, stopping neurogenesis while drugs were removed. Rats with reduced neurogenesis took more time to realize that the lever would no longer dispense cocaine.

“The nonirradiated rats didn’t like the cocaine as much and learned faster to not press the formerly drug-associated lever,” Dr. Eisch said. “In the context of this experiment, decreased neurogenesis fueled the process of addiction, instead of the cocaine changing the brain.”

Dr. Eisch plans to study other drugs of abuse, using imaging technology to study addiction and hippocampal neurogenesis in humans.

“If we can create and implement therapies that prevent addiction from happening in the first place, we can improve the length and quality of life for millions of drug abusers, and all those affected by an abuser’s behavior,” she said.