Navigation Links
UC Berkeley findings offer new clues into the addicted brain
Date:10/30/2011

What drives addicts to repeatedly choose drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, overeating, gambling or kleptomania, despite the risks involved?

Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have pinpointed the exact locations in the brain where calculations are made that can result in addictive and compulsive behavior.

UC Berkeley researchers have found how neural activity in the brain's orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortex regulates our choices. These astonishing new findings could pave the way for more targeted treatments for everything from drug and alcohol abuse to obsessive-compulsive disorders.

'The better we understand our decision-making brain circuitry, the better we can target treatment, whether it's pharmaceutical, behavioral or deep brain stimulation," said Jonathan Wallis, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and the principal investigator of the study to be published in the Oct. 30 online issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Wallis was inspired to look into the brain mechanism behind substance abuse when he observed the lengths to which addicts will go to fulfill their cravings, despite the downside of their habit: He asked, "What has the drug done to their brains that makes it so difficult for them not to make that choice? What is preventing them from making the healthier choice?"

In the new study, he and fellow researchers targeted the orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex - two areas in the frontal brain -- because previous research has shown that patients with damage to these areas of the brain are impaired in the choices they make. While these individuals may appear perfectly normal on the surface, they routinely make decisions that create chaos in their lives. A similar dynamic has been observed in chronic drug addicts, alcoholics and people with obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

"They get divorced, quit their jobs, lose their friends and lose all their money," Wallis said. "All the decisions they make are bad ones."

To test their hypothesis that these areas of the brain were the key players in impaired decision making, the UC Berkeley researchers measured the neural activity of macaque monkeys as they played games in which they identified the pictures most likely to deliver juice through a spout into their mouths.

The animals quickly learned which pictures would most frequently deliver the greatest amount of juice, enabling researchers to see what calculations they were making, and in which part of the brain. The brains of macaques function similarly to those of humans in basic decision making. The exercise was designed to see how the animals weigh costs, benefits and risks.

The results show that the orbitofrontal cortex regulates neural activity, depending on the value or "stakes" of a decision. This part of the brain enables you to switch easily between making important decisions, such as what school to attend or which job to take, and making trivial decisions such as coffee versus tea or burrito versus pizza. However, in the case of addicts and people with damage to the orbitofrontal cortex, the neural activity does not change based on the gravity of the decision, presenting trouble when these individuals try to get their brains in gear to make sound choices, the findings suggest.

As for the anterior cingulate cortex, the study found that when this part of the brain functions normally, we learn quickly whether a decision we made matched our expectations. If we eat food that makes us sick, we do not eat it again. But in people with a malfunctioning anterior cingulate cortex, these signals are missing, and so they continue to make poor choices, Wallis said.

"This is the first study to pin down the calculations made by these two specific parts of the brain that underlie healthy decision-making," Wallis said.

A clearer understanding of how people with addictions make decisions may help remove some of the stigma of this condition, Wallis said. However, Wallis warned that these findings should not be used as a rationale for addicts to maintain unhealthy habits. Chronic drug and alcohol use changes the brain circuitry, and that can lead to unhealthy choices, he said.

If anything, he said, the findings offer hope that, through understanding the mechanism of addiction, treatment can be targeted at these risk-weighing, decision-making centers of the brain.


'/>"/>

Contact: Yasmin Anwar
yanwar@berkeley.edu
510-643-7944
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Berkeley Lab researchers apply NMR/MRI to microfluidic chromatography
2. Berkeley Lab scientists find that normal breast cells help kill cancer cells
3. UCSF, UC Berkeley join forces to advance frontier of brain repair
4. Conference highlights UC Berkeleys unique approach to green chemistry
5. Firefly glow: Berkeley Lab scientists develop a hydrogen peroxide probe based on firefly luciferin
6. Berkeley study shows ozone and nicotine a bad combination for asthma
7. UC Berkeley psychologists bring science of happiness to China
8. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and OpenHelixTM Announce an Updated Free Tutorial Suite for VISTA: Tools for Comparative Genomics
9. New findings contradict dominant theory in Alzheimers disease
10. Python Findings Shed Light on Human Heart Health
11. Contrary to earlier findings, excess body fat in elderly decreases life expectancy
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/25/2016)... ... May 25, 2016 , ... Researchers from SUNY State College of Optometry won ... on visual evoked potential and human attention. The article, VEP and Human Attention: ... NOVA™ ERG and VEP Vision Testing System (Diopsys, Inc., Pine Brook, NJ) to ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... TX (PRWEB) , ... May 25, 2016 , ... ... the United States, named Dr. Anh Tat Nguyen, as the Medical Director of its ... the facility Medical Director of our new DeSoto location,” said Dr. James M. Muzzarelli, ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... New Jersey (PRWEB) , ... May 25, 2016 , ... ... specialized technology firm will be selling the device branded as Stern’s Real Time ... is geared to bedbugs to the hotel and motel industry, colleges for use in ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... May 24, 2016 , ... According to ... that a group of people randomly assigned to reduce the amount of calories they ... 12 percent drop in body weight enjoyed better sleep, improved quality of life, and ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... ... 24, 2016 , ... BTC Media, a leading digital currency ... to be held in Nashville, Tennessee on September 7, 2016. , The conference ... the event will host teams from around the world, competing to build the ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:5/24/2016)... 2016 Les ... la première endoprothèse à double thérapie au ... portant sur les membres inférieurs et la ... entreprise mondiale spécialisée dans la fourniture de ... a élargi son portefeuille pour inclure des ...
(Date:5/23/2016)... PUNE, India , May 23, 2016 ... is spread across 163 pages, profiles 12 companies and ... 280 tables and figures on the industry and its ... study that is comprehensive in nature, details the current ... of the industry including definitions, classifications, applications and industry ...
(Date:5/23/2016)... , May 23, 2016 The World Health ... PrePex device to include adolescents aged 13 years, and ... can be offered for adult and adolescent males in the ... . PrePex was the first male circumcision device to ... MedTech,s CEO, Eddy Horowitz said: " The ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: