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Brain has a switch in it: Adicted/Not Addicted

PosTMOd

Well-Known TRIBEr
Brain receptor switches addiction on, off: study

Findings suggest that enzyme may be manipulated pharmacologically to control brain receptor

by Jessica Whiteside

Jan. 20, 2004 -- The discovery of a molecular "addiction switch" in the mammalian brain has the potential to control the addiction process in drug addicts, say U of T researchers.

A study published Jan. 18 in the online edition of Nature Neuroscience finds that a region of the brain called the VTA contains receptors that, when exposed to a certain enzyme, can control the switch from an addicted to non-addicted state and back again. This goes against previous ideas that viewed drug addiction as a permanent change in the brain, says lead author Steven Laviolette who conducted the research while a PhD student at U of T's Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology with senior author Professor Derek van der Kooy.

"Our findings suggest that instead of a permanent alteration in the brain, there's actually a switch that goes on between two separate systems (one that mediates the brain's response to drugs while not yet addicted and the other that mediates response once addicted)," says Laviolette. "They also suggest we may be able to manipulate that switch pharmacologically to take drug addicts back to a non-addicted state in a relatively short period of time so they do not crave the drug."

The switch is a brain receptor known as GABA-A; an enzyme - carbonic anhydrase - produced by the body controls how the receptor behaves. In studies with rats, the researchers were able to manipulate the enzyme with a drug to control whether it turned this switch on or off. Without such intervention, the brain can switch back to a non-addicted state following a period of withdrawal from drugs - a process often measured in weeks. By manipulating the enzyme pharmacologically, however, that return to a non-addicted state in rats has been reduced to a matter of hours, says Laviolette, now a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh.

"The same anatomical pathways that we're manipulating in rats also exist in humans so we hope that this will be applicable to human drug addiction as well," he says.

Collaborators on the study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, included Roger Gallegos and Steven Henriksen of the Scripps Research Institute in California.
Jessica Whiteside is a news services officer with the department of public affairs.
 

noisy

TRIBE Member
that's very interesting.

i notice they don't mention any particular kind of drug. does that mean then that addiction to anything does the same thing to the brain? so one day a cigarette smoker and a heroin addict may take the same drug to quit their respective substances?

i often hear people speak of physical v. psychological addiction. assuming that distinction has some basis in fact, I guess this potential drug's utility will be in dealing with the former?
 

Bass-Invader

TRIBE Member
hmm, wouldn't that 'switch' be used for alot of normal things too?

like its sunday, so you and your mom go out and do a truckload of heroin. You're all wanting some more, but need to go to work tommorow, so you turn this 'switch' off.

Now all of a sudden you lose all motivation, don't want girls, don't care about getting outta bed, all kinds of wierd life things are missing.

Oh well, i'm not the doctor.
 
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I_bRAD

TRIBE Member
Originally posted by Bass-Invader
hmm, wouldn't that 'switch' be used for alot of normal things too?

like its sunday, so you and your mom go out and do a truckload of heroin. You're all wanting some more, but need to go to work tommorow, so you turn this 'switch' off.

Now all of a sudden you lose all motivation, don't want girls, don't care about getting outta bed, all kinds of wierd life things are missing.

Oh well, i'm not the doctor.
Good point, and one not brought up by a lot of people. I think people get distracted by "easy" answers sometimes without considering the full consequences. I heard a radio interview last week with one of the scientists working on this and it did sound quite interesting though. If they could pull this off without any side effects it would be one of the great medical advancements of all time IMHO! Apparently it works on rats at this point- and humans are in the works for the future.
 
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