Addictions Overview

Addiction is a state defined by compulsive engagement in naturally rewarding behavior or compulsive drug use, despite adverse consequences; it can be thought of as a disease or biological process leading to such behaviors.

The main components of a ‘reward system’, and how it connects to brain areas involved in motivation and emotion, are now defined, and much has been discovered about the chemical messenger systems such as dopamine and noradrenaline that are fundamental to the mechanism of addiction.

Breakfast increases dopamine levels, reduces food intake

“Our research showed that people experience a dramatic decline in cravings for sweet foods when they eat breakfast,” said Heather Leidy, an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology.

“However, breakfasts that are high in protein also reduced cravings for savory – or high-fat – foods. On the other hand, if breakfast is skipped, these cravings continue to rise throughout the day.”

Cigarette smoking and thinning of the brain’s cortex

A major study shows new evidence that long-term smoking could cause thinning of the brain’s cortex.

The cortex is the outer layer of the brain in which critical cognitive functions such as memory, language and perception take place. Interestingly, the findings also suggest that stopping smoking helps to restore at least part of the cortex’s thickness.

Molecular Psychiatry, 2/10/15 (open)

Multitasking hunger neurons

In the absence of food, neurons that normally control appetite initiate complex, repetitive behaviors seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and anorexia nervosa, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers.

Neurons in the hypothalamus that control food intake are also involved in other behaviors. Known as Agrp neurons, these cells also control repetitive, stereotypic behaviors in mice when food is not available, the researchers discovered. Cell 3/5/15

Drugs and the brain on Britain’s Channel 4

Live television tackling scientific documentary, education on safe drug use, stories from users themselves, and debates on international drug policy.

Two episodes completed to date: The Ecstasy Trial. “Onraveling the mysteries of MDMA, revealing how the drug affects the brain” and Cannibis on Trial, “Volunteers take part in a scientific trial looking at the effects on the brain of cannabis.

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