What Part Of The Brain Is Responsible For Addiction
There are several parts of the brain involved in addiction. They are:
the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of cells below the cortex in the basal forebrain that produces the urge to pursue a goal. Sometimes called the pleasure center of the brain, it is a key player in the reward circuitry of the brain and releases dopamine in response to positive experiences and the anticipation of such experiences.
dopamine neurons, which are concentrated in the nucleus accumbent and form pathways of connection to other parts of the brain when activated by positive experiences.
the prefrontal cortex, which is the seat of such executive functions as judgment, decision-making, impulse control it gradually weakens in response to overactivation of the reward circuits by drugs of abuse.
the amygdala, which registers emotional significance of perceptions, is highly responsive to drug-related cues and sets in motion the rise and fall of craving.
the hippocampus, seat of memory under the influence of dopamine, the memory of an expected reward results in overactivation of the reward and motivation circuits and decreased activity in the cognitive control centers of the prefrontal cortex.
The Top Tools Being Utilized For Research On The Brain In Recovery
Functional brain measurement techniques:
Methods that provide dynamic physiological information about brain function/activity. Functional imaging techniques allow scientists to measure the contributions of various structures to specific psychological processes . Commonly obtained while participants complete tasks, functional images offer insight to the brain regions that are activated, or recruited, to perform a given task. Atypical brain function in patient populations can include reduced neural activation or a different pattern of brain activation as compared to healthy control populations.
- Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Also known as a functional MRI , this imaging technique measures brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow and oxygenation.
- Numerous studies utilizing functional magnetic resonance imaging have shown that drug cues elicit increased regional blood flow in reward-related brain areas among addicted participants that is not found among normal controls
See the fMRI in action:
Structural brain measurement techniques:
Imaging techniques that allow one to examine the brains anatomical structure. Structural imaging provides static information, and is analogous to taking a photograph of the brain. These images permit evaluation of gross anatomical abnormalities, including tissue atrophy and reduced white matter integrity .
What Is The Brain Disease Model Of Addiction
The disease model of addiction, which arose in the 1950s to counteract the view of addiction as a moral failing, is based on the observation that addiction involves biological changes in the brain. The brain alterations change the way the brain worksnotably in the dopamine systemto create the craving, the progressive inability to exert control, and other dysfunctions associated with substance use.
The view of addiction as a disease is consonant with some facts about the condition. It suggests that drug use is difficult to quit. It has prompted the development of pharmaceuticals that can ease withdrawal symptoms. The disease model of addiction, studies show, also fosters more compassionate attitudes towards those who are addicted and more human treatment. Addiction is also viewed as a disease in order to facilitate insurance coverage of any treatment.
In addition, mounting evidence suggests that the brain changes of addiction do not reflect abnormal processesthey are the same processes involved in all learning. And the addicted brain returns to normal, gradually rewiring itself after substance use stops.
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Which Brain Chemical Is Associated With Addiction
The brain chemical that plays a starring role in addiction is the neurotransmitter dopamine. Addictive drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and many othersand eventually, just the anticipation of consuming those agentscause a flood of dopamine to be released in the nucleus accumbens of the brain, creating an intensely pleasurable sensation. That pleasurable reward reinforces the behavior, motivating the user to seek the experience again and again. Dopamine is released in response to sex, accomplishment, winning, and other positive experiences, creating the sensation of reward and motivating the desire for repetition of the experience, but the dopamine response to drugs like heroin and cocaine is especially fast and intense.
The neurotransmitter glutamate is also involved in addiction. Widely distributed in the brain, its general role is to activate the firing of neurons its called an excitatory neurotransmitter. Glutamate helps mediate the rewarding effects of drugs of abuse and speeds the hard-wiring of substance response into the brain.
How Does The Brain Work
The brain is often likened to an incredibly complex and intricate computer. Instead of electrical circuits on the silicon chips that control our electronic devices, the brain consists of billions of cells, called neurons, which are organized into circuits and networks. Each neuron acts as a switch controlling the flow of information. If a neuron receives enough signals from other neurons that it is connected to, it fires, sending its own signal on to other neurons in the circuit.
The brain is made up of many parts with interconnected circuits that all work together as a team. Different brain circuits are responsible for coordinating and performing specific functions. Networks of neurons send signals back and forth to each other and among different parts of the brain, the spinal cord, and nerves in the rest of the body .
To send a message, a neuron releases a neurotransmitter into the gap between it and the next cell. The neurotransmitter crosses the synapse and attaches to receptors on the receiving neuron, like a key into a lock. This causes changes in the receiving cell. Other molecules called transporters recycle neurotransmitters , thereby limiting or shutting off the signal between neurons.
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There Really Sad Outcome
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How Does Addiction Hijack The Brain
The very fast and very intense flood of dopamine generated by taking a drug of abuse motivates repetition of the drug-taking. Under the influence of dopamine, that repetition changes the wiring of the brain in ways to increase the drug-wanting and decrease the ability to regulate the drug usage. What starts as a choice becomes so deeply wired into the brain that the machinery of desire operates automatically, and the machinery of attention narrows focus to the drug and getting it. The brain loses the capacity to respond to other potentially rewarding activities. The desire for reward ultimately becomes a prison from which it is difficultbut not impossibleto escape.
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How Do Drugs Work In The Brain
Drugs interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters. Some drugs, such as marijuana and heroin, can activate neurons because their chemical structure mimics that of a natural neurotransmitter in the body. This allows the drugs to attach onto and activate the neurons. Although these drugs mimic the brains own chemicals, they dont activate neurons in the same way as a natural neurotransmitter, and they lead to abnormal messages being sent through the network.
Other drugs, such as amphetamine or cocaine, can cause the neurons to release abnormally large amounts of natural neurotransmitters or prevent the normal recycling of these brain chemicals by interfering with transporters. This too amplifies or disrupts the normal communication between neurons.
Are Brain And Addiction The Worksheet Answers At The Synapse To Help
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Constellation Of Protective Factors
In this poster-building activity, students place themselves at the center of a constellation. They surround themselves with the protective factors that they have and ones that they want to develop .
Have students work individually
- Protective factors decrease the likelihood of risk-taking behaviors, including drug misuse.
- Individuals have the ability to increase their protective factors.
Large pieces of paper or poster board , glue, scissors
Copies of cut-outs
Note: The protective factors listed in this PDF are generalized from a number of sources and appear to be broadly accepted. You may wish to:
- Use factors that are consistent with other addiction prevention curricula that your students might be familiar with.
- Use factors from the resources listed in the Risk Continuum pdf file, below.
- Ask your students to brainstorm about protective factors. Discuss them as a class, and make a list for students to draw from.
Risk and protective factors do not necessarily cause or prevent disease themselves. Some are causative, and others are markers that are associated with healthy or disease states.
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What Parts Of The Brain Are Affected By Drug Use
Drugs can alter important brain areas that are necessary for life-sustaining functions and can drive the compulsive drug use that marks addiction. Brain areas affected by drug use include:
Some drugs like opioids also disrupt other parts of the brain, such as the brain stem, which controls basic functions critical to life, including heart rate, breathing, and sleeping. This interference explains why overdoses can cause depressed breathing and death.
What Role Does The Brain Play In Addiction
The brain plays a leading role in addiction, just as it plays a role in all human behavior. The choice to try a drug is a decision that that is centered in the executive portion of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. Once consumed, the drug delivers a powerful stimulus to the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells below the cerebral cortex, which responds quickly by releasing a flood of dopamine. The neurotransmitter dopamine is often called the pleasure molecule, but it is more correctly defined as a chemical that underlies motivation. It focuses attention on and drives people to pursue specific goals.
The sensation of pleasure orchestrated by dopamine likely arose to encourage repetition of behaviors that support individual and species survivaleating, interacting with others, having sex. The high level of direct stimulation by drugs of abuse powerfully encourages repetition. Addiction can be seen as hacking the brain by drugsa way to create a direct path to feeling good.
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New Insights Into A Common Problem
Nobody starts out intending to develop an addiction, but many people get caught in its snare. Consider the latest government statistics:
- Nearly 23 million Americansalmost one in 10are addicted to alcohol or other drugs.
- More than two-thirds of people with addiction abuse alcohol.
- The top three drugs causing addiction are marijuana, opioid pain relievers, and cocaine.
In the 1930s, when researchers first began to investigate what caused addictive behavior, they believed that people who developed addictions were somehow morally flawed or lacking in willpower. Overcoming addiction, they thought, involved punishing miscreants or, alternately, encouraging them to muster the will to break a habit.
The scientific consensus has changed since then. Today we recognize addiction as a chronic disease that changes both brain structure and function. Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain. This happens as the brain goes through a series of changes, beginning with recognition of pleasure and ending with a drive toward compulsive behavior.
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New Insights Into The Causes Of Addiction
Addiction involves craving for something intensely, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences. Addiction changes the brain, first by subverting the way it registers pleasure and then by corrupting other normal drives such as learning and motivation. Although breaking an addiction is tough, it can be done.
The Biochemistry Of Addiction
The brain responds to addiction based on a number of factors, such as the type and number of drugs used, the frequency of use, and the stage of addiction that has developed. If someone uses Cocaine, for example, they will notice a feeling of euphoria. This occurs because Cocaine is Psychoactive and impacts the area of the brain that controls pleasure and motivation. There is a short and powerful burst of dopamine, the chemical that causes many to feel euphoric. This feeling can be so intense that a strong desire to continue using may form.
The more someone abuses a drug, the more they may continue using it unless they get help overcoming a life-threatening addiction. Once the chemical has affected the brain, individuals can feel physical symptoms as well as the impact of the chemical throughout their nervous system. Symptoms can include a rapid heartbeat, paranoia, nausea, hallucinations, and other disturbing sensations the individual has little control over. He or she may become consumed with abusing the substance to maintain their habit no matter the cost. As a result of this powerful grip of substance abuse, individuals can begin acting in unrecognizable ways this may concern friends and family.
Common Questions About Rehab
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Key Points To Understand The Brain And Addiction:
1. Some characteristics of addiction are similar to other chronic diseases.
Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and changes its functioning, addiction changes the brain and impairs the way it works. Below is an image of the brain and the heart .
These images show how scientists can use imaging technology to measure functioning of the brain and heart. Greater activity is shown in reds and yellows, and reduced activity is shown in blues and purples. Both the healthy brain and the healthy heart show greater activity than the diseased brain and heart, because both addiction and heart disease cause changes in function. In drug addiction, the frontal cortex in particular shows less activity. This is the part of the brain associated with judgment and decision-making .
Addiction is similar to other chronic diseases in the following ways:
- It is preventable
- If untreated, it can last a lifetime
2. Substances of misuse trick the brains reward system.
Below is a picture of the brain and the nucleus accumbens, in addition to some other brain regions that are affected by addition.
The brains nucleus accumbens activated by alcohol
Addictive drugs can provide a shortcut to the brains reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. Additionally, addictive drugs can release 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards do, and they do it more quickly and reliably.
3. The brain can recover but it takes time!
What Do Brain Imaging Studies Show About Addiction
Brain imaging studies reveal which structures of the brain are involved in addiction, the intensity of their involvement, the networks of connectivity between them, how connectivity is configured and reconfigured in response to stimuli, and how the structures and circuitry influence addiction-related behavior.
One of the most notable findings of brain imaging studies of addiction is the degree to which, through dopamine pathways, the prefrontal cortex is consistently dysregulated, disempowered in response to activation of the nucleus accumbens by drug cues. Brain imaging studies help explain how drug cues biologically narrow focus on the substance of abuse, motivate the drive to get it, and impair rational decision-makingbrain changes that make addiction a self-perpetuating condition.
Imaging studies also reveal that many substances of abuse are related to reduction in volume of specific areas of the cerebral cortex, reflecting a pruning of synapses to make the brain highly efficient in drug-seeking. The loss of synaptic density underlies a biologically based inability to respond to the wide range of other, more natural rewards. Ongoing research suggests that imaging studies measuring cortical thickness and brain response to a decision-making task may reveal who is most susceptible to relapse and could benefit from particular types of supportive treatment, such as cognitive therapies that strengthen executive control.
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