Mechanisms for Drugs of Abuse

Our bodies are innately wired to seek and respond to reward. Aberrant regulation of the neural and molecular mechanisms underlying response to reward can lead to debilitating disorders such as addiction. Drugs of abuse exploit the neural circuitry of the brain’s natural reward pathways required for appetitive memory, which results in intense and long lasting cravings. However, the neural and molecular mechanisms that drive these cravings are unclear, and how they differ from memories of natural reward is virtually unknown. Our goal is to understand the neural and molecular mechanisms through which drugs of abuse such as alcohol, nicotine, amphetamines and opiates drive behavioral responses.