Center of Excellence in Addiction Studies
We seek to understand how neural circuits of pain and addiction behaviors overlap and operate as an integrated experience. Prevention and treatment strategies for substance use disorders can be designed by understanding the reciprocal influence of chronic drug use and chronic pain on these neural circuits to influence the pain experience and to promote addictive behaviors.
Addiction and relapse are characterized by dysregulation of brain circuitry that involves diminished activity of brain reward circuits, increased responsiveness of stress circuits and impaired functioning of executive cortical circuits. Neural changes are observed in the basal ganglia, extended amygdala and prefrontal cortical regions and encompass a wide range of endogenous neurotransmitters including dopamine, opioid peptides, endocannabinoids, corticotropin releasing factor, dynorphin, glutamate and others.
While chronic pain and addiction are different disorders, there is a remarkable overlap between the influence of drugs of abuse and chronic pain on these circuits.
THE PRIMARY EFFORT is to assist researchers new to the field of substance abuse research to advance novel ideas about addiction biology in a dynamic and collaborative scientific atmosphere.
CEAS’ core services emphasize cell-specific analysis using Cre-recombinase technology and CRISPR-Cas9 methods to elaborate brain circuit function.
Available analytical techniques include measurement of neurotransmitter levels across extraordinary timescales (sub-millisecond to multiple days).
Behavioral outcome measures focus on assessment of positive/negative affective states that drive motivated behaviors relevant to addiction and relapse.
Investigators in the pilot research project are advancing the development of novel techniques to allow simultaneous in vivo recording of electrical and neurochemical activities.
The interdependent nature of the core facilities enables individual researchers to expand their funded projects.