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Are People Wired For Drug Addiction? What Neuroscience Says

posted Feb 6, 2018, 2:05 AM by Dr. Curtis Cripe

In 2016, research from cognitive neuroscientists Brian Anderson of Texas A&M University proposed a new theory on the commonality of addiction. His research suggests: drug addicts, as well as non-addicts, have much more in common at cognitive and neurobiological levels than previously thought, showing that addiction may not be discriminating at all.

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It found that even persons without a history of addiction, for instance, can develop attentional biases mimicking addictive behavior. After going through classical conditioning between stimuli and a drug-free reward, the subjects identified as non-addicts responded to cues in ways equating to relapse for drug addiction.

Could this mean that people’s brain is “wired” for addiction?

Humans, as well as other organisms, engage in behaviors that are naturally rewarding, and the feelings of pleasure offer positive reinforcement so that the behavior is repeated. There are both natural and artificial rewards, such as illegal drugs. The reward pathway of the brain includes the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which is connected to the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex through the pathway. It sends information to those structures through its neurons. The pathway is activated by a rewarding stimulus.

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It remains unclear whether everyone has addiction-like tendencies influenced by the reward system in ways that sometimes go beyond one’s control. The possibility, however, is that treating addiction could become potentially more effective when professionals attempt to curb a normal cognitive process.

Dr. Curtis Cripe is the head of research and development at the NTL Group, which specializes in the development of brain-based technology for healing and repairing neurological dysfunctions. For more on Dr. Cripe and his work, click here.