Research conducted at the University of Missouri suggests that the same brain activation processes that can govern physical activity could be applied to providing reward to addicted individuals without the use of substances.
Published in the journal Neuropharmacology, the rodent study found that the process of chemically activating mu-opioid receptors that release dopamine resulted in dramatically reduced activity in normally energetic rats. “Since exercise and addiction to substances follow this same chemical process in the brain, it stands to reason that activating these receptors in people with dangerous addictions could provide the same rewards they are craving without the use of dangerous drugs or alcohol,” said Greg Ruegsegger, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in the university's College of Veterinary Medicine.
The group of active rats in the study had 400% more reward receptors in the brain than did inactive rats, the researchers found. The researchers reported that activating or shutting off mu-opioid receptors in the inactive rats did not have a significant effect on their activity levels.