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Study will probe long-term brain changes in addiction

September 8, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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A National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) grant will allow a University at Buffalo researcher to seek a further understanding of the short- and long-term neurobiological changes that are caused by addiction and that often contribute to relapse after long-term sobriety.

David Dietz, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the university's medical school, will focus on a signaling pathway known as transforming growth factor-beta signaling. This pathway is believed to regulate long-term effects of genes that sustain brain rewiring that is caused by use of drugs such as cocaine.

“The addict's brain is forever rewired. The question is, how can we interfere with those changes?” Dietz said in a news release from the university. “How can we either prevent the rewiring in the addicted state or somehow reverse it?”

The $2 million grant will be used to gain a broader understanding of how the brain changes at different stages following abstinence from substance use. It is hoped that the research will help identify potential therapies for stimulant addiction, an area that presently lacks effective drug treatments.