Tue19Feb20196:00 pmUptown Coffee, 265 North Lamar Blvd, Oxford, Mississippi
Oxford Science Cafe
Dr. Erin Calipari,
Department of Pharmacology,
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
The Neuroscience of Addiction
We are currently in the middle of an opioid epidemic. Thus, understanding the behavioral and neurobiological factors that drive drug addiction is urgent and critical to public health. One of the most important aspects of drug addiction is the active decision to seek out and take the drug, most often at the expense of other rewards or in the face of negative consequences. Normally, organisms use information in their environment to make decisions that maximize positive – and minimize negative – outcomes. However, addicted individuals value taking drugs above all other outcomes, an effect that drives their decision- making strategies. By using animal models that allow animals to “self-administer” drugs we can determine which cells in the brain are controlling their decision to take the drug and then silence or activate these neurons to change the way that animals are behaving in their environment. By combining complex behavioral models with tools that allow us to record and manipulate different cells and circuits in the brain in awake and behaving animals we can determine how these cells help animals make decisions and develop pharmacological tools to promote abstinence and prevent relapse in addicted individuals.