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UM Researchers Locate Brain Region Responsible For Triggering Addiction

In a study published in the December issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, University of Michigan researchers say they have located the specific spot in the brain responsible for triggering addiction. The researchers believe that a better understanding of the neural pathways responsible for addiction will lead to better therapy and treatment for those affected.

In a university press release, lead author Mike Robinson, a former postdoctoral Fellow, spoke about the potential implications of the research: “understanding what part of the brain is involved in causing intense narrowing of focus to make one reward valued at the detriment of all others might provide crucial insights into treating addiction and excessive/compulsive consumption disorders.”

The study, titled “Optogenetic Excitation of Central Amygdala Amplifies and Narrows Incentive Motivation to Pursue One Reward Above Another,” looked at how a group of rats would respond when presented with situations that allowed them to choose between activating the amygdala region of their brain while receiving a sugary reward and simply receiving a sugary reward. Coupled with several important control tests, this experiment yielded results indicating that activation of the amygdala region of the brain enhanced motivation for pursuing external rewards (sugary treats) at the expense of everything else. Their behavior was a staunch deviation from what is considered normal action-reward moderation necessary for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Photo Credit: University of Michigan News – Jared Wadley.


– Mike Robinson is currently an assistant professor of psychology at Wesleyan University.

– Co-authors: Shelley Warlow and Kent Berridge

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