A paper by Justin Rhodes and collaborators for the journal Physiology and Behavior reported results that could have implications for developing pharmaceuticals that specifically target cravings for addictive drugs while leaving the desire for food intact. The paper, titled Neuroanatomical specificity of conditioned responses to cocaine versus food in mice and published in the Feb. 27, 2008, issue of the journal, identified neuroanatomical specificity and reported on a region of the brain that was a key location for the differences.
Rhodes, a member of the Beckman Institute's NeuroTech group and an Assistant Professor of Psychology, studies the causal mechanisms underlying motivational behaviors with a focus on detrimental behaviors like drug addiction and alcoholism. His research looks at the overlapping neural circuits involved in drug addiction behaviors and in natural reward and reinforcement. In this study, he and his colleagues investigated whether specificity could be detected in conditioned brain responses to drugs versus food in specially bred mice.
"We found a brain region that plays a role in craving for food but not craving for drugs," Rhodes said. "This provides clues as to how the nervous system encodes normal forms of motivation differently from pathological motivation, and holds promise for medication development for addiction." To read the entire paper, click here.