Neurobiological Underpinnings of Addictions

Colorized image of human brain.

Photo credit: National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services

CRIA scientists conduct groundbreaking research about the brain mechanisms that create a vulnerability to addiction in order to develop alternative approaches to treating addiction.

Research at CRIA focused on the neurobiological underpinnings of addiction ranges widely from prenatal and postnatal substance exposure on the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway; to the endocannabinoid (eCB) system and stress response and anxiety-related behavior; to neuropeptides, craving and anxiety during abstinence; to animal models of risky behavior and impulsivity.

Current neurobiological research

  • Prenatal Ethanol Exposure on Executive Function
    The study will investigate if prenatal alcohol exposure leads to immature neurodevelopment of the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain region controlling executive function.
  • Prenatal Ethanol Exposure and Nitric Oxide Signaling in Serotonin Neurons
    Researchers will study how prenatal alcohol exposure alters the function of the brain's serotonin system.
  • Prenatal Tobacco and Cannabis Exposure: A Translational Study
    Researchers will address the large public health problem of comorbid use of tobacco and cannabis during pregnancy.
  • Effects of Prenatal Cocaine on Early Brain Functional Connectivity and Behavior
    Grewen | Eiden
    Researchers will study the effects of prenatal cocaine and other drug exposures including opiates on the development of infant brain connections during the first year of life.
  • Mapping Heterogeneous Dopamine Signaling in Sub-Regions of the Olfactory Tubercle and its Effect on Psychostimulant-Induced Behaviors
    The study will help define the role of the olfactory tubercle (OT) in mediating substance use disorder-related neurochemical and behavioral phenomena and will provide more effective therapeutic targets.
  • Nicotine Amplification of Behavioral and Neural Responses to Alcohol Cues
    This study will use animal models of alcohol drinking to determine under which conditions nicotine enhances alcohol intake.
  • TAAR 1 Modulation of Addiction-Related Effects of Nicotine
    This research explores the potential therapeutic value of Trace Amine Associated Receptor 1 (TAAR 1) agonists for nicotine addiction.