Prefrontal-cortico-amygdalar circuitries underlying cue-induced reinstatement and the effects of amphetamine sensitization on responding for food reinforcement

With drug addiction, people typically resume seeking drugs if exposed to cues associated with the drug. This phenomenon, called cue-induced reinstatement, is frequently studied, but a number of neurological issues have yet to be addressed. Two parts of the brain may be a common link in the neural circuitry underlying these cue-induced responses. These are the amygdala, the portion of the brain that regulates emotions, and the prefrontal cortex, a part of the frontal lobe involved in executive functioning. The two areas respond differently to cues for food rewards than to drug cues. Ryan McLaughlin is investigating the similarities and differences in how these areas of the brain regulate food and drug rewards to determine if the difference results from long-term alterations in brain function, brought about by repeated drug use. If so, this research will confirm that chronic drug abuse can radically alter how the brain processes information and could eventually lead to new treatments for people trying to recover from drug addiction.