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Stanford Medicine

Addiction, Behavioral Science, Neuroscience

Sucrose-craving rats shed light on neural pathways responsible for addiction

A University of Michigan study  shows that my irresistible midnight cupcake cravings may stem from dopamine-induced neural signals. In other words, totally not my fault.

In the study, researchers trained rats to predict tasty treats by association with a series of sound cues.  Researchers then injected mice with both dopamine and opioids, stimulating corresponding circuits in the rats’ brains. Both chemicals caused rats to respond to the sound cues with hyperactive desire (i.e., craving) for their upcoming dessert.  Opioid chemicals additionally caused rats to feel increased pleasure while indulging their collective sweet tooth. These findings suggest that the brain uses separate signals to indicate desire and pleasure.

A better understanding of the complexities of dopamine and opioid neural circuits, one or both of which are triggered by the majority of addictive drugs, may lend itself to valuable insights into addiction treatment.

Via Futurity
Photo by evablue

2 Responses to “ Sucrose-craving rats shed light on neural pathways responsible for addiction ”

  1. Lois Says:

    I wonder if in drug or alcohol addiction, the desire is there but it is more difficult to get pleasure; therefore, plenty of dopamine, but decreasing supply of opioids to satisfy the desire.

  2. Eva Valenti Says:

    Lois – Maybe! The fact that these pathways exist independently of one another is a key piece of information when it comes to understanding and treating addiction.


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