Featured Research

BU Addiction Researchers Focus on the Brain

Finding the key to lasting abstinence for substance abusers is a complex task. Mounting empirical evidence suggests that addiction is a chronic brain disorder,affected by a complicated mixture of biological and environmental factors. At Boston University, researchers are training their sights on how alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and even junk food can alter the brain and how it functions.

Explore four profiles highlighting this work at BU, as published in the latest edition of Research at Boston University.

The Road to Recovery: Unlocking the Secrets of Addiction

The Dark Side of Dieting

Pietro CottoneDoes trying to shed those extra pounds make you crave junk food more? That’s the “dark side”—eating to avoid feeling nervous and moody when dieting causes neurochemical substances to be released in the brain.

Research led by Pietro Cottone and Valentina Sabino at BU’s Laboratory of Addictive Disorders looks at the brain mechanisms behind this experience. Read More »

No Quick Fix

The key to reversing the cognitive dysfunction caused by substance abuse has eluded researchers for decades.  When a recreational drug enters a user’s system, neurotransmitters are overproduced, bombarding the brain’s reward system. The resulting euphoria teaches addicts to continue to reach for the drug that produces these incredibly pleasurable feelings. To stay clean or sober, they have to unlearn what the brain has taught them to do so well.

Work by BU researchers Michael Otto, Kathleen Kantak, Stefan Hofmann and Domenic Ciraulo is exploring how behavioral therapy can be combined with drugs to improve memory for what happens in therapy. Read More »

A Ticking Clock

zhdanovaWhat kind of havoc does cocaine wreak on the biological clock from prenatal development to old age?

That’s the question that keeps Irina V. Zhdanova awake at night. An associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology who runs the Laboratory of Sleep & Circadian Physiology, Zhdanova studies the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure. Because thousands of human babies have been exposed in utero to cocaine and other illicit drugs, understanding how to reverse the drug’s effects has significant implications for clinical practice. Read More »

Tying It All Together

The link between HIV/AIDS and intravenous drug use is well documented, and many countries around the world learned from mistakes made in the 1970s and 1980s, and are revisiting their public health policies to slow the rise of new cases.

“There is a huge chasm between the silos of HIV treatment and addiction treatment in Russia,” says Jeffrey Samet, chief of general internal medicine at the School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center and a professor of medicine and community health sciences. “There is very little communication between the two on how to coordinate care.”

Samet’s research in addiction medicine involves physician education, including mentoring junior faculty on clinical research skills, and appropriate primary care for substance abusers to foster disease prevention and management. Read More »