Brain Awareness Week: How NIDA Contributes to Brain Research
It’s that time again here at the Sara Bellum Blog: Brain Awareness Week, sponsored by our friends at the Dana Foundation. This global campaign works to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research.
NIDA is all about researching the brain and sharing what we learn. Drug abuse and addiction disrupt the brain processes that influence motivation, memory, and learning. While researching addiction, NIDA scientists regularly make discoveries that contribute to our overall knowledge of how the brain works.
Here are two recent findings from NIDA that give us a new understanding of the brain.
- Most areas of the brain stop producing new neurons (the cells that transmit information from the brain to different parts of the body) after we’re born, but the hippocampus, a structure crucial to learning and memory, continues to form new neurons throughout life.
Recent NIDA-funded research suggests that drugs may reduce production of those hippocampal neurons, which may increase the risk of drug addiction.
- Compared to most people, those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol are more likely to go for instant gratification over long-term rewards. People who are dependent on drugs have trouble remembering the positive and negative consequences of their choices.
A NIDA study found that doing exercises to improve memory helped participants wait for a larger sum of money rather than accept a smaller one right away. This means that memory training may have a place in substance abuse treatment as a way to help patients reject quick drug highs in favor of the longer term satisfaction of a drug-free life.
While NIDA scientists are focused on reducing drug addiction and its consequences, their work provides knowledge of brain science that can be applied in other areas of health.