Be Aware for Your Brain: Drugs Change Critical Parts

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parts of the brain impacted by drugs

Lydia V. Kibiuk, Society for Neuroscience, Brain Facts

There’s no better time than the upcoming Brain Awareness Week, from March 11‒17, to learn more about the most fascinating organ in your body.

The pictures at the right (from the Society for Neuroscience, a partner of the Dana Foundation for Brain Awareness Week) show some of the most critical parts of your brain.

Here’s what each part is primarily responsible for—and guess what? As the pictures show, these are also the brain regions most affected by drugs of abuse:

Prefrontal cortex: This part is often referred to as the “CEO of the brain.” The prefrontal cortex is responsible for critical thinking and abstract thought, as well as many other functions like focusing attention, organizing thoughts, controlling impulses, and forming strategies for future action. The prefrontal cortex is one of the last regions of the brain to mature, so changes caused by drug abuse could have long-lasting effects.

Nucleus accumbens: Part of the so-called “pleasure center,” the nucleus accumbens is thought to play an important role in reward, pleasure, laughter, aggression, and fear.

Amygdala: Research shows that the amygdala has a major role in processing memory and emotional reactions, such as fear. The amygdala is part of the limbic system.

Hippocampus: Also part of the limbic system, the hippocampus plays important roles in moving information from short-term memory to long-term memory.

Ventral tegmental area: This structure is important in thinking, motivation, and intense emotions relating to love.

Scientists are constantly studying the brain and learning more and more about how different brain structures relate to addiction. We know drugs change the brain, but the effects of these changes are not yet fully understood.

Protect your brain. Make the healthy choice to stay away from drugs and alcohol.

What questions do you have about the brain? Let us know in comments. And Happy Brain Awareness Week!

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