Say What? "Neuroscience"

An illustration of the human body and central nervous system.


“Say What?” is a periodic series in which we define scientific terms and explain their importance.

This blog has reported a lot about how drug use affects the brain, especially the teen brain. For those discoveries, we can thank the field of neuroscience.

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system. Your nervous system helps you think, feel, and act. It also controls things your body does without thinking—really important things, like breathing.

The nervous system includes your brain, spinal cord, and all your nerves. Together, your brain and spinal cord are the nervous system’s main “processing center.” 

Neuroscientists—scientists who study (you guessed it) the nervous system—examine everything from the inside of cells to cell networks, to how the nervous system controls how people behave and act. Neuroscientists may study how the brain normally works and what could happen to it when things aren’t so normal—like when a person misuses drugs. 

When a person takes drugs over a period of time, it can change how their brain functions. In fact, drugs can make such big changes in the way parts of the brain function that the person sometimes can’t stop using drugs or alcohol—even when they want to. That’s addiction.

Neuroscientists and other kinds of researchers work together to find ways to prevent or treat diseases like addiction that affect the brain and other parts of the body. 

So, neuroscience is important. Understanding how the nervous system works can help us understand, prevent, and improve treatment for problems with drugs. 

Watch a video on how the teen brain develops.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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