We’re learning more all the time about how drugs affect a person’s health. A lot of what we know comes from studies of how drugs interact with the human brain. Researchers who study this interaction are doing very cool work that has shown the way our brains react to drugs, why different people react differently to them, the long-term effects of using drugs, and how people become addicted to them.
Brain researchers are one kind of “neuroscientist” (neuroscience is the study of the nervous system). Their studies have helped to solve mysteries such as:
- How drugs affect different areas of the brain.
- How drugs impact the brain’s “reward system” and lead to addiction.
- Why teens are more susceptible to (less protected against) drug use disorders than many adults are.
Brain, say “cheese”
Brain scientists are constantly searching for new ways to learn about the brain. Taking images of brain activity lets scientists see what happens in the brain when a person has different kinds of experiences. These “brain imaging” techniques can show how various areas of the brain are connected to each other, and—in the case of addiction studies—how those connections are affected when someone uses drugs.
For example, brain imaging studies have shown possible reasons why some teens engage in risky behavior like drug use, even when they know it’s risky.
Becoming a brain scientist
Some people are so intrigued by what brain scientists do, they consider pursuing a career in brain research. NIDA scientist Dr. Dave Thomas is one of those people; in this video, he talks about why he studies “addiction science.”
Maybe a career in brain research interests you, too, or you’re just curious to learn more about this research and the different types of brain scientists. Brain Awareness Week is March 14–20; check out the events happening where you are!
You can find out more from these sites:
- The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology Through the Study of Addiction
- Jobs for Neuroscientists
- A Career in Brain Science and Cognitive Psychology – Cognitive psychologists use brain studies to develop software, and to find out how people interact with computers, work in organizations, and more.
- Careers in Cognitive Neuroscience