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Portrait of addiction
Brain imaging techniques bring addiction into focus

   
 

A TASTY CHOCOLATE TREAT, A $100 MILLION JACKPOT, A BEAUTIFUL SYMPHONY, A LINE OF COCAINE, A SYRINGE OF HEROIN.

These stimuli, though outwardly different, spark a similar conversation inside our cranium. The chemical banter between our brain's pleasure centers aims to reward the actions that brought pleasure and ensure that we repeat those behaviors.

This ancient and elaborate system has served us well ---encouraging us to seek out and consume nourishing food, to reproduce, and to work diligently for our paychecks so that we can continue eating and reproducing.

Unfortunately, drugs of abuse have hijacked this system in many people. Despite the varied chemical make-up of these drugs, they all stoke our reward system in the same way.

"These systems did not develop for the purposes of cocaine (or any other drug)," says David Zald, Ph.D., assistant professor of Psychology at Vanderbilt University and an investigator with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development. "These drugs directly act on the system for natural rewards, manipulating the system that was already in place." continued..

WRITTEN BY MELISSA MARINO
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEAN DIXON

 
 
 
 
 
 
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