Three UK-based brain scientists were recently awarded one of the most prestigious titles for their efforts in the field of addiction research.
Peter Dayan, Ray Dolan and Wolfram Schultz were honored by the Lundbeck Foundation’s major research award “The Brain Prize” for their work which explores how learning is involved with the reward system of the brain.
The three prizewinners investigated the underlying mechanics within the brain that contribute to compulsive gambling, drug addiction and alcoholism. Specifically, their research illustrates how dopamine neurons react when there is a difference between expectation and reality.
“The research of these three prizewinners offers far-reaching perspectives on our understanding of human behavior and how we make decisions. Their research has also provided a valuable key to understanding what goes wrong when people succumb to compulsive gambling, drug addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia,” said Professor Sir Colin Blakemore, the chairman of the foundation’s selection committee.
Using a combination of mathematical modeling and human trials, researchers found that dopamine is released as a response to the difference between a reward we expect and the one we actually receive. The link between the brain’s reward pathway and dopamine has been studied previously. But, this research is new in that it demonstrates the compounding effect of the expectation of that reward.
“Mapping the connection between learning and reward is essential if we’re to understand human behavior and how to improve treatment of brain disorders. With elegant experiments and mathematical models, the prizewinners have described how dopamine plays a crucial role in the motivation that drives learning,” says Professor Morten Kringelbach, a brain researcher at the universities of Oxford and Aarhus.
At Synergy Group Services, we firmly believe in the value of addiction research. Using evidence-based insights, the addiction rehab community as a whole can develop new, and even more effective treatment modalities to help individuals dealing with substance abuse issues. We look forward to seeing more investments in the areas of biomedical and addiction-related research.
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