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Scientific Goals in Neuroscience

Goals in Basic Neuroscience

  • Continue and expand molecular structure-function studies to improve definition of molecular sites of abused drug action and possible therapeutic targets.
  • Elucidate cellular mechanisms of peptide trafficking, receptor signal transduction and gene regulation relevant to addiction.
  • Investigate "cross-talk" between brain structures and reward systems
  • Determine neurobiological events underlying vulnerability factors in drug taking (environmental, physiological/genetic, cognitive).
  • Develop new animal models for understanding drug taking and its consequences.
  • Determine the neurobiological bases of addiction as a possible manifestation of learning or memory.
  • Understand the mechanisms and consequences of prenatal and perinatal drug exposure.
  • Elucidate neurobiological mechanisms underlying pain and analgesia.
  • Elucidate pharmacologically induced neural plasticity.
  • Extend the mapping of the neuroanatomy and neurochemistry of the brain reward system as it relates to reward, dysphoria, withdrawal and craving.
  • Determine the effects of drug abuse on neuro-endocrine, immune and autonomic systems.
  • Elucidate gender differences in the neurobiology of addiction.
  • Develop neurobehavioral models of risk-taking and self control.
  • Understand the neurobehavioral bases of addiction using animal and human laboratory models of tolerance, dependence, sensitization, and craving.
  • Examine the role of environmental factors and their neurobehavioral correlates in modulating drug abuse.

Goals in Clinical Neuroscience

  • Expand research on the effects of drugs of abuse and addiction on the structure and function of the human brain
  • Determine the effects upon human brain of pharmacological, non-pharmacological, and behavioral treatments for drug abuse and addiction
  • Characterize in detail the neurobiology of addiction from initiation of drug use to addiction and from withdrawal to craving to relapse.
  • Identify the role of etiological factors in the progression from initiation of drug abuse to drug addiction
  • Investigate the neurobiological underpinnings of differences between individuals and populations in drug abuse patterns.
  • Elucidate the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs of abuse and therapeutic drugs in the human brain.
  • Expand research on the effects of acute and chronic exposure to drugs of abuse on CNS development and maturation.
  • Understand the interactions between drugs of abuse AIDS-HIV encephalopathy.
  • Determine the neurobiological, etiologic and mechanistic relationships of drug abuse and mental disorders.
  • Determine the effects of drugs of abuse on cognitive processes as well as the role of cognitive processes in drug-seeking behavior.
  • Work with the NIH Neuroscience Blueprint to support the development of new tools, training opportunities, and other resources to assist neuroscientists in both basic and clinical research.

Goals in Medications Development

  • Coordinate and encourage academic, private, and federal regulatory involvement in developing and bringing to market new medications for the treatment of substance abuse disorders.
  • Discover and develop agonist and/or antagonist based therapies for the treatment of cocaine and methamphetamine addiction.
  • Investigate and develop compounds that prevent relapse to drug taking caused by precipitating stimuli, or so-called “triggers,” that appear common to all substance abuse disorders.
  • Explore the therapeutic potential of catalytic antibodies and other immunological approaches for the management of cocaine and nicotine dependence.

This page was last updated March 2012

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