Timothy P. Condon, Ph.D.
The 2004 Frontiers in Addiction Research mini-convention brought together participants from diverse scientific disciplines to share advances and discuss future directions in the neuroscience of drug abuse and addiction. The application of NIDA-supported neuroscience research will enable even greater advances vital to reducing drug abuse, addiction, and their related consequences.
During the Behavioral Neuroscience of Nicotine Addiction section of the program, presenters discussed recent critical findings in the areas of behavioral neuroscience of nicotine addiction, with a particular emphasis on the nicotinic receptor and novel CNS circuitry as they relate to addictive behavior. The topic areas of this symposium were chosen to highlight a range of nicotine research, including the motivationally positive and negative aspects of nicotine. The symposium also provided the additional benefit of an overview of various approaches and models that can be used to study the neuroscience of nicotine, ranging from animal behavioral paradigms to studies with human subjects.
There has been a remarkable evolution of functional biomedical imaging methods into powerful tools in drug abuse research. The Creative Directions in Imaging portion of the program centered on this remarkable evolution. Presenters highlighted state-of-the-science examples of imaging research in animals that are now possible using PET, MRI, and optical methods.
Brain resiliency and repair is an exciting frontier in neuroscience, yet few drug abuse researchers are looking toward clinical interventions that are currently being evaluated for other neurodegenerative diseases. Presentations on Mechanisms of Brain Resiliency and Repair addressed the relation of neural injuries induced by drug abuse to the innate capacity of CNS neurons to repair themselves and to regenerate connections. The speakers were leaders in neural recovery and examined the role of chemical and trophic interventions to enhance repair and connectivity.
Historically, the primary focus of research on the neurochemical mechanisms involved with drug abuse and addiction has been on the central monoaminergic systems. However, recent research has implicated glutamate as an important neurotransmitter associated with the various aspects of drug addiction. In The Role of Glutamate in Drug Addiction session, researchers focused their discussions on recent findings that support the integral role of glutamate in brain plasticity related to certain drugs of abuse.