Using science to combat addiction

In this Policy Forum, Keith Humphreys and colleagues highlight the need for science, and particularly neuroscience, to inform policies that address addiction. Their recommendations are timely given that on 27 June, a U.S. presidential task force is slated to present policy recommendations to combat opioid addiction. On average in the U.S., 91 people per day die of opioid overdose.

Over the course of recent history, technological advances have enabled addictions to become more prevalent and overpowering, the authors say. For example, in the mid-nineteenth century it took a factory worker about one minute to roll a cigarette, and the resulting product was so harsh that few people could inhale it deeply enough to become addicted to nicotine.

Now, in one minute a machine can roll 20,000 cigarettes, which are sweetened and blended to allow deep inhalation that promotes nicotine addiction. Although technological advances have contributed to increasing rates of addictions, science can also be used to counteract addictions. Humphreys et al. cite ways in which science can inform better drug regulation, for example in the context of marijuana.

Full story of using science to combat addiction at Science Daily

Scientists Find Brain Region That Helps You Make Up Your Mind

One of the smallest parts of the brain is getting a second look after new research suggests it plays a crucial role in decision making.

A University of British Columbia study published in Nature Neuroscience says the lateral habenula, a region of the brain linked to depression and avoidance behaviors, has been largely misunderstood and may be integral in cost-benefit decisions.

“These findings clarify the brain processes involved in the important decisions that we make on a daily basis, from choosing between job offers to deciding which house or car to buy,” says Prof. Stan Floresco of UBC’s Dept. of Psychology and Brain Research Centre (BRC). “It also suggests that the scientific community has misunderstood the true functioning of this mysterious, but important, region of the brain.”

In the study, scientists trained lab rats to choose between a consistent small reward (one food pellet) or a potentially larger reward (four food pellets) that appeared sporadically. Like humans, the rats tended to choose larger rewards when costs — in this case, the amount of time they had to wait before receiving food-were low and preferred smaller rewards when such risks were higher.

Full story of the brain and decisions at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education