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The Neurobiology of Addiction Research Center (NARC)

Welcome

The personal, social and criminal consequences of psychostimulant abuse and dependence are enormous problems throughout the world, and no proven pharmacotherapies are yet available to treat psychostimulant addicts.  Understanding the neurobiology of addiction to cocaine and other stimulants is critical to designing treatments with the potential to lessen or eliminate addiction.

The primary goal of the Neurobiology of Addiction Research Center (NARC) is to identify the neurobiological basis of why an addict’s motivation to obtain cocaine is so great, and why their ability to develop behaviors that compete with drug use is impaired.  To accomplish this goal, we have brought together cell biologists, behavioral neuroscientists and clinicians whose careers are devoted to finding new and effective cures for addiction. By probing the molecular basis of how cocaine changes the brain, investigators are determining which of the proteins that regulate communication between nerve cells are most greatly affected in rats trained to self-administer cocaine. This involves not only measuring proteins, but characterizing changes produced in the structure of the nerve cells and measuring physiological responses in the nerve cells that are changed by cocaine. This range of measurements provides the first step towards a cure.  Not only does it tell us which parts of the brain are most affected, but also which molecules are the most eligible candidates to target in treating addiction. 

The next stage of research in the NARC is to use the rat model of relapse to determine if normalizing the proteins and physiological processes affected by cocaine can prevent cocaine relapse.  In order to restore brain function, we typically start by directly manipulating brain chemistry with genetically altered viruses or drugs that target specific protein functions.  Once a treatment is effective in the animal model, as a prelude to a treatment for addicts, we explore new or existing drugs that can be administered systemically and cause the same effect at a cellular and behavioral level.  If this is successful, we initiate pilot experiments in humans to evaluate efficacy in cocaine addiction. 

As you explore this website, you will find that we have identified many possible new treatments, some of which are now in clinical trials.  Your comments and questions are welcome, and we can be contacted at:  donova@musc.edu

Peter Kalivas

Peter Kalivas, Ph.D.
Director of the NARC

 
 
 

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