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Unique interaction discovered between brain regions involved in addiction, depression

Science Spotlight

September 22, 2014


NIDA IRP researchers have discovered a unique interaction between a nerve cell in the brain’s ventral tegmental area and the lateral habenula - a pathway implicated in mental health disorders such as addiction and depression. This nerve cell releases both excitatory (glutamate) and inhibitory (GABA) chemicals, contrary to long-established theories assuming release of a single chemical (either glutamate or GABA). This previously undiscovered form of chemical communication allows for either increases or decreases in lateral habenula activity, which provides much more flexibility in modulating brain function compared to the single transmitter model.

These results open new avenues to examine the role of this pathway in a variety of mental disorders and may aid in the development of new mental health therapeutics.

For a copy of the article, go to: www.nature.com/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nn.3823.html. For more information on the lead author Dr. Marisela Morales, and research being conducted in her lab, go to: http://irp.drugabuse.gov/Morales.php.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at media@nida.nih.gov or 301-443-6245.

NIDA Press Office

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at www.drugabuse.gov, which is now compatible with your smartphone, iPad or tablet. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or email requests to drugpubs@nida.nih.gov. Online ordering is available at drugpubs.drugabuse.gov. NIDA’s media guide can be found at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/dear-journalist, and its easy-to-read website can be found at www.easyread.drugabuse.gov. You can follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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    NIDA. (2014, September 22). Unique interaction discovered between brain regions involved in addiction, depression. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2014/09/unique-interaction-discovered-between-brain-regions-involved-in-addiction-depression

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