Summer 2017

Turning off addiction

Illustration by DAN BEJAR

U neuroscientist Mark Thomas is seeking a neural “switch” that can turn off relapse behavior in people recovering from addiction.

By stimulating neurons in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which connects to the brain’s reward center, Thomas and his team stopped opioid-addicted mice from engaging in drug-seeking behavior. Funded in part by philanthropy and the U’s MnDRIVE initiative, their work shows that specific neurons are involved in relapse and may be controllable.

 “We know the brain is changing in maladaptive ways because of drug exposure,” Thomas says. “If we understand those changes, we can potentially disrupt them to reduce problematic drug use.”

Hear more from Thomas about why addiction fascinates him:

Courtesy of University Relations