Researchers Search for Brain Areas Affected by Addiction

By Staff Writer

Marijuana addiction and dependencies on other substances may be a result of pre-existing alterations in a person’s brain that are out of their control, reaffirming the notion of addiction as a mental illness, experts say.

The association between potential brain differences and addiction has received much attention from scientific researchers lately. Many believe that changes in certain structures could play an important role.

Lynn Oswald, a researcher who recently studied the subject, said that a person who suffers from addiction likely has a susceptibility to the condition in the same way that a person with cancer had some kind of difference in their body that predisposed them to the illness.

While these alterations presumably predate a person’s addiction, Oswald said it is not known whether they are things people are born with or whether environmental factors can cause them.

Researchers are closing in on identifying the specific regions of the brain that are affected by addiction. A recent study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research found that the majority of alcoholics have smaller insula and supplemental motor cortex areas of their brains.