Key brain area plays a crucial role in addiction

By Ana Sandoiu

ngd- A nuance on the old idea that all learning involves movement…

New research finds that the cerebellum, a large part of the human brain that scientists thought was primarily involved in motor control, may play a key role in reward-seeking and social behaviors. The findings may help inform future therapies for treating addiction.

(S)ome studies have found that the cerebellum does not function properly in people with addictive behavior, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), cognitive affective syndrome, and schizophrenia.

Other MRI studies have shown that the cerebellum of people living with addiction is hyperactive in response to stimuli that their addiction relates to, such as an image of a syringe.

“The notion that the cerebellum did much beyond controlling movement was met with a lot of skepticism,” explains the study’s senior author, “and no one had any real clues as to how the cerebellum might affect dopamine release.”

Scientists have dubbed dopamine the “sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll” neurotransmitter due to its key role in reward-seeking behavior. When humans — or primates — receive a pleasurable reward, be it at the end of a learning process or for recreational purposes, their body releases the hormone.

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