The brain networks that are linked to reward and motivation are common targets for addictive drugs and foods: the ability of these neural circuits to grow and reorganize—a process known as brain plasticity—can drive people to seek out certain foods and drugs. Dr. Stephanie Borgland, Canada Research Chair in Molecular Physiology of Addiction, aims to understand how this happens.
Borgland and her research team are testing how two neuropeptides (chemical messengers made released by neurons) can influence brain plasticity and motivate people to take morphine. They are also investigating how plasticity in the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex is influenced by an inflammatory response within the brain and by drug abuse. Ultimately, their research will increase our understanding of food and drug addictions and could lead to more effective treatments to subdue cravings.