Addiction is a tremendous health and financial burden on our society. A growing literature indicates that norepinephrine in the brain plays a key role in stress-reward interactions that may mediate key behavioral responses to drugs of abuse. A previously unappreciated group of noradrenergic neurons in the field of addiction, cells that project through the ventral noradrenergic bundle (VNAB), are thought to supply the key norepinephrine. The primary target of the VNAB in the brain is a group of nuclei referred to as the extended amygdala. In the previous funding period, we identified actions of each of the major classes of noradrenergic receptors on excitatory synaptic transmission in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, a major component of the extended amygdala. Here, we propose experiments to assess molecular mechanisms involved in these actions, and to begin to place these actions in the context of microcircuitry within the extended amygdala. Further, we propose to examine whether overlapping populations of neurons in the extended amygdala are activated by drugs of abuse and stressors, and whether this activation is regulated by noradrenergic ligands. In total, the proposed work will begin to define specific mechanisms likely to play key roles in stress-induced reinstatement of drug seeking behavior, thus providing new potential opportunities for therapeutic development.
Addiction poses an enormous health and financial burden on our society. Currently, our understanding of the brain circuitries involved in addiction is far from complete. The successful completion of these proposed studies will result in important new information about neurons that may be involved in addiction, potentially creating new targets for therapeutics development.
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