We know that addiction is a brain disease because of studies which show the effects addiction has on the brain. And, that the addicted person’s behaviors and thought patterns are also affected by these brain changes. But, which parts of the brain does addiction impact the most? And, can these changes to brain chemistry play a part in how we can determine how to go about healing the addicted brain?
How Addiction Affects the Brain
According to a scientific study using mice, it has recently been determined that the cerebellum is part of the brain impacted by addiction. While it’s common knowledge that this part of the brain is responsible for how the body moves, it has also been discovered that the cerebellum affects how a person learns, develops language, and even manages their attention span. Furthermore, this relatively new study incorporates research that proves that the cerebellum is affected by the reward process, a big factor in the development of addictive behaviors and thought patterns.
Explaining the Reward Process and its Impact on Addiction
When people talk about “the reward process” of the brain, they are referring to the neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is a naturally produced hormone that is released in the brain to encourage behaviors we need to exhibit in order to survive. For example, when a person works out by running on a treadmill, their body releases dopamine, and the runner experiences a “runner’s high”. Another example would be the release of dopamine after eating a meal. In both scenarios, the brain releases dopamine to encourage the survival of the body by means of exercise and eating.
Behaviors we need for survival are not the only thing that stimulates the release of dopamine. Addictive substances can stimulate the release of dopamine too. So, when individuals are addicted to substances, they’re really addicted to how the dopamine makes them feel when it’s released into the brain as a result of drug use. so, when individuals seek out addictive substances in order to experience this dopamine high, this is known as “reward-seeking behavior”. And, points to differences in the way that the cerebellum reacts for these individuals.
The Importance of Studying the Addicted Brain
Understanding the way the brain is impacted by addiction can help us to determine which therapies are useful in treating the effects of addiction. And since we know that the reward process plays a huge part in the development of addiction, determining how the cerebellum plays a role in this process can be helpful to understand the direct symptoms of addiction.
Before the realization that the cerebellum was responsible for more than just movement, it wasn’t thought that the cerebellum was affected much by addiction. But, with MRI research, we now know that for many individuals with addictive tendencies, the cerebellum does not function as it should. Additionally, other MRI studies show that individuals living with addiction may experience increased cerebellum activity in response to specific stimuli which relate to drug use. In both cases, these findings about the cerebellum provide hope for further understanding of the development of addiction. And, in return, hopes to find lasting and effective treatment to address addiction.
Treating the Addicted Brain at Willow Place for Women
Here at Willow Place for Women, we understand how important it is to understand the brain as it is affected by the disease of addiction. This way, we may better understand addiction as a whole. And, gain insight into different ways to treat individuals who experience addiction. If you would like to learn more about addiction and the brain and how we can help you to better understand how addiction affects your biology, consider treatment at our facility.
During treatment, we provide educational resources and tools to help individuals not only develop helpful coping mechanisms needed to sustain sobriety, but also the knowledge needed to understand how addiction works. Give us a call today at 1-888-651-4212 to speak confidentially with one of our addiction specialists about how we can help!