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Neural vulnerability mechanisms underlying stimulant addiction

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  • UserDr. Jeff Dalley, Behavioural and Clinical Neurosciences Institute, Department of Experimental Psychology, Cambridge
  • ClockTuesday 29 September 2009, 12:00-12:30
  • HouseWest Road Concert Hall.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Hannah Critchlow.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Clinical Neuroscience and Mental Health Symposium, 29th – 30th September 2009 at West Road Concert Hall. This event is free to attend for cambridge neuroscientists although registration is required. To register, and for further information, please visit:

Abstract: Despite intensive research its remains unclear why some individuals progressively lose control over their drug intake and become insensitive to the mounting adverse consequences that frequently accompany chronic drug abuse. The transition to compulsive patterns of drug seeking and taking is remarkably poorly understood in neural terms but has been strongly linked to certain personality styles including novelty and impulsive traits and co-morbid brain disorders such as conduct disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. This talk will focus on a naturally-occurring (‘trait-like’) form of impulsivity in rats that models key elements of individual vulnerability to stimulant addiction including increased propensity to develop habitual, compulsive patterns of cocaine self-administration and a strong tendency to re-instate responding for drug after a prolonged period of enforced withdrawal. The neural and neurochemical substrates of impulsivity in rats will be discussed including evidence for abnormal neurochemical modulation of prefrontal cortex and a corresponding reduction in dopamine D2-like receptor function in the ventral striatum, a key neural locus mediating the primary reinforcing effects of a wide array of abused drugs including the psychostimulant drugs cocaine and amphetamine. Additional empirical evidence will be presented showing (1) the functional involvement of dopamine in regulating impulse control tendencies within two key sub-regions of the ventral striatum, namely the core and shell of the nucleus accumbens and (2) the nature of interactions between the nucleus accumbens core and shell and inputs to these regions from functionally separable sub-divisions of the medial and orbital prefrontal cortices. The relevance of these data for theories of individual vulnerability for addiction will be discussed and integrated with recent emerging research on the underlying genetic influences of pre-disposition to stimulant addiction.

Biosketch: Jeff Dalley is the Canney Lecturer in Psychology and Medicine at Cambridge University held jointly between the Departments of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry. He is also a principal investigator and affiliated scientist of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at Cambridge University. His research interests span the areas of behavioural and systems neuroscience, neuropsychopharmacology, cellular neurophysiology and the application of genomic approaches and small animal MR/PET in rodent models of psychiatric disorder. Much of his present research involves understanding the genetic, neurodevelopmental and neurobiological bases of specific behavioural traits linked to drug abuse and addiction and is funded by the MRC , Wellcome Trust and European Commission. Jeff Dalley trained as a Pharmacist at Otago University in New Zealand (1983-1986) before completing a PhD as a Commonwealth scholar in Neuropharmacology at University College London in 1992. He then worked as a post-doctoral research scientist at UCL and Bristol University under the mentorship, respectively, of Clare Stanford and Dave Nutt before moving to Cambridge in 1996 as a research associate in the laboratory of Professors TW Robbins and BJ Everitt in the Department of Experimental Psychology.

This talk is part of the Clinical Neuroscience and Mental Health Symposium series.

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