Sussex Addiction Research and Intervention Centre (SARIC)


We are pleased to announce the following speakers:

Thursday, 08 December 2022, 13:00-14:00 - Fulton Building (Room 201), University of Sussex

Dr Anna Goldberg

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Neuroscience in criminal law: using addiction as an example

With an increase of neuroscientific techniques and insights over the past decades, including neuropsychological developments, the potential relevance thereof for (criminal) law has not gone unnoticed. The academic discipline neurolaw aims to explore the potential impact of neuroscience on the law, and research in this discipline can be roughly divided into three approaches. First, scholars discuss the role of neuroscience in addressing an individual’s liability: an individual, or micro level approach. A more collective (or meso-level) approach would rather assess the influence of neuroscientific evidence or perspectives on the perception and capacities of a particular group of people or a general (mental/physical) condition. Lastly, a structural or macro-level approach can be taken, to examine the potential of neuroscience to change the legal framework as we know it.

During the colloquium talk, I will discuss these three approaches in some more detail, using addiction as an example. Our understanding of substance use disorders has changed drastically when the contribution of brain processes, and the prolonged neural consequences of substance use, were taken into account. Hence, addiction is a great example to discuss the consequences of neuroscientific insights onto the law, by studying whether the approach towards addicted offenders have been affected by such an increased neuroscientific understanding. Before going into detail, a basic introduction to criminal liability as well as to addiction will be provided, meaning no prerequisite knowledge of either field is required.

Host: Dr Paloma Manguele.

For more information about the research conducted by Dr Anna Goldberg please click here.

Monday, 31 January 2022, 16:00-17:00 - SARIC Virtual Seminar, Zoom, University of Sussex

Dr Nii Addy

School of Medicine
Yale, USA

L-type calcium channel regulation of dopamine and motivated behavior in preclinical models of substance use and mood disorders.

Dr. Addy’s research focuses on the neurobiological processes underlying substance use disorders, mood disorders, and comorbid substance use and mood disorders. Dr. Addy’s team uses multiple methodologies, including behavioral paradigms such as intravenous drug self-administration, acute and chronic stress paradigms, and anxiety and amotivation paradigms, along with integrated pharmacological, in vivo electrochemical, and in vivo optogenetic methods to investigate these mechanisms. Dr. Addy will present his preclinical findings, revealing cholinergic and L-type calcium channel processes in the mesolimbic dopamine reward system that robustly mediate substance use and mood disorder behavioral phenotypes through regulation of dopaminergic activity. Dr. Addy will also describe ongoing work with potential therapeutic compounds, targeting subtype-specific muscarinic receptors and L-type calcium channels. He will describe upcoming clinical collaborative studies, based on his team’s recent preclinical findings. Finally, Dr. Addy will discuss his career journey as an academic researcher, mental health advocate, diversity equity and inclusion leader, and host of the Addy Hour podcast.

Host: Dr Bryan Singer

For more information about the research conducted by Dr Nii Addy please click here

Tuesday, 02 March 2021, 14:00-15:00 - SARIC Virtual Seminar, Zoom, University of Sussex

Monday, 26 April 2021, 13:00-14:00 - SARIC Virtual Seminar, Zoom, University of Sussex

Dr Carrie FerrarioDr Carrie Ferrario

Department of Pharmacology
University of Michigan, USA

Basal differences and diet-induced changes in motivation and striatal function; implications for obesity

In recent years, Dr Ferrario has won numerous Young Investigator awards for her work on the neurobiology of drug addiction and obesity (with a focus on glutamatergic plasticity). Her lab successfully integrates various preclinical research approaches (e.g., chemo- and optogenetics, electrophysiology, biochemistry, complex behavioural analyses).

Host: Dr Bryan Singer

For more information about the research conducted by Dr Carrie Ferrario please click here

Tuesday, 02 March 2021, 14:00-15:00 - SARIC Virtual Seminar, Zoom, University of Sussex

Dr Yasmin HurdDr Yasmin Hurd

Director, Addiction Institute
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, USA

Unlocking the Neurobiological Impact of Developmental Cannabis and Psychiatric Risk

The sociopolitical landscape has dramatically changed worldwide regarding the medical and recreational use of cannabis. This talk will provide insights about advances made about the neurobiological underpinnings of developmental cannabis/THC exposure that maintains a long-term impact on adult behavior. The research describes translational and multidisciplinary scientific approaches ranging from molecular, epigenetic and behavioral studies in animal models as well as human clinical studies.

Host: Dr Bryan Singer

For more information about the research conducted by Dr Yasmin Hurd please click here

Thursday, 18 February 2021, 13:00-14:00 - SARIC Virtual Seminar, Zoom, University of Sussex

Prof Robert Rogers

School of Psychology
Bangor University, UK

Risk-tolerant inter-temporal preferences, serotonergic receptor activity and temporal-difference learning in humans and mice

Preferences for variable over fixed delay schedules are consistently observed across species, reflecting risk-tolerant biases that prioritise obtaining food resources at the earliest possible opportunity. Here, we investigated this issue by asking young healthy adults to make decisions about when they might next eat highly palatable food rewards. We show that preferences for instrumental contingencies involving consumed-on-the-spot food rewards involve the incremental computation of action-values that are powerfully moderated by recent experiences of quick food rewards; that these computations are moderated by motivational state and link directly to peoples evaluation of actions involving foods, their behaviour in making food selections and their broader eating experiences. We also validate these findings in mice, demonstrating inter-temporal biases are modulated by 5-HT2c receptor activity function and involve the operation of parallel learning and evaluative mechanisms cross-species.

Host: Dr Bryan Singer

For more information about the research conducted by Prof Robert Rogers please click here

Monday, 08 February 2021, 15:00-16:00 - SARIC Virtual Seminar, Zoom, University of Sussex

Dr Marco VenniroDr Marco Venniro

Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology
University of Maryland School of Medicine, USA

Reverse translation to study drug addiction and identify new brain mechanisms

The goal of our research, and of the addiction field in general, has not merely been to identify neuropharmacological and circuit mechanisms of drug addiction and relapse. The goal was to achieve prospective predictive validity—the ability to identify new treatments. As I will describe in the lecture, the classical relapse model in its traditional form has not appreciably changed the options available to patients in need of relapse prevention. This shortcoming is not unique to relapse, but it is an increasing source of disappointment, and it calls for a regrouping.

In our laboratory, we have regrouped by developing a set of approaches that begin with reverse translation. As a first step, we have mimicked behavioral treatments that are largely successful in humans: contingency management, and community-reinforcement approach. None of these treatments is universally effective in the clinic, and, this, too, can be modelled in our rats. These reverse-translated “treatments” are an ecologically relevant platform from which we can move on to translation itself, using different methods to discover new relapse-related circuits and to identify new medications for relapse prevention in “treated” or post-“treated” rats. In the lecture, I will introduce these animal models, describe our initial pharmacological and circuit results, and discuss implications for treatment.

Host: Dr Silvana De Pirro

For more information about the research conducted by Dr Marco Venniro please click here

Monday, 07 December 2020, 13:00-14:00 - SARIC Virtual Seminar, Zoom, University of Sussex

Dr Karine GuillemDr Karine Guillem

CNRS, Institut des Maladies Neurodégénératives
Bordeaux Neurocampus, France

Neuronal encoding of drug choices and preference in the orbitofrontal cortex

Human neuroimaging research has consistently shown that drug addiction is associated with structural and functional changes within the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). In view of the important role of the OFC in value-based decision-making, these changes have been hypothesised to bias choice towards drug use despite and at the expense of other competing pursuits, thereby explaining drug addiction. Here I will present in vivo recording data in the OFC supporting this hypothesis in a choice-based model of addiction where rats could choose between two actions, one rewarded by a drug (cocaine or heroin), the other by a nondrug alternative.

Host: Dr Eisuke Koya

Monday, 30 November 2020, 13:00-14:00 - SARIC Virtual Seminar, Zoom, University of Sussex

Dr Leah MayoDr Leah Mayo

Assistant Professor, Center for Social and Affective Neuroscience
Linköping University, Sweden

The endocannabinoid system as a mediator of stress and reward processing in humans: implications for clinical treatment

The endocannabinoid system is a neuromodulatory system implicated in a range of behaviors, including stress, affect, and reward processing. As such, it has been proposed as a novel therapeutic target for stress-related psychiatric disorders. In particular, enhancing endogenous cannabinoid signaling through inhibition of primary degradative enzymes may offer an efficacious treatment strategy with fewer detrimental side effects. To better understand how these pharmacological interventions may prove useful, we have begun to characterize endocannabinoid function in human behavior.

This presentation will summarize studies assessing endocannabinoid function in affect and reward processing in humans, particularly in the context of environmental challenges such as stress or alcohol exposure. Evidence will come from studies employing an array of methodological approaches, including behavioral, psychophysiological, pharmacological, and neuroimaging methods. The presented data will help delineate evidence-based therapeutic opportunities for leveraging cannabinoid function to treat psychiatric disease.

Host: Dr Bryan Singer

For more information about the research conducted by Dr Leah Mayo please click here

Monday, 23 November 2020, 14:00-15:00 - SARIC Virtual Seminar, Zoom, University of Sussex

Prof Cecilia FloresProfessor Cecilia Flores

Department of Psychiatry
McGill University, Canada

Vulnerability to Developmental Effects of Drugs of Abuse in Adolescence: Who, When and How?

Adolescence is an age of increased vulnerability to addiction, but we still know very little about the cellular and molecular processes ongoing during adolescent brain development and how they are influenced by drugs of abuse. This talk focuses on the emerging role of axonal guidance cues in the maturation of the prefrontal cortex in adolescence and its implications for psychiatric susceptibility and resilience. Drugs of abuse target guidance cue systems in adolescence, altering the organization of prefrontal cortex connectivity and cognitive function in adulthood. The impact of these effects is sexually dimorphic and depends on the specific adolescent period.

Host: Dr Bryan Singer

For more information about the research conducted by Professor Cecilia Flores please click here

Monday, 16 November 2020, 16:30-17:30 - SARIC Virtual Seminar, Zoom, University of Sussex

Prof Marina WolfProfessor Marina Wolf

Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience, School of Medicine;
Oregon Health and Science University, United States

Synaptic mechanisms maintaining persistent cocaine craving

The major challenge in treating drug addiction is that recovering addicts remain vulnerable to drug craving and relapse even after long periods of abstinence. The goal of the Wolf lab is to understand synaptic mechanisms that maintain this persistent vulnerability to relapse.

Most of our studies use the incubation of craving model. Incubation refers to the progressive increase in cue-induced craving that develops after discontinuing drug self-administration. Craving remains at high (incubated) levels for months. Incubation of craving also occurs in humans.

Our work has focused on excitatory synapses in the nucleus accumbens, a key brain region for motivated behavior. My talk will describe published and unpublished work showing profound alterations in all of the major glutamate receptors in the NAc (AMPA, NMDA and metabotropic glutamate receptors) after incubation of cocaine craving and discuss predicted consequences for information processing in the NAc.

Host: Dr Bryan Singer

For more information about the research conducted by Professor Marina Wolf please click here

Wednesday, 21 October 2020, 16:00-17:00 - SARIC Virtual Seminar, Zoom, University of Sussex

Prof Richard VellemanProfessor Richard Velleman

Co-Director, Addictions Research Group and Senior Research Fellow, Sangath Community Health NGO, Goa, India;
Emeritus Professor of Mental Health Research, University of Bath, UK

Helping people with alcohol problems in India by giving psychology away: Revisiting western challenges and solutions in low and middle income countries

I’ve always been interested in ‘giving psychology away’ and have in my career developed interventions for use by both specialists and non-specialists alike. More recently, I have tried to take these ideas a few steps further, seeing if one can use the same principles to try to make changes on a global canvas, especially in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs), where the challenges are generally far greater.

10 years ago I joined an NGO named Sangath, in Goa, India, which is committed to undertaking research to improve mental health by developing appropriate psychological and social therapies and pioneering and researching ways of making mental healthcare more accessible and affordable for the wider community. Sangath was set up and run for many tears by Prof Vikram Patel, one of the leading figures in Global Mental Health ( and see his TED talk: although he is less involved now than he was. 5 years ago within Sangath I formed (with one of my colleagues there) the Addictions Research Group, and at the moment I am engaged in a number of major projects, most based in Goa in India, but with some being replicated or scaled up in other areas of India, and all with the potential to cover a much wider range of LMICs. My role within Sangath is to bring these ‘giving psychology away’ ideas to the organisation, and to mentor senior staff to obtain research grants and write papers so that Sangath continues to grow and develop in the post-Vikram-Patel era.

This presentation will introduce a number of the projects we have developed, and will go into more detail about one or two, especially the Premium Project, with some information about how the interventions developed for that project are starting to be utilised in other LMICs. It will also outline some of the key approaches we are using to ‘give addiction studies away’ to others within LMICs.

Host: Dr Bryan Singer and  Dr Daniel Michelson

For more information about the research conducted by Professor Richard Velleman please click here or here

Thursday, 17 October 2019, 14:00-15:00 - School of Psychology Colloquia, The Meeting House, University of Sussex

Prof Kent BerridgeProfessor Kent Berridge

James Olds Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Department of Psychology;
University of Michigan, USA

Liking and Wanting in the brain

Liking and wanting usually go together for pleasant rewards, but turn out to have separable brain mechanisms.

Addictions may arise from this liking/wanting separation. ‘Liking’ is generated by a surprisingly frail and tiny network of hedonic hotspots in brain limbic structures. ‘Wanting' for the same pleasures has a much more robust and larger brain network involving dopamine systems. Surprisingly, the ‘wanting’ system also may have a paradoxical relation to fear. The relation between liking, wanting, and fear systems has further implications for understanding clinical disorders beyond addiction, including depression and schizophrenia

Host: Professor Aldo Badiani

For more information about the research conducted by Professor Kent Berridge please click here

Thursday, 12 September 2019, 14:00-15:00 - School of Psychology Colloquia, Pevensey 1 - 2D11, University of Sussex

Professor Paul VezinaProfessor Paul Vezina

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience;
The Univerisity of Chicago, USA

Sensitization, uncertainty, and drug taking

I will present some of our work showing how sensitization promotes drug taking and how changes in dopamine-glutamate signaling in the ventral forebrain mediate this effect. I will also describe our recent work exploring behavioral and neurochemical commonalities between the effects of drug sensitization and those produced by repeated intermittent exposure to conditions of uncertainty, as experienced in games of chance.

Our goal is to understand how altered activity in the neurotransmitter circuits of the basal ganglia contributes, with its psychological complements, to both drug and behavioral addictions such as gambling disorder.

Host: Professor Aldo Badiani

For more information about the research conducted by Professor Paul Vezina please click here

Thursday, 16 May 2019, 14:00-15:00 - School of Psychology Colloquia, Pevensey 1 - 1A6, University of Sussex

Dr Karen BachiDr. Keren Bachi

Department of Psychiatry
Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health
The Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, USA

Psychosocial pathways in addiction: brain structure, function, and putative underlying neuroimmune mechanisms.

Impairments in social cognition and functioning are recognized as core illness features associated with atypical brain function in multiple neuropsychiatric illnesses.

Increasingly, impairments in social information processing have also been implicated as core symptoms of drug addiction, whereby the brain regions engaged by social cognition in healthy individuals (e.g., prefrontal cortex, superior temporal sulcus, temporoparietal junction, amygdala, hippocampus, anterior cingulate cortex, and the temporal poles) are implicated in the pathophysiology of drug addiction. Hence, addiction impacts the very same circuits that enable self-monitoring and complex social functioning. Individuals with substance use disorder frequently experience social stress (e.g., childhood maltreatment) which may shape neural and physiological responses to social interactions and exacerbate illness risk.

However, to date, studies of the neural correlates of social cognition in addiction are limited, and specifically literature about the brain function underlying social information processing in individuals with cocaine use disorder remains in its infancy. Knowledge regarding the neural underpinnings of social cognition/function in this population can help to facilitate treatment efficacy and recovery.

This presentation will summarize multimodal imaging and behavioral findings, including childhood trauma effects on gray matter in orbitofrontal cortex of cocaine addicted individuals and observed associations with psychological comorbidity.

Our findings further demonstrate aberrant neural correlates of mentalizing (social inference) and social navigation as associated with severity of drug dependence and social functioning in this population.

I will also discuss how via activation of sympathetic stress systems and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, immune dysregulation may provide a psychobiological link between chronic social stress, deficits in mentalizing and social processing and drug addiction.

Host: Professor Aldo Badiani

For more information about the research conducted by Dr Keren Bachi please click here

Thursday, 9 May 2019, 14:00-15:00 - School of Psychology Colloquia, The Meeting House, University of Sussex

Dr Lee HogarthDr. Lee Hogarth

Department of Psychology
University of Exter, UK

Drug addiction is a disorder of excessive goal-directed choice in negative affective states, not habit or compulsion

Addiction may be driven by excessive valuation of the drug as the goal of intentional choice (especially in negative affect states), or a habit driven by strong stimulus-response associations, or a compulsion driven by discounting (neglecting) costs imposed on drug-seeking.

The human studies described in this talk favour the excessive goal-directed choice account and contradict the habit and compulsion accounts. Contradicting habit theory, a series of human outcome-devaluation studies failed to demonstrate a predilection for habit learning in treatment-seeking addicts or students with greater dependence symptoms. Contradicting compulsivity theory, sensitivity to costs imposed on drug-seeking is comparable across levels of dependence symptom severity.

By contrast, dependence symptom severity in clinical and sub-clinical samples is reliably associated with greater goal-directed choice of the drug over alternative rewards (as demonstrated in outcome devaluation procedures). Furthermore, negative mood and stress states augment goal-directed drug choice, and individuals who report psychiatric symptoms and substance use to cope with negative affect are more sensitive to these induction effects.

Finally, substance use to cope with negative affect statistically mediates the relationship between psychiatric symptoms and substance dependence severity. Together, these studies suggest that drug dependence is not driven by habit or compulsion, but by excessive valuation of the drug as the goal of voluntary choice, especially during negative affective states in those with psychiatric comorbidity. Implications for optimising addiction treatment are discussed.

Host: Professor Dora Duka

For more information about the research conducted by Dr Lee Hogarth please click here

Tuesday, 7 May 2019, 13:00-14:00 - Sussex Neuroscience Seminar Room, CRPC Building 4.03, University of Sussex

Prof Keith HumpreysProfessor Keith Humphreys

Professor and Section Director for Mental Health Policy

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Standford University, USA

Brains, Drugs, and Public Policy

The regulation of alcohol, tobacco, opioids, and other addictive drugs is fundamentally political but can be informed by research findings, certainly including those from neuroscience.

Neuroscience has made enormous progress in describing the impact of addictive drug consumption on the brain, including its decision-making apparatus.

However, the lead causes of addiction at the population level in the past 150 years emerge from outside the brain, namely in a substance saturated environment which human beings are poorly equipped by evolution to negotiate. This implies that public health and safety regarding drug can best be maximized by applying the lessons of neuroscience and related fields to policies regarding drug availability and the treatment of addiction.

That said, all policies around drugs let societies choose what type of drug problem they want to have; no policy will eliminate the problem either in absolute terms or with the perspectives of all observers.

Dr Humphreys will illustrate these points both with reference to the scientific literature and to his experiencing advising the U.S. and U.K. governments.

Host: Dr Silvana De Pirro and Professor Aldo Badiani

For more information about the research conducted by Professor Keith Humphreys please click here

Monday, 24 September 2018, 13:00-14:00 - Sussex Neuroscience Seminar Room, CRPC Building 4.03, University of Sussex

Jeff DalleyProfessor Jeff Dalley

Department of Psychiatry and Psychology
Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute
University of Cambridge, UK

Predisposition to addiction - Clues from longitudinal MRI and translational neuroscience

Addiction to various classes of abused drug (stimulants, alcohol, opioids) mysteriously afflicts some but not all individuals.

Notwithstanding the evident complexity and idiosyncratic nature of addiction many now accept that distinctive neurobehavioural endophenotypes make unique contributions to the various stages of addiction – from initiation and recreational drug use to increasing levels of consumption involving repeated bouts of intoxication, withdrawal and relapse. Although research in experimental animals has increased our understanding of addiction beyond ‘simple’ reinforcement mechanisms, debate still surrounds the validity and translation of such findings (mainly in rodents) to real-world addiction in humans.

This talk reflects on: (i) the so-called translational divide in addiction research, in particular the strengths and weaknesses of categorizing putatively causal traits (anxiety, impulsivity, incentive conditioning, novel seeking and preference) to aspects of addiction; (ii) the inference of ‘addiction’ in experimental animals, and (iii) how progress in this field has been advanced by the translational methodologies of MRI and PET.

Host: Dr. Ilse Pienaar

For more information about the research conducted by   Professor Jeff Dalley please click here

Friday, 7 September 2018, 14:00-15:00 - John Maynard Smith (JMS) Building, room 4D13 University of Sussex

dr_steve_mahlerDr. Steve Mahler

Department of Neurobiology and Behaviour
University of California, Irvine, USA

The DREADDed Weed: Chemogenetic Dissection of Dopamine Function after Adolescent Cannabinoid Exposure

Adolescence is a critical window of maturation for reward-related brain circuits, which is in part orchestrated by endocannabinoid (ECB) signaling.
Exogenous perturbation of cannabinoid transmission with drugs like cannabis during adolescence may therefore have consequences on mesolimbic reward circuit development, and persistently alter motivated behavior into adulthood. ECB signaling regulates ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA) projections to forebrain regions like nucleus accumbens (NAc) and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), yet it remains unclear how exogenous cannabinoid receptor stimulation during adolescence alters DA circuits, and DA-dependent behaviors.

Here, I discuss our recent dissections of DA system function in adult tyrosine hydroxylase: Cre (TH:Cre) rats following adolescent dosing with a rewarding cannabinoid drug, and find several long-lasting alterations in DA stimulated endocannabinoid transmission, neural activity in reward circuits, and motivated behavior.

Our results reveal that adolescence is a critical window of development during which even small doses of cannabinoids drugs can persistently alter mesolimbic DA circuit neural and endocannabinoid activity, causing potentiated reward-seeking behaviors that could increase vulnerability to later-life addiction or other psychiatric disorders.

Host: Dr. Eisuke Koya

For more information about the research conducted in the Mahler Lab please click here

Thursday, 26 July 2018, 13:00-14:00 - Sussex Neuroscience Seminar Room, CRPC Building 4.03, University of Sussex

Professor_Wolfgang_SommerProfessor Wolfgang Sommer

Professor for Psychiatry at the University of Heidelberg,
Chair of the Department of Addiction Medicine,
Deputy director of the Institute for Psychopharmacology 
Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany

Losing control: alcohol, glutamate and the prefrontal cortex

The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is critically involved in cognitive flexibility and top down control over behavior in both in humans and animals. How these mPFC functions are organized and implemented on the neural level is so far unknown.

Importantly, mPFC function is progressively compromised by chronic or excessive alcohol consumption. A potential pathomechanism underlying the alterations in neuronal function is dysregulation of glutamatergic neurotransmission.

Among these alcohol-induced changes is a long-lasting deficit of metabotropic glutamate receptor 2 (mGluR2) in mPFC neurons of both humans and rodents. This deficit comprises a common pathological mechanism for excessive alcohol cue reactivity and impaired cognitive flexibility as demonstrated in rat models of cue-induced alcohol seeking and attentional set shifting, respectively.

To further understand how the mPFC exert control over behavior, we have developed methods for tracing and manipulating the activity state of the glutamatergic neurons.

We found that distinct sets of neurons in the mPFC play a key role in alcohol seeking. To further investigate the dynamics of local networks within mPFC and their relation to the expression of alcohol seeking behaviors we are currently setting up microendoscopic calcium imaging of neuronal activity in freely moving rats.

According to Hebb’s concept of neuronal ensembles, specific sets of neurons may interact in the storage and processing of memories, and this principle has recently been demonstrated for the pursuit of several drug or natural rewards. Initial results will be discussed in the context of ensemble concept and for their potential ramifications to alcohol use disorders.

Host: Professor Dora Duka

Wednesday, 30 May 2018, 17:30-18:30 - Fulton B Lecture Theatre, University of Sussex

Rudi Fortson QCRudi Fortson QC

Visiting Professor of Law
Queen Mary University
Indipendent practing Barrister
Sussex Prior Fault Team

Drugs and Harm Reduction: Has the UK lost its Crown?

The UK, which was once a pioneer and leader in the field of drug harm-reduction, is now falling behind other countries.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which has often been criticised as an instrument of prohibition, was designed to be regulatory and sufficiently flexible to respond to harmful effects of drug use that are sufficient to constitute a social problem.

In the event, the intensity of UK drug laws has increased while the incidence of recreational and problematic drug use remains high. Harm reduction initiatives such as onsite drug checking, supervised drug consumption facilities, and the prescription or licensing of cannabis for medicinal purposes, encounter significant legal problems.

However – as this talk will demonstrate - there is increasing goodwill between agencies in the public and private sector to promote and to practice harm-reduction measures in the interests of personal and public health.

These findings suggest that the CeA is involved with assigning increasing value to reward and directing decision-making by generating narrowly focused motivation to seek out reward that may persist in the face of more rewarding alternatives and adverse consequences.

Host: Dr. Hans Crombag

CRC Annual Public Lecture 2018. For more information about the event please click here

Friday, 27 April 2018, 13:00-14:00 - Ashdown House Room 102, University of Sussex

Dr Mike RobinsonDr. Mike Robinson

Assistant Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour
Department of Psychology
Wesleyan University, CT, USA

Optogenetic Activation of the Central Amygdala Generates Individual Differences in Compulsive Reward Seeking Despite Adverse Consequences.

Drug and behavioral addictions are characterized by focused pursuit of a single reward above all others. Excessive motivation to pursue reward leads to persistent addictive-like decisions that often undermine an individual’s best interests, and prevail despite adverse consequences.

The amygdala plays a key role in reward processing and generating motivation. In the following studies, we explored how optogenetic stimulation of the central amygdala (CeA) modulates decision-making and reward choice, causing specific rewards to be almost compulsively preferred in manners that model many of the DSM criteria for addiction.

Rats were trained to choose between a reward paired with CeA laser stimulation or an otherwise unpaired identical or alternative reward. Rats developed a nearly exclusive preference for the CeA laser-paired reward over the unpaired reward. This was true whether the reward was a sucrose pellet or an infusion of cocaine.

For sucrose, this preference persisted even when a much larger sucrose reward was offered as an alternative, or when the preferred reward was paired with an electric footshock. CeA laser stimulation also produced persistent pursuit of a flavored reward paired with conditioned taste aversion. For cocaine, CeA laser stimulation produced an escalation of cocaine intake, and compulsive nibbling of the nose port paired with laser-associated cocaine, as though seeking more. For both cocaine and sucrose, CeA stimulation dramatically increased an animal’s motivation for the laser-paired reward over an otherwise identical unpaired reward. In each case, these effects were not the consequence of any independently rewarding properties of optogenetic activation of the CeA alone.

These findings suggest that the CeA is involved with assigning increasing value to reward and directing decision-making by generating narrowly focused motivation to seek out reward that may persist in the face of more rewarding alternatives and adverse consequences.

Host: Dr. Hans Crombag

For more information about the research conducted in the Robinson Lab (Behavioural Neuroscience of Motivation, Reward & Desire) please click here

Monday, 22 January 2018, 13:00-14:00 - Sussex Neuroscience Seminar Room, CRPC Building 4.03, University of Sussex

Bryan_SingerDr. Bryan F. Singer

Lecturer in Psychology, Life, Health & Chemical Sciences
Faculty of STEM
The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

Dopamine Transmission, Dendritic Plasticity, and the Attribution of Incentive Value to Salient Reward-Predictive Stimuli

There is considerable individual variation in the degree to which cues exert motivational control over behaviour, and we have been able to model this diversity in rodents. Specifically, we have found that when a lever conditioned stimulus (CS) predicts food reward, outbred rats differ in the exact conditioned response they learn and perform. For some rats, the lever-CS becomes “wanted” – these “sign-tracker” (ST) rats approach the lever and interact with it until the reward is delivered. In contrast, “goal-tracker” (GT) rats orient to the lever-CS, but do not interact with it and instead approach the location of food delivery.

Individual variation in dopamine (DA) neurotransmission and uptake contribute to this variation in the extent to which reward cues acquire motivational value. We are also investigating how this variation in DA transmission impacts dendritic changes associated with learning and memory. Finally, we are developing new tools for detecting variation in cue-evoked motivation in people.

Altogether, we hope to find ways to identify and reduce the motivational power of reward-paired cues in certain individuals, and this may prove to be useful for combatting disorders ranging from food addiction to substance abuse.

Host: Professor Aldo Badiani

Monday, 4 December 2017, 13:0-14:00 - Sussex Neuroscience Seminar Room, CRPC Building 4.03, University of Sussex

Catherine Le MoinDr. Catherine Le Moine

Neuropsychopharmacology of addiction
Research Director, INCIA (Aquitaine Institute for Cognitive and Integrative Neuroscience)
University of Bordeaux, France

Affective memories associated with withdrawal in opiate dependence: From cellular imaging to in vivo recordings

Host: Dr. Eisuke Koya

Wednesday, 8 November 2017, 18:30-20:00 - Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Chowen Lecture Theatre, University of Sussex

Aldo BadianiProfessor Aldo Badiani

Professor of Psychology and Addiction Medicine
Director, SARIC
School of Psychology
University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

Your Brain on Drugs: Not the Same Everywhere

Addictive drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or alcohol are often thought to be the same in their ability to produce ‘pleasure’ by activating the ‘reward’ circuitry of the brain.

In this lecture, I will show that different classes of drugs produce unique neurobiological effects and distinctive internal states, which in turn are exquisitely sensitive to the environment surrounding drug use.

This is a free, open lecture – everyone is welcome, but numbers are limited so please reserve your place.

Monday, 24 April 2017, 13:00-14:00 - Sussex Neuroscience Seminar Room, CRPC Building 4.03, University of Sussex

RitaZ_GoldsteinProfessor Rita Z. Goldstein

Chief, Neuropsychoimaging of Addiction and Related Conditions (NARC) Research Program
and Brain Imaging Centre (BIC)
Department of Psychiatry and Department of Neuroscience,
Friedman Brain Institute
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, USA

Neuroimaging in drug addiction: an eye towards intervention purposes

Drug addiction is a chronically relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug use despite catastrophic personal consequences (e.g., loss of family, job) and even when the substance is no longer perceived as pleasurable.

In this talk, Dr. Goldstein will present results of human neuroimaging studies, utilizing a multimodal approach (neuropsychology, functional magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, event-related potentials recordings), to explore the neurobiology underlying the core psychological impairments in drug addiction (impulsivity, drive/motivation, insight/awareness) as associated with its clinical symptomatology (intoxication, craving, bingeing, withdrawal).

The focus of this talk is on understanding the role of the dopaminergic mesocorticolimbic circuit, and especially the prefrontal cortex, in higher-order executive dysfunction (e.g., disadvantageous decision-making such as trading a car
for a couple of cocaine hits) in drug addicted individuals.

The theoretical model that guides the presented research is called iRISA (Impaired Response Inhibition and Salience Attribution), postulating that abnormalities in the orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex, as related to dopaminergic dysfunction, contribute to the core clinical symptoms in drug addiction.

Specifically, Dr. Goldstein’s multi-modality program of research is guided by the underlying working hypothesis that drug addicted individuals disproportionately attribute reward value to their drug of choice at the expense of other potentially but no-longer-rewarding stimuli, with a concomitant decrease in the ability to inhibit maladaptive drug use.

In this talk, Dr. Goldstein will also explore whether treatment (as usual) and 6-month abstinence enhance recovery in these brain-behavior compromises in treatment seeking cocaine addicted individuals.

Promising novel fMRI studies, which combine pharmacological (i.e., oral methylphenidate, or RitalinTM) and salient cognitive tasks or functional connectivity during resting-state, will be discussed as examples for using neuroimaging in the empirical guidance for the development of effective neurorehabilitation strategies in cocaine addiction.

Monday, 24 October 2016, 13:00-14:00 - Sussex Neuroscience Seminar Room, CRPC Building 4.03, University of Sussex

Dr. Daniele Caprioli

Dr. Daniele Caprioli

Assistant Professor,
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology,
Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy

Neuronal mechanisms of drug relapse after cessation of prolonged contingency management in a rat model

Despite decades of research on the neurobiological mechanisms of psychostimulant addiction, the only effective treatment for many addicts is contingency management. In this behavioral method, the availability of non-drug rewards (e.g., monetary vouchers), given in exchange for being drug free (verified by drug testing), maintains prolonged abstinence in many psychostimulant addicts.

However, when contingency management is discontinued, most addicts relapse to drug use.The brain mechanisms underlying relapse after cessation of contingency management are unknown and until recently, an animal model of this human condition did not exist.

In the present lecture I will present a new choice-based rat model of relapse, along with its first neurobehavioral characterization, in which Meth craving is observed after prolonged voluntary abstinence. Specifically I will provide evidences that relapse after voluntary abstinence from methamphetamine self-administration is mediated by (1) dorsomedial striatum neuronal ensembles that are comprised of heterogeneous D1- and D2-expressing neurons;
(2) anterior insula to central amygdala projections.

Thursday, 6 October 2016, 15:00-16:00 - Sussex Neuroscience Seminar Room, CRPC Building 4.03, University of Sussex


Professor Markus Heilig

Director at the Center for Social and Affective Neuroscience,
Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine,
Linköping University, Sweden

Stress-induced relapse to alcohol seeking: Back to the drawing board

Progression into alcohol addiction is characterized by lasting changes in brain function. These result in escalated voluntary alcohol intake, alcohol seeking despite adverse consequences, and increased sensitivity to relapse triggered
by stress.

The neural substrates of these behavioral traits have remained unknown. We have found that a history of alcohol dependence results in DNA-hypermethylation selectively in the medial prefrontal cortex, leading to a persistent reprogramming of the mPFC transcriptome.

We have then identified an epigenetic enzyme, PRDM2, as a key mediator of these expression changes and their behavior consequences.

Our findings indicate that DNA-methylation mediated repression of PRDM2 is involved in multiple aspects of alcohol dependence, including stress-induced relapse, compulsivity-like behavior and escalation of alcohol intake.

Monday, 12 September 2016, 13:00-14:00 - Sussex Neuroscience Seminar Room, CRPC Building 4.03, University of Sussex


Professor Marco Leyton

Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine,
McGill University, Quebec, Canada

Individual differences in dopamine transmission: A potential vulnerability pathway to addiction

Altered dopamine neurotransmission has long been implicated in the susceptibility to and development of addictions. However, our understanding of how this occurs remains poor, particularly in humans.

Today’s presentation will summarize recent developments using functional neuroimaging and methods for manipulating dopamine transmission.

These studies suggest that, in healthy humans, compulsively abused drugs across multiple pharmacological classes increase extracellular dopamine levels in the striatum. These effects are closely related to the ability of reward-related cues to elicit and sustain approach and desire, weakly related to positive mood tone, and related to euphoria only tenuously if at all.

Individual differences in the magnitude of these dopamine responses have been associated with differences in personality traits, cortical thickness, serotonergic tone, autoreceptor mediated inhibitory feedback, and past drug exposure. Following repeated drug use, the dopamine responses can become progressively larger (sensitized) and conditioned to environmental cues. Both of these effects are seen first within the ventral limbic striatum, and then, as drug exposure increases, in the dorsolateral striatum.

Finally, impulsive individuals at risk for addictions exhibit altered drug-induced dopamine responses. Both increases and decreases have been observed, potentially related to the presence vs. absence of drug related cues. Together, these studies replicate and extend features identified in animal models, and raise the possibility that one biological vulnerability trait for addiction is susceptibility to labile dopaminergic and appetitive responses to reward-related cues.