Addiction, Stress Link Probed by Research Team
> 6/17/2008 1:02:34 PM

Scientists from three universities and across a broad range of medical disciplines have begun collaborating on one of behavioral health's most important questions: what role does stress play in addiction? Specifically, researchers from the University of California - Irvine and Florida State University have joined a group from Yale University at the Yale Stress Center. Together, these 16 scietists represent a wide pool of knowledge and experiences about the role that stress plays in creating and sustaining compulsive behaviors that characterize addiction. 

The new collaborative effort, funded by an NIH Roadmap for Medical Research grant, has tightened the scope of its inquiry to address the specific addictions to alcohol, nicotine, and over-eating. This trio represents three of the most prevelant causes of preventable death; information, that while widely available, has yet to dramatically change the behavior of those who engage in these activities. Through their combined efforts, the Yale Stress Center's researchers hope to change that.

Early collaboration has already begun to open new doors. Drs. Amy Arnsten and Daniele Piomelli, a Yale nuerologist and UC-Irvine phamacologist respectively, are combining their expertises to examine stress's ability to disrupt the endocannaboid system early in life, which can lead to poor stress response in adult hood. Arnsten and Piomelli believe that their collaboration has the potential to lead to new treatments and medications that focus on this particular molecular pathway.

The Yale Stress Center's program director, Dr. Rajita Sinha, is herself intimately enmeshed in exploring questions that cross disciplinary boundaries. As part of these developments, Dr. Sinha has continued to pursue the question of whether the addictive substances themselves changed the brain and create the potential for compulsive behavior. As the group's leader, she understands very well the advantages and possiblities in what she calls a Manhattan Project-like effort to address stress and addiction. 

"By linking investigators from different disciplines, we are creating the structures and organization to let investigators interact, learn from each other and push the process of science and discovery forward in a more efficient manner," Dr. Sinha said in a press release. "Right now, they are often too busy in their own silos. This is another way to look at complex diseases."

While they have only begun to explore the issues before them, the collaborators at the Yale Stress Center hold the keys to a great deal of innovation in the field of behavioral health. By crossing traditional borders and working together to collect and interpret data, there's a chance that new and exciting answers may soon emerge

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