For individuals suffering from drug addiction, certain cues—whether it’s specific people, places or things—can trigger powerful cravings for repeated use.
A new University of Michigan study identified brain signals, traditionally associated with inflammation, contributing to people’s vulnerability to addiction. With repeated drug use with the same exposure to cues, some individuals develop an inability to control their drug use, even in the face of negative consequences.
In rats, researchers have demonstrated that animals with poor attentional control—choosing what is given attention to and what is ignored—develop strong cue-induced cravings. They are called sign trackers. Animals with good attentional control are considered goal trackers.
Hanna Carmon, U-M psychology graduate student and the study’s lead author, said sign trackers experience a greater rewarding effect of drug taking and will continue to take drugs even when there are painful consequences. Goal trackers stop drug taking in the face of consequences.