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Addiction builds in the brain over time, new research shows

There are certain risk factors that can contribute to a person’s struggle with addiction, including genetic predispositions, environmental influences, poor coping methods, and behavioral issues.

Understanding the many facets of how the brain registers and processes rewards is also further complicated by the fact that reward-based learning studies in humans don’t fully show how people develop addictions and preferences through the brain’s reward system over time.

Researchers from University of College London and Stanford University conducted a study of reward-based learning in humans with short sessions spaced out over time, more compatible with similar animal studies, rather than just one quick single session.

The results, published in the journal J Neurosci, could help mood disorder and addiction research.

Over the course of the short sessions, the researchers found that both men and women were better at remembering associations between pictures and monetary gains compared to the information obtained from a single session.

The results suggest that the link between stimuli and reward is strengthened over time, similar to how the associations between drug and reward are gradually learned.

The research provides a better way to study reward learning in humans, mimicking animal research methods and spacing out learning sessions over time rather than one learning test.

The study also shows that studying learning over time could better aid addiction and mood disorder research.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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