Neuroscience like this is over my head and usually doesn’t catch my attention until it’s dumbed down for social workers like me, but this interesting. It’s been clear for some time that the limbic system is an important factor in addiction. This primitive part of the brain plays important roles in things like anger, fear, sex drive, hunger, thirst, pleasure and memory. One particular function that’s often ascribed to the limbic system is forming and storing “highly charged emotional memories.”
This study took cocaine addicted rats and infused a special protein into the limbic system of the rats. This protein is believed to interfere with with the limbic system’s memory formation and consolidation. All of the addicted rats were given cocaine after the infusion. The rats receiving the protein infusion were much less likely to relapse into drug-seeking behavior, and the effect seemed to last for weeks.
Very interesting, although the idea of toying with our memory is more than a little frightening. Too bad rats can’t tell us if they’re having any unintended side effects.