By Zachary Siegel 07/05/15

Addiction science and neuroscience will make your head spin.


It’s not brain surgery Shutterstock

It’s the age of what people are calling the “neuro-disciplines.” It all began with a now well-known branch of medicine called neurology, the study of the nervous system, whose first registered usewas in 1681. The Ancient Greek prefix has since attached to, well, just about every discipline under the sun: neurolaw, neuroengineering, neurotheology, neurophilosophy, neuroethics, neuroeconomics, neuropedagogy, neuromarketing.

And of course, addiction cannot escape the long-armed “neuro” prefix as there is aburgeoning body of neuroscience dedicated to the study of need, desire, and addiction. Last month, The Fixinterviewed Dr. Nora Volkow, the pre-eminent neuroscientist directing research at the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Dr. Volkow said there is “physical evidence that addiction hijacks not only the ability to feel normal pleasure, but also the very circuits in charge of exerting free will.” NIDA, then, essentially determines what is mainstream addiction neuroscience.

In preparation to get the other side of the story, The Fix reached out to a number of not-so-mainstream but equally brilliant scientists and neuroscientists who are wary of the reductive simplicity—a leap from brain to behavior— put forth by an institution such as NIDA that informs drug war policymaking, what kind of research gets funded, and ultimately affects how one with addiction gets treated. 


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