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Posted 11/23/2020

Path to Answers Gets Jump-Start with New MRI

It’s a common misconception that drug addiction is a moral failure, but scientists have proven that addiction disorders are chronic brain diseases that hijack the brain’s reward system. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers at the National Center for Wellness & Recovery have dedicated their lives to helping people beat addiction.

Furthermore, they now have the best commercially available research MRI unit in the world enabling them to discover new treatments that could save lives and provide hope for those suffering from addiction.

“With the acquisition of the Prisma 3T MRI, OSU really moves into the top echelon of research universities in the country,” explains Kyle Simmons, Ph.D., director of biomedical imaging at NCWR. “It allows OSU faculty to explore the neurobiology of substance abuse in new and exciting ways.”

NCWR researchers will use the new MRI to image the brain as its functioning and study patients as they recover from addiction. "Understanding what’s happening in the brain when someone experiences cravings can help predict who will respond best to certain types of treatments as well as how and when to implement treatments,” said Simmons.

OSU scientists will be studying how the biological effects of opioid addiction affect the function of brain regions that underlie an individual’s capacity to connect with others socially.

Additionally, they will examine how adverse early life experiences may alter how adults' nervous systems sense and evaluate pain – which may be valuable for understanding who will be more likely to become addicted to drugs that exploit the body’s pain and reward systems.

“We are planning to use the imaging capabilities to study how changes in metabolism and inflammation may influence the brain’s response to drug cues during treatment for substance use disorder,” said Simmons.

Through their involvement in the National Institutes of Health HEALthy Brain and Child Development study (HEALthy BCD), NCWR researchers will use the new Prisma 3T MRI to better understand the long-term consequences of prenatal opioid exposure in the children of parents with opioid use disorder. “The knowledge obtained from this research will be critical in learning how to predict and prevent such risks as future substance use, mental disorders and other behavioral and developmental challenges,” he said.

Not only is this the most powerful brain imaging technology available, but its maker, Siemens, has a large community of researchers around the world. “This relationship makes it easier for OSU researchers to collaborate and build on the methods and tools already developed at other institutions,” shares Simmons. “It gives us an incredible jump start on building our center’s imaging toolkit.”

Deane Vick | November 2020