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Pills with text: Medical Discovery Team- Addiction

Dr. Rajita Sinha of Yale named Keynote Speaker for MnSAN 2022!

Dr. Rajita SinhaDr. Rajita Sinha of Yale University will be the keynote speaker at this year's Minnesota Symposium on Addiction Neuroscience (MnSANsci) on Wednesday, September 14th at McNamara Alumni Center. 

The title of Dr. Sinha's talk is "Stress-related Motivation Neurocircuits and Addiction Risk and Relapse Outcomes". Below is an abstract outlining some of the topics that she will cover:

"Stress and trauma have long been known to increase addiction risk and relapse. How does this happen? What are the critical neural circuits that promote and sensitize stress-related reward motivation/ This presentation will focus on specific stress and chronic drug related adaptations in brain and peripheral circuits that impact motivation and are critical for adaptive resilient coping and self-control. Theeffects of alcohol and drug use and misuse on stress motivational neural circuitry, drug craving and related clinical outcomes will be discussed. Heterogeneity and individual differences in the adaptations and their impact will also be discussed with a specific focus on treatment and preventive intervention development. Finally, pharmacological and behavioral intervention results will be presented that show rescue of neural and endocrine alterations in stress and chronic drug- related disrupted motivation, that in turn, improve adaptive self control and coping and reduce drug craving and addiction relapse risk."

Register for the 2022 Minnesota Symposium on Addiction Neurosciece Today!

Speakers for MnSAN Translational Session

Dr. Anna KonovaDr. Anna Konova of Rutgers University will be speaking during the translational session at this year's Minnesota Symposium on Addiction Neuroscience (MnSANsci) on Wednesday, September 14th at McNamara Alumni Center. The title of Dr. Konova's talk is "Addiction states as dynamic changes in valuation".  Below is an abstract outlining some of the topics that she will cover:

"Drug addiction is a canonical disorder of value and choice. Neuroeconomics has provided a rich framework for studying addiction in both humans and other animals. However, this work has generally considered addiction as a static entity. Less emphasis has been placed on isolating what changes underlie addiction's most elusive (and perhaps most defining) feature - its stereotyped, cyclic nature at the level of the individual, characterized by alternating periods of abstinence and drug use. I will discuss work in which we aim to better understand these dynamic processes at the transition between abstinence and relapse to drug use. Understanding these addiction states as dynamic changes in valuation, we hope, can help identify when additional therapeutic intervention is needed on a timescale that is clinically useful as well as motivate the development of new decision- and valuation-based interventions for breaking the cycle of addiction."

Dr. Kathleen BradyDr. Kathleen Brady of MUSC and director of the South Carolina Clinical and Translational Research Institute will also be speaking during the translational session at this year's Minnesota Symposium on Addiction Neuroscience (MnSANsci) on Wednesday, September 14th at McNamara Alumni Center.  The title of Dr. Brady's talk is "Gender Differences in Substance Use Disorders".   Below is an abstract outlining some of the topics that she will cover:

"There are important gender differences in the prevalence, course, comorbidity and neurobiology of substance use disorders (SUDs) which impact the approach to treatment.  In this presentation, gender differences in the prevalence and course of SUDs will be briefly reviewed.  Studies conducted over the past 10 year demonstrating sex/gender differences in the neurobiology of SUDs, in particular differences in the relationship between stress and SUDs will be reviewed.  Treatment implications will be discussed."

Dr. Jazmin CamchongMDTA's Dr. Jazmin Camchong assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota will be speaking during the translational session at this year's Minnesota Symposium on Addiction Neuroscience (MnSANsci) on Wednesday, September 14th at McNamara Alumni Center.

The title of Dr. Camchong's talk is "Combining tDCS and cognitive training to modulate networks that support abstinence". Below is an abstract outlining some of the topics that she will cover:

"Brain-based interventions are needed to address persistent relapse in alcohol use disorder (AUD). Our prior neuroimaging work showed that long-term abstinent AUD individuals have higher resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) vs short-term abstinent AUD and controls. More specifically, our latest neuroimaging study reported that low resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) within theoretically defined addiction networks during early abstinence predict subsequent relapse. We conducted a longitudinal, double-blind, randomized clinical trial, to investigate whether a non-invasive neuromodulation intervention during early abstinence (1) can modulate rsFC of theoretically defined addiction networks and (2) is associated with treatment outcomes. Methods: Short-term abstinent AUD participants (n=51, 19 women) were assigned to either active tDCS (2mA, F3 anode/F4 cathode) or sham during cognitive training twice a day for five consecutive days. To measure rsFC changes, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data was collected during rest before and after the 5-day intervention. To record treatment outcomes, rate of relapse and time to relapse data were collected during a 4-month follow-up period. Results: AUD assigned to 5 active tDCS sessions to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) paired with cognitive training showed (1) an increase in rsFC from left DLPFC to addiction networks - incentive salience and negative emotionality networks- and (2) significantly longer time to relapse vs. AUD assigned to 5 sham tDCS sessions. There were unexpected sex-dependent intervention effects on relapse rates - AUD women undergoing active tDCS showed significantly lower relapse rates vs. AUD women receiving sham. Conclusion: Findings suggest that combining tDCS and cognitive training modulate networks known to support abstinence and extend time to relapse. Future studies examining sex-dependent effects need to be conducted to further investigate the effects of this non-invasive neuromodulation intervention and establish optimal treatment parameters to guide future interventions that improve AUD treatment outcome."

Speakers for MnSAN Basic Research Session


Dr. Kate ReissnerDr Kate Reissner of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at UNC Chapel Hill will speak during the Basic Research Session of the 2022 Minnesota Symposium on Addiction Neuroscience.  The title of Dr. Reissner's talk will be"Cocaine-induced microglia pruning of astrocytes contributes to seeking behavior".  Below is the abstract outlining some of the topics that she will cover:

"Astrocytes are a primary glial cell type which mediate a myriad of critical functions in the brain. In 2016, we published a report that rat cocaine self-administration and extinction training (2h/day) leads to reduced surface area, volume, and synaptic colocalization of nucleus accumbens astrocytes in male rats (Scofield et al., 2016). Since that time, we have observed that a similar, but more pronounced reduction in structural features and synaptic colocalization of accumbens astrocytes is observed following long-access (6h/day) self-administration and prolonged (45 days) home cage abstinence. Notably, this effect was not observed 24 h after the last self-administration session, suggesting thenecessity of an abstinence period. Branching analysis performed on these astrocytes further revealed that this reduction in morphological features was associated with reduced branching complexity, but no effect on branch lengths. We accordingly hypothesized that these findings might reflect pruning of astrocytes, despite the fact that there is no existing evidence in the literature that astrocytes are pruned by microglia. We hence commenced an investigation to test thehypothesis that accumbens astrocytes are pruned by microglia subsequent to cocaine self-administration. We observed that fluorescently-labelled pieces of astrocytes are indeed present in identified nucleus accumbens microglia, and that the presence of astrocyte inclusions is increased after 45 days of abstinence following cocaine self-administration. This finding indicates that  (1) astrocytes are pruned by microglia, and (2) that microglia pruning of astrocytes is triggered by abstinence following cocaine use. We have also found that inhibition of phagocytosis in the nucleus accumbens core reduces cocaine seeking behavior. Accordingly, we hypothesize that cocaine self-administration and abstinence trigger activation of accumbens microglia which phagocytose and prune astrocytes, resulting in the reduced structure and function of astrocytes observed across abstinence following cocaine use."
Dr. TorregrossaDr. Torregrossa will be another one of the featured speakers for MnSANsci's Basic Science session.  Mary Torregrossa, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and faculty in the Center for Neuroscience and Brain Institute at the University of Pittsburgh.
The title of Dr. Torregrossa's talk is "Pathological Learning and Memory as a Core Feature of Substance Use Disorders and a Path Towards Novel Treatment".  Below is the abstract outlining some of the topics that she will cover:
"Relapse is one of the biggest obstacles to successful treatment of any addictive disorder, and there are virtually no effective treatments for relapse prevention. One reason why relapse has been notoriously difficult to prevent is because it is often driven by exposure to cues in the environment that are associated with prior drug use. These drug-cue associative memories do not go away during abstinence and are not affected by currently available medications.  Moreover, it has been hypothesized that drug-associated memories are often pathologically strong due to the influence of the drug during memory formation. Thus, drug memories become more salient than non-drug memories, which leads to a long-lasting ability to induce craving and relapse, even after extensive abstinence. Thus, in thispresentation, I will discuss our research aimed at understanding how maladaptive memories associated with drugs of abuse are formed and mechanisms by which they may be weakened to help individuals maintain abstinence. I will discuss our studies using cocaine self-administration in rats in combination with electrophysiological, optogenetic, and in vivo recording techniques to determine the synaptic and neural circuit mechanisms underlying cocaine memory formation and memory weakening via the process of extinction learning. I will highlight targets we have identified that are capable of weakening cocaine memories and reducing relapse-like behavior and our progress toward translating these findings to improve the treatment of substance use disorders."

Dr. Jocelyn RichardMDTA's Dr. Jocelyn Richard assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota will be speaking second during the basic science session at this year's Minnesota Symposium on Addiction Neuroscience (MnSANsci) on Wednesday, September 14th at McNamara Alumni Center.  The title of Dr. Richard's talk is "Neural and behavioral factors determining the impact of alcohol exposure on compulsive alcohol seeking". Below is an abstract outlining some of the topics that she will cover:

"Compulsive alcohol use is a major contributor to alcohol use disorder’s intractable and persistent nature. Models of compulsive alcohol use include “aversion-resistant” drinking, in which animals continue to consume alcohol despite its adulteration with bitter quinine. Environmental cues associated with alcohol are important drivers of compulsive intake, leading to escalation of alcohol use and difficulty maintaining abstinence. Importantly, cortico-striatal-pallidal circuitry is implicated in both aversion-resistant drinking and cue-elicited alcohol seeking. Inthis presentation I will discuss our work examining the impact of voluntary and involuntary intermittent alcohol exposure on neural and behavioral responses to alcohol cues and during tests of aversion-resistant drinking. We find that theeffects of chronic intermittent alcohol exposure depend on several factors, including subject sex, the timing of the exposure, and the state of the animals during cue learning and testing. I will also discuss alcohol-induced changes in theencoding and molecular properties of ventral pallidal circuitry, and the potential role of these changes in aversion-resistant drinking and cue-driven compulsive alcohol seeking behavior."

Center for Neural Circuits in Addiction Pilot Program Awards

The awardees of the Center for Neural Circuits in Addiction’s Pilot Program have been named.  This year’s awardees are Drs. Sade Spencer, Lucy Vulchanova, Laura Stone, and Anna Lee!

  • Dr. Sade Spencer
  • Drs. Vulchanova, Stone, and Lee
  • Dr. Sade Spencer

    Dr. Spencer’s team will be investigating changes inneural activity during withdrawal and relapse behavior following prolonged cannabis use.  Thegroup will look at c-Fos expression in rats following cannabinoid use and during withdrawal, as well as expression associated with cue-reactivity in the context of relapse-like behavior.  They will be partnering with the Center for Neural Circuits in Addiction’s Structural Circuits Core for technical assistance in tissue clearing and advanced cleared tissue light-sheet microscopy.  As more states (including Minnesota) begin to legalize different forms of cannabis use, studies examining aspects of cannabis use disorder are becoming increasingly important.

  • Drs. Vulchanova, Stone, and Lee

    The second project, led by Drs. Vulchanova, Stone and Lee will investigate comorbidity of alcohol use disorder and chronic pain.  Specifically, the group will examine changes inpain perception in response to chronic alcohol exposure. Their working hypotheses are: “a) alcohol exposure will increase the severity and duration of pain, and b) extensive overlap will be observed between alcohol withdrawal-driven and pain-driven neural activation patterns.”  This study will also partner with the Center for Neural Circuits inAddiction’s Structural Circuits Core for traditional and CLARITY-based imaging to characterize neural circuits activated by both alcohol withdrawal and chronic pain.

Congratulations to all the award winners!

Lectures & Events

Tuesday September 13th:

The 2022 UMN Fall Pain Day is a day to share our research, award the inaugural Dr. Christopher N. Honda Graduate Student Fellowship, and catch up with everyone inthe UMN pain research community.

Location: UMN Campus Club Rooms A, B, C & Terrace, 4th Floor Coffman Memorial Union

2:00 - 3:30 pm: Posters w/ Snacks and Drinks. 

Trainees, Staff and Faculty are invited to present their work. Please submit the title of your poster when you register. Deadline to register and submit a poster: Wed Sept 7th.

3:30 – 5:00 pm: Invited Presentations & Inaugural Dr. Christopher N. Honda Graduate Student Fellowship
To celebrate Dr Honda’s achievements, continue his legacy, and learn from his example, this Fellowship was established in 2021 to support and advance the careers of graduate students, especially those with interests insomatosensation, pain, and/or analgesia. All Graduate Students at theUniversity of Minnesota are eligible to apply. A call for applications will be distributed shortly.

5:00 - 7:00 pm: Happy Hour on the Terrace (or inside pending weather)!

Questions Contact Laura Stone ( or 612-422-9880)

Register for the event here!

Tuesday, September 13th

  • Center for Neural Circuits in Addiction Mini-Symposium 2:30- 4:30

External Adivisors of the UMN's Center for Neural Circuits in Addiction will be visiting the UMN and in addition to consulting with the Center's Core leads, they will speak to the UMN Neuroscience community on their recent research.  See speakers below.

Location: CMRR Seminar Room 2- 102

2:30 - 2:55 pm: Peyman Golshani, MD/PhD; Professor of Neurology, University of California Los Angeles

Title: “New open-source tools for recording network dynamics in models of disease”

3:00 - 3:25 pm: Michael Hawrylycz, PhD; Allen Institute of Brain Science

Title: The BRAIN initiative cell census network as a resource for addiction research”

3:30 - 3:40 pm: 10 minute break

3:40 - 4:05 pm: Ben Deverman, PhD; Broad Institutes of MIT and Harvard

Title: “Crossing the BBB with AAVs”

4:10 - 4:35 pm: Aravind Asokan, PhD; Duke University

 Wednesday September 14th

We invite you to attend the 2nd Minnesota Symposium on Addiction Neuroscience, to be held in Minneapolis on Wednesday, September 14th, 2022. The symposium is sponsored by the University of Minnesota's Medical Discovery Team on Addiction.

The day-long conference will bring together basic scientists, clinician-scientists, and others to discuss the latest, most exciting brain science on addiction. The scientific program will feature plenary sessions, poster presentations, and a keynote speaker, Dr. Rajita Sinha, Foundations Fund Endowed Professor in Psychiatry and Professor in Neuroscience and in Child Study at the Yale University School of Medicine. Presentations will emphasize how the neural circuits that control emotions, motivations, and decision-making are altered through addiction and recovery, with an eye towards how neurocircuit science might inform the creation of new, more effective therapies to treat addiction.

Other Speakers include:

  • Dr. Kathleen Brady (Medical University South Carolina)
  • Dr. Jazmin Camchong (University of Minnesota)
  • Dr. Anna Konova (Rutgers University)
  • Dr. Kate Reissner (UNC at Chapel Hill)
  • Dr. Jocelyn Richard (University of Minnesota)
  • Dr. Mary Torregrossa (University of Pittsburgh)

Registration for UMN faculty, students and staff is free.

MnSAN 2022 Flyer

Register for the event here!