Team 'Physiopathology of addiction', group leader: Pier Vincenzo Piazza, MD, PhD.
An important factor influencing the development of addiction is the peculiar vulnerability shown by certain individuals in developing this pathology. Two different vulnerable phenotypes seem to lead to addiction in a two step process. The first, the "drug prone" phenotype facilitates the development of sustained drug use setting the conditions for true addiction to develop. The second, the "addiction prone" promotes the appearance of loss of control on drug intake, the landmark of true addiction, which occurs only in a reduced proportion of the individuals taking drugs in a sustained way.
Over the last 4 years, the general aim of our research project was the identification of the pathophysiological basis of the "drug prone" and "addiction prone" phenotypes. These researches were conducted using a multidisciplinary approach that included the major methods of behavioral, system and molecular neurosciences. Concerning the "drug prone" phenotype we were able to identify the cellular targets and some of the molecular mechanisms through which stress, through the activation of glucocorticoid hormones, increases the sensitivity of the dopaminergic transmission to drugs of abuse. Concerning the "abuse prone" phenotype we were able to show that it is accompanied by a peculiar adaptation to drugs involving the loss of a certain form of synaptic plasticity.
In conclusion, we believe that our past research activity has contributed to extend significantly our knowledge on the pathophysiological basis of addiction and provides a solid ground to the development of our research project.
Composition table of the team
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