Researchers at Emory University and the University of Georgia have received funding from the National Institutes of Health to study the neurobiological mechanisms for how regular aerobic exercise may prevent drug abuse relapse. The grant is for $1.9 million over the next five years.
David Weinshenker, PhD, associate professor of human genetics, Emory School of Medicine, is a co-principal investigator on the project.
â€œThis research will provide new insight into how regular exercise may attenuate drug abuse in humans,â€ Weinshenker says â€œMore importantly, it may reveal a neural mechanism through which exercise may prevent the relapse into drug-seeking behavior.â€
During the study, Weinshenker and UGA co-investigator Philip Holmes, professor of psychology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, will measure exercise-induced increases of the galanin gene activity in the rat brain.
â€œStress is a major contributor to relapse in drug addicts who are trying to remain abstinent, and stress-induced release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine in the brain is thought to underlie this relapse behavior,â€ says Weinshenker.
â€œThe experiments will explore the relationship between exercise and galanin gene expression in rats, and test the hypothesis that exercise-induced regulation of galanin protects against over-activation of the norepinephrine system during stress, thereby preventing drug-seeking behavior,â€ he says.
The research may also lead to the development of drugs that enhance galanin for the treatment of addiction.
Read more about the study here.