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Could Altering Brain Chemistry Someday T…reat addiction?

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Could altering brain chemistry someday treat mental illnesses like addiction? A new study at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco has found that participants were more willing to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as fairness, after they were given a dopamine-increasing drug called tolcapone. Study leader Andrew Kayser says the findings may help future research on treating diseases like addiction, which can often disrupt an individual’s social relationships.

"Whatever the substance or even whether it’s a behavioral addiction like gambling, people can often, because of the focus on their addiction, whether that’s witting or unwitting, basically, not treat other people like they should be treated. The reason we think about that as having social dysfunction, is that it's a well-known story that as people get deeper and deeper into their addictions that they disrupt their family relationships."

The next step is to understand precisely how tolcapone affects the brain.

"The mechanism, by understanding it, may suggest which patients would benefit and also, importantly, which ones might not."

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