Understanding dopamine and addictions at CAMH

The PET scanner is a nuclear medicine tool that's used to take pictures of the brain There's a hundred million things you can look at when you're looking at the brain of an individual with PET

What will our research targets, is looking at dopamine levels in the brain and with PET technology, what we can actually do is dissect the systems, so look at the dopamine D2 receptor system versus the dopamine D3 receptor system We at CAMH have developed a probe that enables us to look at at a specific type of dopamine receptor, D3 receptor And what we find is kind of neat, we find that levels of these receptors are abnormal in people with addiction and can be related to some of the very important behavioral deficits that people with addictions have In our studies we find that there is a link between how much D2 receptor levels a person has and how impulsive they are And this is important because it tells us that if we want to develop medications that help decision-making processes or impulsiveness in an addicted individual, the D3 is a good target

The hope is with PET technology that you're able to track response to medication or to treatment and then be able to customize for example response to treatment So if you find that the drug that you're giving doesn't interact properly with the target that you have selected it will tell us either we're under-dosing that person or you know, the person doesn't have a problem in this brain area, changed the course of the medication so it will inform us directly online, on response to medication

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