Dr. Matthew Hearing, assistant professor of biomedical sciences in Marquette University’s College of Health Sciences, has received a R01 grant worth $2,067,753 from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse to study how the brain changes in the transition to opioid addiction and how factors like biological sex influence this development.

Hearing and his team will use a variety of techniques to identify how opioids disrupt function of brain regions responsible for flexible decision making and behavior control. The goal is to gain insight into how progressively developing changes in the function of these brain regions drive the development of uncontrolled opioid use, with the potential to inform more tailored treatments based on sex and stage of addiction.

“Opioid-based drugs are mainstays for clinical pain management despite the risk of dependence, addiction and cognitive impairments, even when taken as directed,” Hearing said. “Despite this, the neurological underpinnings of opioid addiction remain relatively under-investigated, which limits our understanding of the neural and associated psychological basis of addiction to opioids. Further, behaviors which are core aspects of addiction are expressed only by a fraction of those exposed to the drug – highlighting a significant degree of individual variability and a need to identify largely unknown factors that convey risk or resilience.”

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