Psychobiology of Drug Dependence

Summary of activities

The group constituted by the Research Unit “Psychobiology of Drug Dependence” of the University of Valencia, is focused on the study of the neurobiological mechanisms of addictive disorders. Specifically we are focused on:

     a) The study of the neurobiological mechanisms of relapse as a fundamental process to understand the addictive disorders as a chronically and persistent disease.

     b) Another section of our research is the study of the particular effects of drug used during adolescence, since this is a critical period in the development of the central nervous system.

     c) Although the epidemiological studies reveal that the polydrug used is the usual pattern of drug use, the majority of the studies evaluate the effects of only one substance. Thus, our group has developed a polydrug use model as a more realistic approach to the adolescent drug use.

     d) Finally, our team evaluates the neurobiological mechanisms of sensitization as a phenomenon related to the addictive potential of a drug, in order to contribute to the understanding of the transition from drug use to compulsive drug taking characteristic of addiction.

We are working in collaboration with other RTA groups (Dr. Consuelo Guerri and Dr. Antonio Armario) to carry out studies about the behavioral, biochemical and endocrine effects of ethanol drinking (binge model), and the combined use of alcohol and MDMA in adolescent mice. Furthermore, we are developing studies on the involvement of CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the reinforcing effects of MDMA (Dr. Olga Valverde) and the study of comorbidity between drug use disorders and psychiatric disorders using an experimental model (Dr. Paz Viveros).

As a final objective, we seek to contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms underlying relapse to drug use, long-term consequences of drug use in adolescence and the effects of polydrug use, in order to contribute to the prevention and treatment of this disease.

The principal lines of work are:

  • Role of glutamatergic and gabaergic systems in relapse.
  • Influence of stress in relapse
  • Reinforcing effects, relapse and neurotoxicity of MDMA
  • Prevention of relapse by social factors
  • Effects of prenatal exposure to cocaine
  • Polydrug abuse of MDMA, cocaine and alcohol in adolescents
  • Long-term effects of polydrug abuse during the adolescence
  • Involvement of NMDA receptors and nitric oxide in morphine-induced sensibilization

The main important techniques used are:

  • Conditioned Place Preference (CPP)
  • Open field
  • Plus-maze
  • Watermaze
  • Active and passive avoidance boxes
  • Ethopharmacological computerized observation
  • High Performance Liquid Chromatography System to detect catecholamines in brain tissue
  • Western blot to determine monoamine transporters