While most often addiction is believed to be hardwired within the brain, a new study from UC Berkeley is challenging this notion. A study of mice showed that a short time spent in a new learning environment allowed for a rewiring of the reward system in the brain — essentially providing a sort of buffer against drug addiction or dependence. Scientists tracked the craving for cocaine in mice, finding that the mice who were intellectually stimulated in a learning environment craved cocaine less than their counterparts.

Linda Wilbrecht, senior author of the paper, explained: “Our data are exciting because they suggest that positive learning experiences, through education or play in a structured environment, could sculpt and develop brain circuits to build resilience in at-risk individuals, and that even brief cognitive interventions may be somewhat protective and last a relatively long time.”

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