NIH Grant Will Fund Imaging Study on Opioid-Addicted Clients

NIH Grant Will Fund Imaging Study on Opioid-Addicted Clients

Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine has been awarded close to $3 million for an imaging study to determine what is occurring in the brains of people living with OUD (Opioid Use Disorder). The grant, which is being provided by NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), will provide funding until June 2025.

Specifically, Scott J. Moeller, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, will be looking at what is occurring in those who are living with significant drug abuse issues but who are “not committed to taking their prescribed medications.”

More than Just Denial Occurring in Opioid Use Disorder Clients

Many people are familiar with the term, “denial” as it applies to those living with an addiction. It is one of the signs that someone could be living with a substance abuse problem. In this instance, denial is described as “selective ignoring of information.” People with addictions fail to appreciate the consequences of their actions due to their self-deception that separates the addict from reality.

Denial is the reason an addict continues to drink or do drugs despite the harmful consequences of their actions. This lack of insight is used to help the person maintain a positive self-image and reduce their anxiety around their addiction.

Dr. Moeller, the study’s Principal Investigator, feels that an OUD client’s lack of insight may be more than just a case of simple denial. Instead, he thinks it may be linked to abnormalities in the brain’s circuitry. Dr. Moeller and his colleague, Richard N. Rosenthal, M.D., theorize there are certain deficiencies in the brain’s “self-referential” network. These are a group of brain regions that allow individuals to have self-awareness and process information about themselves.

Functional MRI to be used for Imaging

The researchers will be using a functional MRI to isolate activity in the participants’ brain areas. Their goal is to determine whether there are detectable differences between self-referential brain functioning between a control group made up of non-addicted people and OUD clients.

Research will Help with Impaired Insight into Opioid-Addicted Clients

Dr. Moeller said recently that the researchers expect to find that the study results will reveal some new information about the importance of what psychiatrists refer to as “impaired insight.” This is the idea that patients living with some diseases do not realize how sick they are. In the case of people with OUD, they have impaired insight into their illness. This impairment leads to their rejecting addiction treatments.