Al-Hasani Research Featured in Nature Neuroscience
Published on 17 September 2021
Breakthrough research from Ream Al-Hasani, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical science at University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis, and her research team at the Center for Clinical Pharmacology, has identified a new pathway in the brain that may to contribute to more effective treatments for drug addiction and depression.
This discovery builds on Al-Hasani’s previous research, which focused on reward processing and identifying the reward processing functions within the sub-regions of the nucleus accumbens region of the brain.
Through her current research, recently published in Nature Neuroscience, Al-Hasani and her team have uncovered a new role in reward processing for the neurotransmitter, GABA, which projects from the ventral tegmental area of the brain to the ventral nucleus accumbens shell.
“The dopamine projection from the ventral tegmental area to the nucleus accumbens region has been widely studied in the context of reward processing, but through our recent work, we identified that the GABA projection that runs alongside the dopamine projection also plays a role in reward processing,” Al-Hasani explained. “Our team has been the first to identify the reward-processing function of this projection, so this is a very exciting discovery.”
Al-Hasani notes the research offers a potential new target mechanism for the treatment of drug addiction and depression.
“Our work offers a potential new line of investigation for reward processing in the context of both addiction and depression,” Al-Hasani said. “For example, many anti-depressant medications don’t always work well, and this gives us the ability to look beyond the regulation of serotonin system and consider a role for GABA in this context.”
As Al-Hasani continues her research, she’s hopeful that other researchers in her field will be able to build on her findings to create new discoveries.
“Being published in a high impact science journal like Nature Neuroscience has been a great achievement for our team,” noted Al-Hasani. “My hope is that other researchers will see our work and be inspired to push the boundaries and extend beyond what we’ve done.”
Al-Hasani’s research collaborators included investigators from the Center for Clinical Pharmacology, the Department of Anesthesiology at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Washington Center of Excellence in Neurobiology of Addiction, Pain and Emotion.