The National Institutes on Drug Abuse has awarded the University of Minnesota a $9.9 million grant to establish a new center to study how addiction affects the brain.

The Center for Neural Circuits in Addiction will bring together researchers from different disciplines to examine how the brain changes with addiction and then use those findings to develop new treatments, according to a university news release.

"We want to emphasize that addiction is not a failure of moral character or will," said Mark J. Thomas, a professor and director of the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction in the Medical School. "It's a serious and chronic brain-based medical condition in need of much better treatments."

The Minnesota Department of Health estimates 450,000 to 500,000 Minnesotans have a substance use disorder.

Thomas, who is leading the Center for Neural Circuits in Addiction, noted that the research will further understanding of how addiction and recovery affect the circuits in the brain that govern emotions, motivation and decisionmaking.

"This is essential to finding new, more effective therapies," he said.

The researchers working within the new center bring expertise from a variety of U programs, from biological sciences and the Medical School to the U's Informatics Institute and the College of Science and Engineering.

Their work will include developing genetic approaches for the study of anatomical, cellular and molecular bases of addiction; using new methods to map brain circuits; monitoring brain activity with cutting-edge imaging tools; and using data to examine the relationship between drug exposure, brain circuits and addictive behavior.

"Cross-disciplinary research is essential to making transformational discoveries," said Dr. Jakub Tolar, dean of the Medical School and vice president of clinical affairs.

"The University has amazing strengths in the basic, translational and clinical neurosciences, as well as engineering, and a strong history of collaborating across those disciplines to benefit patients."