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Sex, Drugs, and Junk Food: The Neurobiology of Desire

  • Wurstküche 625 Lincoln Boulevard Los Angeles, CA, 90291 United States (map)

Alisa Kosheleff, PhD


We used to think addiction was due to a lack of willpower and self-control, but now scientists overwhelmingly agree addiction is a “brain disease,” and occurs as a result of chemical modifications in the brain. These well-defined neurochemical changes characterize the transition from casual to compulsive drug use, but treatment options remain poor. Currently, addiction researchers are attempting to understand the emergence of compulsive overeating and food addiction, but whether and to what degree drug and food addiction map onto the same model remains controversial. In a world where junk food is plentiful and cheap, what lessons can we learn from the drug addiction field, and can we avert a food addiction epidemic?

Speaker Bio

Alisa Kosheleff is a postdoctoral researcher at the UCLA Hatos Center for Neuropharmacology at the Brain Research Institute. She began her career studying how methamphetamine disrupts our ability to make adaptive, flexible decisions, but wanted to get to the source of the problem - the mechanisms of addiction itself. Her work on addiction at UCLA has focused on how psychostimulants and, more recently, junk foods drive changes in the brain that keep us hooked on these rewards, promoting a vicious cycle of reward seeking and craving.  More recently, she has begun to explore the neurochemistry driving motivational and affective changes associated with aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

When she’s not in the lab, she’s probably at the barn, preparing for a competition with her horse, Scarlett.