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Emory on Coursera: The addicted brain

Gain an expert glimpse into addiction research through a free, online course led by neuropharmacology professor Michael Kuhar. The class is offered through Coursera, an Emory partner for MOOCs (massive open online courses), and runs June 23-Aug. 18.

The course, "The Addicted Brain," examines addiction to drugs and other addictive behaviors. It will describe what happens in the brain and how this information helps us deal with and overcome addiction.

"These are very, very big problems and drug addiction costs society hundreds of billions of dollars per year," says Kuhar in the course's introductory video. And that doesn't include the misery that affects everyone.

"Almost everybody knows somebody afflicted with the abuse of tobacco or alcohol, or prescription drugs, or illicit drugs like methamphetamine," says Kuhar. "Addition is a special kind of behavior. Because the brain is the director of our behavior, we have to look to the brain to understand it.

Kuhar is Candler Professor of Neuropharmacology at Emory University School of Medicine, a researcher at Yerkes National Primate Research Center and a senior fellow in the Center for Ethics at Emory. He has spent more than four decades as a neuroscience and neuropharmacology researcher. His studies have focused on the cellular and anatomical bases of addiction in order to pave the way for a new class of drugs to target addiction and obesity through a better understanding of CART peptides. These specific peptides are neurotransmitters that have been implicated in the regulation of feeding, body weight, drug reward and stress.

With his more than 900 scientific publications, Dr. Kuhar is the most cited researcher at Emory. He has trained more than 60 students, research fellows and visitors, and he is the author of "The Addicted Brain, Why We Abuse Drugs, Alcohol, and Nicotine" (2012 Pearson Education/FT Press) and "The Art and Ethics of Being a Good Colleague" (2013 CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform).

In 2011, Dr. Kuhar received the Nathan B. Eddy Memorial Award from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence to honor his lifetime achievements in research that have advanced the understanding of drug dependence.

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