An online course, “The Addicted Brain” offered by Coursera in collaboration with Emory University is starting in the month of June. This course is all about addiction to drugs and other behaviors. It also describes what happens in the brain and how this information will help in overcoming addictions.

The course will cover several aspects of addiction such as drugs, internet, gambling and other behaviors. Questions that will be addressed include:
-What is addiction?
-How do we study it and what have we learned?
-What makes a drug or activity addicting and what are its problems and toxicities?
-What happens in the brain when someone becomes addicted?
-Who can be an addict, and what are the vulnerability and risk factors?
-How do we treat addicts?
-How does government policy affect addicts?
-A current book will be recommended and various websites will be referred to so that the students can find reliable up-to-date information in the future.

Course Timeline

This online course will start on 23rd June 2014.

Course Period

This course will run for 7 weeks and estimated effort of 3-4 hours/week is required from each student.

Online Course Provider

Coursera and the Emory University

Online Platform


Eligibility Requirements

No prior knowledge required but a previous course in psychology will be helpful.

Course Syllabus

Week 1:
Overview of drug use and background of the problem
Definition of drug use/addiction/dependence
What does the behavior of addiction look like?
History of drug use
Statistics of use: alcohol and nicotine are number 1 and 2
10 Classes of addicting drugs
Other addictions: gambling, food, internet, sex, etc.

Week 2:
More on drugs
Concept that drugs have multiple functions
Drugs in the body: absorption, metabolism, elimination
Drug testing in urine
What drugs do to the brain
How nerve cells communicate
Neurotransmission and the synapse
Components of synaptic transmission
Drugs work by interfering with chemical neurotransmission
Drug and neurotransmitter receptors

Week 3
More detailed info on 7 of the 10 classes: ethanol, nicotine, cannabinoids,
psychostimulants, hallucinogens, opiates, and sedative hypnotics

Week 4:
More detailed info on 3 of the 10 classes: inhalants, caffeine, and others
Animal models
The ethics of using animals in drug research
Animals take drugs just like humans: drug self-administration
Procedures involving animals have revealed much about addiction and are
invaluable tools in the field

Week 5:
Brain imaging reveals places where drugs act
Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters involved in reward
It is found in pleasure/reward/reinforcing centers in the brain
Brain centers make us feel good to ensure survival-related activities
Drugs affect such centers and many drugs result in released dopamine
Brain scanners allow measuring effects of drugs in living humans
Dopamine D2 receptors are associated with vulnerability to drug use
The brain heals slowly after stopping drug use
The slow return has many important implications
How do drugs change the brain?
Neuroplasticity, signal transduction, and gene expression

Week 6:
Vulnerability to drug use and abuse, and prevention
What factor dispose us to drug use?
Factors include genetics, but genetics are not the whole story
Genetics interact with the environment
What (protective) factors associate with low or no drug use?
Idea of vulnerability and individual variation
How do we deal with vulnerability?
Prevention programs save money and misery

Week 7:
Treatment, Policy, and Decriminalization
Treatment is the lifeline for those who can’t stop
Treatment is effective whether you elect to do it or if you are forced to do it
Legalization vs. decriminalization
No simple solution, but some advantages for some drugs for decriminalization
Policy is a powerful tool to steer our way through the problem and to do the most
Just Say No – or – Minimize Harm Done to All
Course Review

Online Course Staff

Michael J Kuhar

He has acquired PhD degree and is a Professor of Neuropharmacology in the Yerkes Research Center of Emory University. He has trained a large number of students, fellows and visitors, received a number of prestigious awards. His general areas of interest include the brain, its structure and function, neuropsychiatric disease and addicting drugs.

You can apply for the course by following this link.