MILWAUKEE — You can almost always find Matthew Hearing in the lab. He’s an assistant professor of biomedical sciences at Marquette University.
“The thing I like about research is finding out that I’m wrong,” said Hearing.
He specializes in neuroscience addiction research. Hearing recently received a $2,067,753 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. The money will be used to study how opioids affect the brain.
“We’re trying to find how increased exposure of opioids over time will alter the functional state that of these regions that are important of controlled behavior,” said Hearing.
The study will also research whether opioids impact male and female brains differently.
“We make assumptions that things are altered in male versus a female in the same way and what we’re finding out that that’s not true in the most cases,” said Hearing.
Hearing said the grant allows them to do research for the next five years.
“A lot of the things we will be doing will be with the animals,” said Hearing. “Undergrads, post docs and graduate students will be engaged in it. We’ll have regular meetings and will talk about what the findings are as we start to collect the data and rigorously assess what the actual data means.”
Research professor Robert Twining will also work with Hearing. He said he is excited to begin the study in the next couple of weeks.
“For the opportunity of decoding how the brain actually encodes the opioid reward, the behaviors that go along with it,” said Twining. “Being able to disentangle what those signals mean inside the brain and assign true meaning to it is what I got into neuroscience for.”
Both said with the opioid crisis, this study will help with developing future treatments.
“Finding out what it does and understanding it is really important because we’ve been making assumptions that all substance use disorders develop in the same manner and we’re finding out that even though there are similarities in the behavioral changes that we’ve seen that are clinically classifying it,” said Hearing. “The neurobiology underlying these substance abuse disorders are very distinctly different.”