Skip to toolbar

Recently, I got a golden opportunity to be at NIDA headquarters attending a meeting where leading scientists in the field of addiction were discussing the face validity of different behavioral assays on animal models to study aspects of human addiction. The discussion revolved around the distrust the clinical research side has expressed over the findings and research methodologies that the preclinical community is so passionately married to. Several of them shared their experience dealing with the journal and grant reviewers criticizing the usage of the term ‘addiction’, the essence of which was – don’t call it ‘addiction’ if there is no face validity of the behavioral assay modeling any aspect of human addiction. The preclinical scientists seem contended by the construct validity of their approach and resorted to – if not this, what else? The second half of the discussion was rather perplexing where everyone was brainstorming on how to make clinical researchers share their insight and findings with the preclinical groups and vice versa, for mutual benefit in the absence of any representation from the clinicians in the meeting. I see a circular argument here where the preclinical community is stressing that their approaches are sound and their claims are meaningful irrespective of prevalent distrust between the bed and bench side researchers; keeping that fact aside, the proposal made was to find ways to forge cooperation and data sharing with the clinical community so that hypothesis-driven and translationally relevant projects could be conceived using animal models and if that pan out, preclinical methodologies are validated and therefore proves that the animal study outcome holds insight for understanding human addiction. Here is my outside perspective and opinion on this discussion – 1) let’s call a spade a spade; animal behavioral assays, however well designed, have limitations and a short term exposure to drugs on a specific behavioral paradigm may not be sufficient and/or enough to model the complex nature of human addiction. However its utility in understanding the underlying mechanism is unequivocally established and therefore, should be pursued and relayed as such; 2) Rather than a top-down bureaucratic/diplomatic solution to the prevailing distrust among clinicians, a bottom-up approach involving their views and reservations on behavioral assays and what it represents will go a long way and will certainly help to build upon a mutual trust that the preclinical community seeks; 3) gaining their trust will automatically translate into data and expertise sharing leading to a translational-oriented metamorphosis of the preclinical research that would go beyond its current self-proclamation of being clinically relevant.