Researchers discover why cocaine is so addictive

Oct 18, 2010

Mount Sinai researchers have discovered how cocaine corrupts the brain and becomes addictive. These findings -- the first to connect activation of specific neurons to alterations in cocaine reward -- were published in Science on October 15. The results may help researchers in developing new ways of treating those addicted to the drug.

Led by Mary Kay Lobo, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and first author of the study, researchers found that the two main (D1 and D2) in the nucleus accumbens region of the brain, an important part of the brain's reward center, exert opposite effects on cocaine reward. Activation of D1 neurons increases cocaine reward whereas activation of D2 neurons decreases cocaine reward.

"The data suggest a model whereby chronic exposure to cocaine results in an imbalance in activity in the two nucleus accumbens neurons: increased activity in D1 neurons combined with decreased activity in D2 neurons," said Dr. Lobo. "This further suggests that BDNF-TrkB signaling in D2 neurons mediates this decreased activity in D2 neurons."

The study was conducted using optogenetics, a technology to optically control neuronal activity in freely moving rodents.

Opposite cocaine reward similar to those found when activating each neuron is achieved by disrupting , which is a protein in the brain known for its involvement in neuronal survival, learning, and memory and drug abuse signaling through its receptor TrkB in D1 or D2 neurons.

"This new information provides fundamentally novel insight into how cocaine corrupts the brains reward center, and in particular how cocaine can differentially effect two neuronal subtypes that are heterogeneously intermixed in the nucleus accumbens," said Eric Nestler, MD, PhD, Chair of Neuroscience, Nash Family Professor, and Director of The Friedman Brain Institute at Mount Sinai and co-author on the study. "We can use this information to potentially develop new therapies for cocaine addiction, possibly aimed at altering selectively in either neuronal subtype."

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Provided by The Mount Sinai Hospital

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DaffyDuck
not rated yet Oct 18, 2010
Great to see optogenetics starting to reap rewards.
ironjustice
not rated yet Oct 19, 2010
If vegetable lecithin / acetylcholine completely eliminates the 'addictive nature' of cocaine and morphine WHAT 'link' is there to this growth factor.
"Acetylcholine enhancement in the nucleus accumbens prevents addictive behaviors of cocaine and morphine"
"Blocking the birth of new neurons helps hook rats on cocaine"
Could acetylcholine cause 'a birth of new neurons' .. ?
"Lecithin may therefore be the method of choice for accelerating acetylcholine synthesis"
"Lecithin consumption raises serum-free-choline levels"

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