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Resetting the Addicted Brain

AddictionReducing Cocaine-Seeking Behavior

Scientists at the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have found that they are able to stimulate a key part of a rat’s brain that reduces compulsive cocaine-seeking behavior.[1] Compulsive drug-using has been a difficult problem to treat in the human population. This leads to the question: Will future research uncover how to “reset” the addicted brain?1 NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. states that this research may also work with other drugs of abuse, knowing that deficits in the prefrontal cortex are involved heavily in drug addictions.1

“There is therapeutic promise in targeting that part of the brain, ” Volkow said.1

Cocaine and the Prefrontal Cortex of the Brain

In this study, rats who exhibited addictive behavior pushed levers to get to cocaine, even if followed by a mild electric shock to the foot. Other rats did not exhibit the same responses; therefore, the nerve cell firing patters in the prefrontal cortex of the two groups were compared.1 Cocaine produced significant brain deficits in the addicted rats, lessening the activity of the prefrontal cortex.1 Therefore, activating the brain cells (by removing the deficits) reduced cocaine-seeking behaviors.1 On the other hand, in rats who did not show addictive behavior, deactivating brain cells in the prefrontal cortex (by adding deficits) increased compulsive cocaine-seeking behavior.1

First Cocaine Study of It’s Kind

Author of the study, Billy Chen, M.D. stated that this study was the first of its kind to show a cause-and-effect relationship between cocaine use and brain deficits.1 Therefore, the results can be translated to clinical research regarding humans using non-invasive methods.1


[1] NIH study sheds light on how to reset the addicted brain. (2013, April 4). Health Canal. Retrieved April 8, 2013, from http://www.healthcanal.com/substance-abuse/37456-NIH-study-sheds-light-how-reset-the-addicted-brain.html Cocaine.

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