Study Links Cocaine Use to New Brain Structures
(Ivanhoe Newswire) –According to researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at UC San Francisco, mice given cocaine showed rapid growth in new brain structures linked with memory and learning.
Researchers used a microscope that allowed them to see directly into the nerve cells of living mice. Within two hours of giving cocaine to the mice, they found significant increases in the density of dendritic spines (structures that bear synapses required for signaling) in the animals’ frontal cortex. Researchers also found an association between the growth of new dendritic spines and drug-associated learning.
The frontal cortex, which principal investigator Linda Wilbrecht, PhD, a Gallo investigator, called the “steering wheel” of the brain, controls functions like decision-making, long-term planning, and other behaviors involving higher reasoning and discipline. “The findings could advance research in human addiction by helping us identify what is going awry in the frontal cortexes of drug-addicted humans, and by explaining how drug-related cues come to dominate the brain’s decision-making processes,” Wilbrecht was quoted as saying.
For more information, go to: http://www.ucsf.edu/
SOURCE: Nature Neuroscience, August 2013
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