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Basic Science

Stimulants in “Bath Salts” Produce Effects Similar to MDMA

Mephedrone and methylone, two stimulants commonly found in designer drugs such as “bath salts,” act on the brain much like MDMA (Ecstasy).

Male Rats’ Cocaine Exposure Affects Their Offspring’s Drug Responses

In a surprising finding, male rats who used cocaine sired male offspring who later exhibited blunted responses to the drug. Researchers determined the cause was an epigenetic alteration.

Study Pinpoints Cognitive Deficits Due to Cocaine, Finds Potential for Recovery

New research demonstrated that, in rhesus monkeys, ongoing cocaine exposure weakens two brain functions that people require for successful behavioral change: cognitive flexibility and memory. But the study determined that these changes may not be permanent.

Nicotine Makes Mouse Brain More Responsive to Cocaine

Nicotine sensitizes the mouse brain to the addictive effects of cocaine, according to recent NIDA-supported research. The results accord with the hypothesis that a person’s initial use of an addictive substance physiologically sensitizes his or her brain to the rewarding and addictive effects of other substances. If the findings carry over to people, then preventing youths from smoking might reduce their vulnerability to cocaine abuse and addiction, and cocaine-dependent individuals might ease their path to recovery by quitting smoking.

Stress Receptor Mediates Lifelong Consequences of Early Trauma

NIDA-supported research suggests that glucocorticoid receptor levels during early brain development affect the hard wiring of neural circuits that shape an individual’s basic emotional makeup. In mice, overexpression of the glucocorticoid gene in the first weeks after birth increased anxiety and response to cocaine in adulthood. These findings may help researchers understand the genetic background and the developmental trajectory of addiction.

Prenatal Cocaine Exposure Increases Monkeys' Impulsivity Into Adulthood

Prenatal drug exposure can have behavioral effects that last well into adulthood, according to two studies of adult monkeys prenatally exposed to cocaine. In the first study, drug-exposed monkeys exhibited less flexibility than controls in adjusting to changing circumstances; in the second study, drug-exposed males exhibited a greater preference than controls for having rewards right away, a sign of impulsivity.

Investigators Map Functional Networks in the Rat Brain

Researchers have mapped the fundamental functional organization of the rat brain and shown that it resembles that of the human brain.

Physical Activity Reduces Return to Cocaine Seeking in Animal Tests

Two independent animal studies suggest that aerobic exercise might help cocaine abusers establish and maintain abstinence.

Well-Known Mechanism Underlies Benzodiazepines' Addictive Properties

New research establishes that benzodiazepines cause addiction in a way similar to that of opioids, cannabinoids, and the club drug GHB. The discovery opens the door to designing new benzodiazepines that counteract anxiety but are not addictive.

Cognitive Strategy Reduces Craving by Altering Brain Activity

While viewing images of cigarettes, smokers reported milder cravings when they shifted their focus from the pleasures of smoking to its harmful effects. Brain imaging showed a correlation between the reductions in craving and altered activity levels in regions associated with emotional regulation and reward.

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