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The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction

4: Dopamine binding to receptors and uptake pumps in the nucleus accumbens: the action of cocaine

Dopamine binding to receptors and uptake pumps

Explain that cocaine binds to sites in areas of the brain that are rich in dopamine synapses such as the VTA and the nucleus accumbens. Review dopamine transmission in the close-up of a synapse in the nucleus accumbens. Point to dopamine (inside the terminal) that is released into the synaptic space. The dopamine binds to dopamine receptors and then is taken up by uptake pumps back into the terminal. Now show what happens when cocaine is present (yellow). Cocaine binds to the uptake pumps and prevents them from transporting dopamine back into the neuron terminal. So more dopamine builds up in the synaptic space and it is free to activate more dopamine receptors. This is the same effect that you showed in an earlier image with morphine, where morphine increased dopamine release from the terminal to produce more dopamine in the synaptic space.

This page was last updated January 2007

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