One of the most serious medical risks of cocaine abuse is stroke due to the drug’s disruption of blood flow in the brain. However, until now, neuroimaging techniques to study these effects on a small scale have not been available. The authors of this study developed a new, high-resolution imaging technique that was able to capture cocaine’s effects on even the smallest vessels (capillaries) in the brains of mice. Using this technique, they found that administration of cocaine at the doses normally taken by abusers caused constrictions in small vessels that interrupted cerebral blood flow for varying lengths of time. In some small vessels (arteriolar branches), the effect was exacerbated by repeated administrations of the drug and lasted over 45 minutes. It is likely that these interruptions in cerebral blood flow could underlie some of the serious neurological complications of cocaine abuse.
Molecular Psychiatry. 2011 Nov 29. doi: 10.1038/mp.2011.160. [Epub ahead of print] - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=22124273
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