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NIDA

A revealing look at the brain on heroin

Science Highlight

June 29, 2018

A NIDA-funded study reveals major changes in the brains of heroin users. The scientific team from UCLA discovered that people addicted to heroin have 50% more neurons that produce the neurotransmitter hypocretin (also called orexin) than age-matched controls.

The left image shows hypocretin neurons in a normal human brain; the right image is hypocretin neurons in a person using heroin. The hypocretin neurons for the heroin user are much smaller and numerous.Courtesy: Lab of J. SiegelThe left image shows hypocretin neurons in a normal human brain; the right image is hypocretin neurons in a person using heroin. The hypocretin neurons for the heroin user are much smaller and numerous.

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