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Basic Science

Cocaine-Induced Increase in an Immune Protein Promotes Addiction Behaviors in Mice

Cocaine produces a portion of its rewarding effects by increasing levels of granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) in the brain’s reward center. Treatments that prevent G-CSF signaling in the nucleus accumbens might reduce motivation to use cocaine.

Basic Science

How Cocaine Cues Get Planted in the Brain

An epigenetic mechanism underlies the powerful cocaine–environment associations that promote relapse.

Basic Science

Adolescent Marijuana Use Is Linked to Altered Neural Circuitry and Mood Symptoms

Some teens' marijuana use has been linked to disrupted communication between two key regions in the brain’s reward circuitry at age 20. Disrupted communication between the regions was associated with poorer psychosocial functioning at age 22.

Basic Science

Amphetamine Diverts the Brain’s Path to Maturity

A key mechanism of adolescent brain development can be disrupted by amphetamine.

Basic Science

A Gene Links Impulsivity and Drug Use Vulnerability

Understanding the relationships between impulsivity and drug use vulnerability may help identify new ways of treating or preventing substance use disorders.

Basic Science

Why Marijuana Displeases

This study demonstrated how THC produces aversive effects in mice and suggests a mechanism to explain why people experience rewarding, aversive, or mixed effects from marijuana.

Basic Science

EEG Indicates That Cocaine Relapse Vulnerability Peaks 1 to 6 Months Into Abstinence

Electroencephalography (EEG) may provide an objective measure of cocaine-addicted participants’ vulnerability to cue-induced relapse. The assessment of cue-induced responsiveness may be useful in the clinical setting for assessing relapse risk and tailoring interventions to maintain abstinence among cocaine-addicted adults. 

Basic Science

Variation in the Gene for the μ-Opioid Receptor May Influence Responses to Methadone

A single nucleotide polymorphism in the messenger RNA of the µ-opioid receptor gene was associated with patients’ responses to methadone treatment for opioid dependence.

Basic Science

Efectos de las drogas sobre la neurotransmisión

Las drogas pueden alterar la manera de pensar, sentir y comportarse de las personas al afectar la neurotransmisión, que es el proceso que usan las neuronas (células nerviosas) en el cerebro para comunicarse entre ellas.  Este artículo trata sobre la importancia central de estudiar los efectos de las drogas sobre la neurotransmisión y describe algunos de los métodos experimentales más comunes que se usan en esta investigación. Lea este artículo en inglés

Basic Science

Why Females Are More Sensitive to Cocaine

New research demonstrates that the hormone estradiol is responsible for females’ increased sensitivity to stimulant drugs.

Public Health

Nonmedical Opioid and Heroin Use Among High School Seniors

This study analyzed the use of use of nonmedical opioids and heroin use among 68,000 high-school seniors participating in the NIDA-funded Monitoring the Future Study between 2009 and 2013.

Narrative of Discovery

Narrative of Discovery: Can Magnets Treat Cocaine Addiction? Part 3

In the final installment of this series, Dr. Diana Martinez navigates the process for receiving NIH funding to test the efficacy of using transcranial magnetic stimulation as treatment for cocaine addiction.

Basic Science

Endocannabinoid Regulates Cocaine Reward

  • Investigators have shown that 2-AG, an endocannabinoid (i.e., a cannabinoid manufactured within the body, as opposed to plant-derived), augments the cocaine-induced dopamine surge in the brain’s reward system.
  • The discovery adds to evidence that inhibiting activity in the endocannabinoid system might reduce cocaine’s rewarding and addictive effects.  
Basic Science

Impacts of Drugs on Neurotransmission

Drugs can alter the way people think, feel, and behave by disrupting neurotransmission, the process of communication between brain cells. This article discusses the central importance of studying drugs’ effects on neurotransmission and describes some of the most common experimental methods used in this research. 

Basic Science

Why Are Our Brains So Big and Powerful?

Research suggests that unique patterns of gene regulation have contributed to the differences in brain size and capacity that distinguish humans from other animals.

Basic Science

Promising Advances in the Search for Safer Opioids

New studies show that two novel compounds powerfully suppressed animals’ pain responses, while producing little or none of the respiratory depression and liability for misuse and abuse associated with morphine and other typical opioids.

Basic Science

Why Do People Lose Control Over Their Cocaine Use?

Researchers monitored the activity of two types of neurons in mice: “urge” neurons, which promote feelings of reward and repeating behaviors that have produced rewards, and “control” neurons, which dampen those feelings and inhibit behavior.

Basic Science

¿Por qué las personas pierden el control sobre su consumo de cocaína?

Los investigadores observaron la actividad de dos tipos de neuronas en ratones: las neuronas de "impulso", que promueven los sentimientos de recompensa y la repetición de los comportamientos dirigidos a repetir las experiencias gratificantes, y las neuronas de "control", que disminuyen estos sentimientos e inhiben esos comportamientos.

Basic Science

A Case for Studying Brain Asymmetry in Drug Use

A new study proposes that research into the discrete roles played by the brain’s two hemispheres could yield important and actionable insights into drug use and addiction. Evidence indicates that two risk factors for substance use, impulsivity and craving, primarily reflect activity in the right and left hemispheres, respectively.

Basic Science

Regular Marijuana Use Is Associated With Differences in Brain Gray Matter and Connectivity

A brain imaging study strongly suggests that regular users of marijuana have smaller orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) volumes. Such a deficit could make it more difficult to change counterproductive behaviors, including drug use.

Basic Science

Protein Diminishes Cocaine Reward and Cocaine-Related Learning in Animals

The protein acid-sensing ion channel 1A (ASIC1A) is naturally present in the brain and reduces laboratory animals' attraction to environments in which they have experienced cocaine's effects.

Basic Science

Gene Transfer Therapy for Cocaine Addiction Passes Tests in Animals

Giving mice a modified version of a naturally occurring gene blocks cocaine’s stimulant effects without affecting the animals’ physiological or metabolic health. The new evidence advances the proposed therapy a step closer to readiness for testing in people.

Basic Science

Childhood Maltreatment Changes Cortical Network Architecture and May Raise Risk for Substance Use

Young adults who had been maltreated as children differed from others who had not been maltreated in the connectivity of nine cortical regions. The differences could compromise the maltreated group’s basic social perceptual skills, ability to maintain a healthy balance between introversion and extroversion, and ability to self-regulate their emotions and behavior.

Narrative of Discovery

Narrative of Discovery: Can Magnets Treat Cocaine Addiction?

Two researchers share their reasons for researching transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for treating cocaine addiction, and describe challenges to moving forward this potentially promising therapy.

Basic Science

Why Take a Drug That No Longer Gives Pleasure?

In mice, a cocaine-induced imbalance in the activity of two key populations of neurons in the reward system persists for a longer period after repeated exposure to the drug. For long-term users, this change could both weaken the cocaine “high” and strengthen the compulsion to seek the drug.

Basic Science

THC Hampers Spatial Memory Development in Young Monkeys

Adolescent monkeys that were exposed to THC fell progressively further behind THC-free monkeys in their ability to recall the location of an object after a brief delay.

Basic Science

Brain Imaging Predicts Relapse to Cocaine

A NIDA-supported study has found that a cocaine-addicted person’s chance of managing 1 whole year of abstinence correlates with activity levels in these impaired motivational and decision-making brain areas.

Basic Science

Stress Hormone Sets the Stage for Relapse to Cocaine Use

A stressed rat will seek a dose of cocaine that is too weak to motivate an unstressed rat. Researchers traced the physiological pathway that links stress and the stress hormone corticosterone to increased dopamine activity and heightened responsiveness to cocaine.

Basic Science

Animal Study Suggests Marijuana May Affect Future Offspring’s Susceptibility to Heroin

Can marijuana use put offspring at heightened risk for opiate addiction, even if the use stops before the offspring are conceived? Results from a recent NIDA-funded study are consistent with other studies suggesting that a parent’s history of drug use, even preconception, may affect a child’s brain function and behavior.

Bulletin Board

Waletzky Memorial Award Winners’ Lectures at NIDA Illuminate Cocaine’s Many Effects on Brain Structure, Circuitry

Dr. Paul E. M. Phillips spoke on “Phasic Dopamine Transmission During Substance Abuse,” describing investigations that he has led into the role of brief, seconds-long bursts of dopamine signaling in addictive processes. Dr. Rita Z. Goldstein spoke on “Targeting the Brain, Cognition, and Motivation for Intervention in Addiction.”

Basic Science

Animation: The Rise and Fall of the Cocaine High

This animation shows the rapid passage of cocaine through the brain. It demonstrates that the intensity of the cocaine “high” parallels the trajectory of cocaine levels in the brain.

Basic Science

A Genetic Nexus of Obesity and Smoking

Research shows that some gene variants that influence body mass index also shape smoking behaviors.

Bulletin Board

Student-Scientists Present Award-Winning Research at NIDA

Four high school students were honored for their work regarding e-cigarettes, the GABAA neuroreceptor, and adolescent multitasking.

Basic Science

Dr. Antonello Bonci Q & A: Lighting Up the Brain To Shut Down Cocaine Seeking

The Scientific Director of NIDA’s Intramural Research Program talks about switching off animals’ compulsive cocaine seeking by optogenetically activating the prefrontal cortex, and the implications of this work for people. In an accompanying podcast, Dr. Bonci walks viewers through experiments that showed that prefrontal cortex activity levels may constitute a simple switch controlling whether or not animals compulsively seek cocaine.

Basic Science

Gene Variants Reduce Opioid Risks

Two recent studies suggest that genotyping may enable clinicians to base therapies on individual patients’ potential responsiveness to opioid drugs’ therapeutic effects and vulnerability to their harmful effects.

Basic Science

New Insight Into How Cues Cause Relapse to Cocaine

A brain response occurs in the nucleus accumbens when rats encounter a cue that they associate with previous cocaine self-administration, but not a cue associated with a pleasurable non-drug experience. Moreover, the response correlates in time and intensity with the animals’ cue-induced relapse to cocaine-seeking.

NIDA @ Work

Dr. Joni Rutter Q&A: How Basic Science Is Tackling Addiction

One of NIDA’s goals is to try to understand the individual differences that contribute to whether or not someone who takes a drug will become addicted to it. Dr. Rutter’s research focuses on three types of differences: Environmental, developmental, and genetic and epigenetic.

Basic Science

Methamphetamine Alters Brain Structures, Impairs Mental Flexibility

Methamphetamine alters brain structures involved in decision-making and impairs the ability to suppress habitual behaviors that have become useless or counterproductive. The two effects were correlated, indicating that the structural change underlies the decline in mental flexibility.

Basic Science

Stress-Induced Enzyme Compounds Methamphetamine Neurotoxicity

Ketoprofen, an anti-inflammatory agent commonly prescribed to treat arthritis, reduces neuronal damage in rats that have been exposed to chronic stress and methamphetamine. If this finding of a recent NIDA-supported study extrapolates to humans, anti-inflammatory medications may gain a place in the treatment of methamphetamine addiction.

Basic Science

Prefrontal Cortex Stimulation Stops Compulsive Drug Seeking in Rats

Researchers have shut down laboratory rats’ compulsive cocaine seeking by stimulating an area of the animals’ prefrontal cortex. The finding raises the possibility that stimulating neurons in this brain area may weaken or break cocaine’s grip on the behavior of people who are addicted to the drug.

NIDA Notes

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