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NIDA Notes Articles: Basic Science

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A Case for Studying Brain Asymmetry in Drug Use

September 2016

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.

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

September 2016

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.

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Gene Variant Is Associated With Reduced HIV Transmission

March 2016

A gene variant appears to partially shield people whose behaviors entail high risk for exposure to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from becoming infected.

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Protein Diminishes Cocaine Reward and Cocaine-Related Learning in Animals

February 2016

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.

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Gene Transfer Therapy for Cocaine Addiction Passes Tests in Animals

January 2016

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.

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

November 2015

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.

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Why Take a Drug That No Longer Gives Pleasure?

September 2015

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.

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THC Hampers Spatial Memory Development in Young Monkeys

September 2015

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.

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Brain Imaging Predicts Relapse to Cocaine

September 2015

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.

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Stress Hormone Sets the Stage for Relapse to Cocaine Use

June 2015

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.

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