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NIDA Notes Articles: Basic Science

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

July 2014
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.

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Drug Cues Outside Awareness Rapidly Trigger Brain's Emotion Centers

October 2009
Describes research showing that cocaine abusers appear to have a rapid neural response to reward cues outside of their awareness, possibly signifying vulnerability to relapse.

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

September 2017
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. 

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Endocannabinoid Regulates Cocaine Reward

March 2017
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.  

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Ethnic Groups Have Contrasting Genetic Risks for Nicotine Addiction

October 2009
Describes research exploring differences and similarities in the genetic profiles of African-Americans and European-Americans who are heavy smokers.

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Extended Cocaine Exposure Impairs Cognitive Function in Rats

November 2009
Reports an animal study presenting evidence that cocaine causes cognitive deficits that can persist well into abstinence.

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Gene Influences Impact of Maternal Smoking on Children's Behavioral Problems

July 2011
Describes research showing that the combination of prenatal smoking exposure and specific genes increases children’s and adolescent’s risk for behavior problems.

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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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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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Gene Variants Reduce Opioid Risks

June 2014
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.

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