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NIDA Notes Articles: Basic Science

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Why Females Are More Sensitive to Cocaine

August 2017

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

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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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Impacts of Drugs on Neurotransmission

March 2017

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. 

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Why Are Our Brains So Big and Powerful?

March 2017

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

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Promising Advances in the Search for Safer Opioids

February 2017

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.

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Why Do People Lose Control Over Their Cocaine Use?

September 2016

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.

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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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