January 2014 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
October 2017 High-frequency electrical stimulation of neurons deep in the brain can reduce rats’ relapse-like behavior and motivation to take heroin. The finding strengthens hope that deep brain stimulation might offer a new treatment alternative for opioid addiction, particularly for patients who have not benefited from other treatments.
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.