March 2012 New research suggests that differences in tobacco consumption reflect, in part, differences in the functional efficacy of a specific type of receptor in a pathway of the brain. In animal studies, nicotinic acetylcholine receptors with the α5 subunit played a key role in producing aversive responses to nicotine, thereby dissuading further consumption of the drug.
April 2009 Describes findings from an animal study showing that cocaine lowers availability of dopamine receptors in the basal ganglia, an area of the brain that includes portions of the reward system.
October 2010 Describes research results reporting that people who favor novelty have lower-than-average availability of a receptor that inhibits dopamine's release from neurons, which likely stimulates the activity of reward circuits.
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.
November 2011 In a new series of studies tracing the molecular events that occur in the brain as memories are formed and preserved, researchers find that certain epigenetic changes may promote vulnerability to relapse.
January 2013 Clinical trials of N-acetylcysteine to help people recovering from drug abuse avoid relapse have demonstrated only moderate efficacy. New NIDA-supported research shows that while a low dose of the medication activates receptors associated with lowered drug-seeking behavior, a higher dose appears to activate receptors associated with increased drug-seeking behavior. The result suggests that a medication or combination of medications that stimulate the receptor GluR2/3 and block mGluR5 may work better than N-acetylcysteine alone.
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.
March 2017 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.