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Cocaine Addiction: Drug Re-Wires The Brain

New research published in last month’s edition of Nature Neuroscience may provide information on a potential new target in the brain to treat cocaine addiction.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo and Mount Sinai School of Medicine hope that new research published in Nature Neuroscience will provide a new target in the brain to help cocaine addicts.  They have discovered that chronic cocaine use reduces the brain’s ability to manifest a protein that regulates plasticity. This inability to regulate plasticity results in more sensitivity to cocaine’s pleasurable effects.

The hypothesis of these researchers is that this protein deficiency could result in a way to treat cocaine addiction. The study used mice to test the regulating ability of the Rac 1 plasticity protein. Researchers shined light to control whether or not the mice became addicted to cocaine by modifying the impact of RAC 1.

In this study, researchers discovered that activity reduction of the Rac 1 protein creates effects such as a large protrusion increase developing from neurons, which are found in the reward center of the brain.

This discovery proved to researchers that cocaine abuse actually rewires the brain. People who use the drug often run the risk of re-wiring their brain to enhance the pleasurable effects of the drug, thus making addiction more likely.

The researchers believe their insight into cocaine’s ability rewire the brain could help doctors develop treatments that may regulate genes that are connected to the process. This regulation could reduce the impact of cocaine’s addictive properties.

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