26 Jul Stimulating Neurons Blocks Desire for Cocaine
Scientists have keyed on two groups of neurons that they describe as “sluggish” in their studies on cocaine-addicted lab rats. By stimulating these groups of neurons, the scientists have eased the rats’ drive to seek out a cocaine fix.
The prelimbic cortex is the area of the brain where impulse control and reward-drive are controlled. This area is where a person’s strength or weakness in self-control is located. Scientists didn’t know if the prelimbic cortex in cocaine-addicted rats was weak to begin with or if the cocaine played a roll in breaking down the self-control mechanism. Scientists rigged the test situation so that the cocaine-addicted rats would press a lever to receive a dose of cocaine. Eventually, the rats were given an electric shock one-third of the time they pushed the lever. A majority of them stopped pushing the lever all-together, but 30 percent continued despite the risk of shock.
After establishing which rats were compulsive users, the scientists sent electric current to the prelimbic cortex in an effort to stimulate those neurons. What they found was that it took nearly twice as much current to get those neurons to react as it did in rats that had never received cocaine.
Bringing a greater understanding to cocaine use is a vital component to treating the many thousands who are struggling with their addictions. Chronic users are experiencing cardiovascular irregularities, stroke, chronic lung problems, nasal structure issues, tremors and a variety of other maladies due to years of abuse. Some users progress to taking the drug with needles, which can lead to contracting HIV, hepatitis and tetanus.
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