Science and Technology
26.08.2013

Cocaine induces growth of brain structures related to learning

U.S. study identifies a possible mechanism for drug-seeking behavior in humans

Foto: Tracy Nors/Foto Stock
Researchers also found a link between the growth of new dendritic spines and learning associated with drugs.
Researchers also found a link between the growth of new dendritic spines and learning associated with drugs.

U.S. researchers showed that mice given cocaine showed rapid growth of new brain structures associated with learning and memory.

The results suggest a mechanism of action through which drug use can lead to substance-seeking behavior that encourages their continued use.

The team, led by Linda Wilbrecht, University of California, used a microscope that allowed them to peer directly into nerve cells within the brain of living mice.

Within two hours providing cocaine, they noticed a significant increase in dendritic spine density structures that support the synapses required for signaling in the frontal cortex of animals. In contrast, mice that received saline showed no increase.

The researchers also found a relationship between the growth of new dendritic spines and learning associated with drugs.

According to the authors, most animals developing dendritic spines have been those that have developed a stronger preference for being received in the enclosure where cocaine instead of the enclosure which received saline.

The results were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

"This gives us a possible mechanism of how drug use drives drug-seeking behavior. Has been noted that users of long-term drug shows decreased function of the frontal cortex in connection with suggestions or mundane tasks, and increased function in response to activity or information related to the drug. This research suggests how the brains of drug users can move toward these drug-related associations, concludes Wilbrecht.

Source: Isaude.net