New study shows cocaine rapidly changes brain structure

CALIFORNIA, United States, Friday August 30, 2013 – A new study in the United States has demonstrated that taking cocaine can change the structure of the brain within two hours in what could be the first steps of drug addiction.

Research reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience showed new structures linked to learning and memory began to grow in mice soon after the drug was taken.

The more brain changes occurred, the greater the preference for cocaine, moreover, in what scientists described as the brain “learning addiction”.

The research team at the University of California, Berkeley and UC San Francisco looked for tiny protrusions from brain cells called dendritic spines, which are heavily implicated in memory formation.

A type of laser microscopy was used to examine the brains of living mice to look, for the dendritic spines, and more new spines were produced when the mice were injected with cocaine than with water, suggesting new memories being formed around drug use.

“Our images provide clear evidence that cocaine induces rapid gains in new spines, and the more spines the mice gain, the more they show they learned about the drug. This gives us a possible mechanism for how drug use fuels further drug-seeking behaviour,” said Linda Wilbrecht, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley.

“These drug-induced changes in the brain may explain how drug-related cues come to dominate decision making in a human drug user,” she indicated. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)