Brains ‘Learn Addiction’ Via Cocaine

Cocaine3Scientists are hailing a new study that shows how the brain learns addiction as soon as cocaine enters the system. Via BBC News:

Taking cocaine can change the structure of the brain within hours in what could be the first steps of drug addiction, according to US researchers.

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

Mice with the most brain changes showed a greater preference for cocaine.

Experts described it as the brain “learning addiction”.

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

Cocaine hunting

The place or environment that drugs are taken plays an important role in addiction.

In the experiments, the mice were allowed to explore freely two very different chambers – each with a different smell and surface texture.

Once they had picked a favourite they were injected with cocaine in the other chamber.

A type of laser microscopy was used to look inside the brains of living mice to hunt for the dendritic spines.

More new spines were produced when the mice were injected with cocaine than with water, suggesting new memories being formed around drug use.

The difference could be detected two hours after the first dose.

Researcher Linda Wilbrecht, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley, said: “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…

[continues at BBC News]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

Latest posts by majestic (see all)

11 Comments on "Brains ‘Learn Addiction’ Via Cocaine"

  1. Is the brain “learning addiction” or does it like learning so much that it gets a “learning addiction” ?

    • Hocketeer | Aug 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

      It’s just one of those many studies that leave you puzzled and speechless. I can’t help but shake my head. I think I sighed a bit as well.

      Upon reading this article, I stumbled onward and discovered…

      IV Injection Recommendations for mice
      For i.v. injections to mice, LASP recommends use of the lateral tail vein, while the mouse is enclosed within a commercial or custom mouse-restrainer. Dilation of the vein is accomplished by warming the tail by immersion in warm water or use of a heat lamp. Five minutes of supplemental heat may be necessary for optimal dilation. Monitor
      carefully to prevent the animal from being burned or overheated by the heat source.

      • InfvoCuernos | Aug 25, 2013 at 3:46 pm |

        That’s an awful lot of work just to get a mouse high. You would think if coke was really stimulating learning behavior, they’d teach them to snort it like all the other coke heads, with tiny little straws.

        • Hocketeer | Aug 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm |

          … plush toy not included

          • InfvoCuernos | Aug 25, 2013 at 3:58 pm |

            Wow, they need to build one of those human sized for the bar next door! Imagine putting your engineering degree to use designing that!

          • Hocketeer | Aug 25, 2013 at 4:06 pm |

            Sure takes the fun out of it, wonder if that in anyway may influence their “precious” findings. Imagine being stuck in one of those while tripping on mushrooms. Heil Science!

          • InfvoCuernos | Aug 25, 2013 at 4:46 pm |

            considering the specific effects of cocaine, I imagine getting stuffed into one of these jars and shot up the tail might induce some “skewed” results. I’m getting a little claustrophobic just looking at it.

          • The Well Dressed Man | Aug 25, 2013 at 5:02 pm |

            I’ll try to find time to prepare a technical report

        • The Well Dressed Man | Aug 25, 2013 at 3:57 pm |

          Let them push a button that heats the free base. 🙂

    • InfvoCuernos | Aug 25, 2013 at 3:48 pm |

      At first it did seem to suggest that coke was just stimulating brain growth in general, and I thought “that seems like a positive!”, then I thought about all the cokeheads I have known, and I don’t think a single one of them showed any signs of of that.

  2. Tchoutoye | Aug 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm |

    Surely brains will have learned addiction already while in infancy via sugar.

Comments are closed.