IRP scientists identify new brain mechanism involved in impulsive cocaine-seeking in rats
Discovery may represent a future target for treating substance use disorders
Researchers have found that blocking certain acetylcholine receptors in the lateral habenula (LHb), an area of the brain that balances reward and aversion, made it harder to resist seeking cocaine in a rat model of impulsive behavior. These findings identify a new role for these receptors that may represent a future target for the development of treatments for cocaine use disorder. There are currently no approved medications to treat cocaine use disorder.
Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. In 2020, over 41,000 people died from drug overdoses involving stimulants, including cocaine and methamphetamine. Developing safe and effective medications that help treat addictions to cocaine and other stimulants is critical to expand the choices offered to people seeking treatment and to help sustain recovery.
“The LHb acts like an interface between rational thought in the forebrain and the modulation of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that originate in the midbrain, which are important in regulating decision processes and emotions,” said Carl Lupica, Ph.D., chief of the Electrophysiology Research Section of the Computational and Systems Neuroscience Branch of NIDA. “While the immediate results of this study are related to cocaine seeking, there are also greater implications for impulsivity as it relates to other drugs as well as to psychiatric conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder. Our future studies will explore the relationship between LHb activity and impulsive behavior related to other drugs such as cannabis, and opioids such as heroin.”
This page was last updated on Wednesday, July 27, 2022