Skip to main content

Probing drug abuse circuitry

Nov. 4, 2016, 8:00 AM

(iStock)
(iStock)

Understanding how drugs of abuse affect the brain’s neuronal connections is vital to developing treatments for substance abuse disorders. Previous studies have demonstrated that changes in a brain region called the nucleus accumbens underlie behavioral responses to cocaine and susceptibility to relapse.

Max Joffe, Ph.D., and Brad Grueter, Ph.D., used a light-based technology called optogenetics to study how cocaine alters the activity of inputs to the nucleus accumbens from specific brain regions.

They found that cocaine experience in mice confers distinct modifications of excitatory inputs from the midline nuclei of the thalamus (mThal) and from the prefrontal cortex to the nucleus accumbens. They demonstrated enhanced function – and altered subunit composition – of excitatory NMDA receptors at mThal-nucleus accumbens synapses.

The findings, reported in the Nov. 1 issue of Biological Psychiatry, identify cocaine-induced modifications at synapses in the nucleus accumbens and suggest that modified NMDA receptors may be a therapeutic target for psychostimulant use disorders.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant DA031699).

Send suggestions for articles to highlight in Aliquots and any other feedback about the column to aliquots@vanderbilt.edu

Recent Stories from VUMC News and Communications Publications

Sharon Seibert is among the more than 5,000 patients who have received a stem cell transplant at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, which has one of the best survival rates in the nation and is at the forefront of new cellular therapies.

Momentum

Sharon Seibert is among the more than 5,000 patients who have received a stem cell transplant at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, which has one of the best survival rates in the nation and is at the forefront of new cellular therapies.

The first few minutes of Charlie’s life were a blur, as a team of doctors and nurses at VUMC worked to resuscitate him and stabilize his heart rate. He was then transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Hope

The first few minutes of Charlie’s life were a blur, as a team of doctors and nurses at VUMC worked to resuscitate him and stabilize his heart rate. He was then transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Tucked away in a Vanderbilt conference room, 36 adults huddle over Lego pieces. Eleven teams have been assigned to assemble multicolored Legos using the written directions included in the packet. The result should be a Frankenstein figure.

Vanderbilt Nurse

Tucked away in a Vanderbilt conference room, 36 adults huddle over Lego pieces. Eleven teams have been assigned to assemble multicolored Legos using the written directions included in the packet. The result should be a Frankenstein figure.

Marissa Benchea has CF, and she is one of hundreds of thousands of adults not only surviving but thriving with a chronic childhood disease.

Vanderbilt Medicine

Marissa Benchea has CF, and she is one of hundreds of thousands of adults not only surviving but thriving with a chronic childhood disease.

more