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Strength of cocaine cravings linked to brain response

ceptor was given to see if it would prompt the rats to press the lever again in search of cocaine. In another experiment, the rats were given a small dose of cocaine and a drug that activated the D1 receptor to see if the drug would block them from seeking more cocaine.

The strongly addicted rats responded more aggressively to the craving-enhancing D2 activator than the less-addicted rats did, and were not as strongly deterred by the D1 activator.

"It's as if the cocaine-addicted animal is less easily satisfied and more easily induced to seek drugs due to alterations in these receptors," Dr. Self said.

Before the researchers administered cocaine, the rats were tested to see how much they moved around when given D1 or D2 activator drugs. Before getting the cocaine, their responses to each drug were the same. After being trained to take the cocaine, the strongly addicted rats were much more sensitive to the D2 activator but less sensitive to the D1 activator. These tests showed that the difference in sensitivity developed during the addiction process, rather than being already present in the animals from the beginning.

The researchers don't know, however, whether the responses in the rats they studied were due to changes in the numbers of the receptors or to the biochemical actions of the receptors already present. Future research may help clarify those different scenarios, Dr. Self said.

Understanding how receptors control cravings may be applicable to humans, although addiction is a complicated mix of brain biochemistry and learned responses to environmental cues, as well as stress, Dr. Self said.

"If people do become addicted and say they want to quit, their brain system for inhibiting craving is weaker. We want to try to strengthen those systems that help them inhibit their craving," he said.

The lead author in the study was Scott Edwards, a neuroscience graduate student at UT Southwestern. Other UT Southw
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Contact: Aline McKenzie
aline.mckenzie@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
14-Mar-2006


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