The burst of energy and hyperactivity that comes with a cocaine high is a rather accurate reflection of what’s going on in the brain of its users, finds a study published November 25 in Cell Reports.
Through experiments conducted in rats exposed to cocaine, the researchers mapped out the network of circuits that cause wild firing of neurons that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement and emotion.
The findings also help explain how cocaine use eventually leads to desensitization.
The researchers used tracer molecules to follow electrical activity in the brain in rats exposed to cocaine. They found that a hub of neurons in the extended amygdala (the brain’s motivation/learning center) acts as a relay between activation of the ventral subiculum (the brain’s addiction center) and the hyperactive release of dopamine.
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