Brain Circuitry May Explain Cocaine Behaviors

Rat study suggests the drug disrupts key pathways

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THURSDAY, July 21, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The impulsive behavior displayed by cocaine users may stem from the drug's effect on connections between two higher brain regions, a new study suggests.

In a study involving rats, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh found that cocaine caused an overstimulation of neural connections between the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in information processing, and the hippocampus, a key area for learning and memory.

The same brain circuitry has been implicated in such disorders as schizophrenia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, the researchers noted in the July 21 issue of Neuron.

The Pittsburgh team also found that cocaine-sensitized rats were less able to change strategies when running through a maze, compared to nonsensitized rodents.

More information

Visit the National Institutes of Health to learn more about cocaine.

SOURCES: Neuron, news release, July 20, 2005

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