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Cocaine: How addiction develops
Date:8/21/2008

ists performed standardized tests to measure addictive behavior in the animals. At first sight, both the genetically modified and the control animals displayed the usual behavior under the influence of cocaine. Forced to increase their agility, the lab animals covered significantly greater running distances and preferentially frequented those places where they had been conditioned to be regularly administered the drug.

If normal mice do not find drugs at the familiar places over a longer period of time, their addictive behavior and preference for the cocaine-associated places subside. However, this is not true for animals whose receptor subunit GluR1 has been switched off: These mice invariably frequent the places where they expect to find the drug, i.e., their addictive behavior persists.

Mice whose NR1 protein has been switched off have surprised scientists with a different conspicuous behavior. If control animals withdrawn from cocaine are readministered the drug after some time, addictive behavior and drug seeking are reactivated. In contrast, NR1 deficient animals proved to be resistant to relapsing into the addiction.

"It is fascinating to observe how individual proteins can determine addictive behavioral patterns," says Gnther Schtz, and his colleague Rainer Spanagel adds: "In addition, our results open up whole new prospects for treating addiction. Thus, blocking the NR1 receptor might protect from relapsing into addiction. Selective activation of GluR1 would even contribute to 'extinguishing' the addiction."


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Contact: Dr. Sibylle Kohlstdt
s.kohlstaedt@dkfz.de
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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