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Study pinpoints, prevents stress-induced drug relapse in rats
Date:3/6/2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] All too often, stress turns addiction recovery into relapse, but years of basic brain research have provided scientists with insight that might allow them develop a medicine to help. A new study in the journal Neuron pinpoints the neural basis for stress-related relapse in rat models to an unprecedented degree. The advance could accelerate progress toward a medicine that prevents stress from undermining addiction recovery.

In the paper published March 6, researchers at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania demonstrated specific steps in the sequence of neural events underlying stress-related drug relapse and showed that they take place within a brain region called the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which helps reinforce behaviors related to fulfilling basic needs. They also showed that a closely related neural process believed to be crucial to stress-related relapse may not be involved after all.

Moreover, this new understanding allowed the researchers to prevent relapse to drug seeking in the animal model. When they treated rats that had recovered from cocaine addiction with a chemical that blocks the "kappa opioid receptors" that stress activates in the VTA, the rats did not relapse to cocaine use under stress. Untreated rats who had also recovered from addiction did relapse after the same stress.

The chemical that helped the rats, "nor-BNI," may be one that would someday be tried in humans, said study senior author Julie Kauer, professor of biology in Brown's Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology. By deepening scientists' understanding of the stress-related relapse mechanism, she and her co-authors hope to identify multiple possible targets for eventual patient treatments.

"If we understand how kappa opioid receptor antagonists are interfering with the reinstatement of drug seeking we can target that process," said Kauer, who is affiliat
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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