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UCSB study of cocaine addiction reveals targets for treatment
Date:2/13/2013

vior or drug-taking, you basically go off the deep end in terms of function," she said. "So we were very much interested in how drugs of abuse impact the prefrontal cortex, given that human drug addicts show deficits in this brain area when you put them into a scanner. They show hypo-activity." She said this hypo-activity, or hypo-frontality, might relate to a neurotransmitter that scientists know is involved in exciting the brain.

A key question, according to Szumlinski, is this: "Was that hypo-frontality there in the first place, and that's why they became an addict; or did the drugs change their prefrontal cortext, to cause it to become hypo-functioning and thus they're not able to control their drug use? You can't parse that out in humans. So that's why we turn then to animal models of the disorder, and we do have this rat model that we use in the paper."

Szumlinski pointed out a key difficulty in the development of treatments for addiction: There is little money targeted to the study of this disease. Hence, in addition to studying the brain mechanisms that are involved, she is joining forces with researchers who study other neurological diseases that are well-funded, to help find cures. She hopes that government approval of new drugs for these other diseases would eventually make the drugs available for clinical trials to study their effects on cocaine addiction.

Szumlinski cited statistics, calculated by scientists M.K. Bird and A.J. Lawrence of Australia, indicating that addiction can cost up to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product in Western countries, equaling $485 billion in the U.S. in 2007. In that year, addiction research received less than 2 percent of public and private funding of all cancer research.


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Contact: Gail Gallessich
gail.g@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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