Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Abnormal brain structure linked to chronic cocaine abuse

21.06.2011
Research gives insight into why some people develop addiction

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have identified abnormal brain structures in the frontal lobe of cocaine users' brains which are linked to their compulsive cocaine-using behaviour. Their findings were published today, 21 June, in the journal Brain.

Led by Dr Karen Ersche, the Cambridge researchers scanned the brains of 120 people, half of whom had a dependence on cocaine. They found that the cocaine users had widespread loss of grey matter that was directly related to the duration of their cocaine abuse (i.e. the longer they had been using cocaine, the greater the loss of grey matter), and that this reduction in volume was associated with greater compulsivity to take cocaine.

The scientists also found that parts of the brain reward system where cocaine exerts its actions (the basal ganglia) were significantly enlarged in cocaine users; but the size of the enlargement was not related to the duration of cocaine use. The researchers believe this may suggest that alterations in the brain's reward system predate cocaine abuse, possibly rendering these individuals more vulnerable to the effects of the drug.

Dr Ersche, of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI) at the University of Cambridge, said: "This research gives us important insight into why some people are more vulnerable to drug addiction. Not only is this important for the future development of more effective therapeutic interventions for people who have become dependent on drugs, it will also inform improved strategies to prevent drug addiction in the first place."

Cocaine, one of the most addictive drugs on the illicit drug market, exerts its effects on the brain by changing the way a person thinks and feels. People addicted to cocaine feel an overwhelming, uncontrollable need for the drug, even in the face of aversive consequences.

Dr Ersche added: "People with cocaine dependence describe their out-of-control drug use as a 'compulsion' to use cocaine. Our current work has laid the foundation for a better understanding of cocaine dependence and why this compulsion occurs."

The researchers also showed that changes in other brain structures of chronic cocaine users were linked to debilitating attention problems.

Dr Ersche added: "Our findings are important because they show a clear relationship between the brain, the duration of cocaine use and some of the common attention problems that people with cocaine dependence report. These data show that cocaine dependence is a disorder of the brain, which is very relevant information for the treatment of people who are trying to beat their addiction."

The researchers will next explore whether there is an inherited vulnerability to develop cocaine dependence. Although cocaine is a highly addictive drug, not everyone who uses develops an addiction. They will research whether people with an enlarged brain reward system are more at risk of becoming dependent on cocaine as well as what the effects of recreational cocaine use has on the brain.

The study was funded and sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline and conducted within the GlaxoSmithKline Clinical Unit Cambridge and BCNI (which is co-funded by the MRC and the Wellcome Trust).

For additional information please contact:
Genevieve Maul, Office of Communications, University of Cambridge
Tel: direct, +44 (0) 1223 765542, +44 (0) 1223 332300
Mob: +44 (0) 7774 017464
Email: Genevieve.maul@admin.cam.ac.uk
Notes to editors:
The paper 'Abnormal structure of frontostriatal brain systems is associated with aspects of impulsivity and compulsivity in cocaine dependence' will be published in the 21 June edition of Brain. Authors include: KD Ersche, A Barnes, PS Jones, S Morein-Zamir, TW Robbins, and ET Bullmore.

Genevieve Maul | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cam.ac.uk

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Speed data for the brain’s navigation system
06.12.2016 | Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen e.V. (DZNE)

nachricht Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores

07.12.2016 | Earth Sciences

Sea ice hit record lows in November

07.12.2016 | Earth Sciences

New material could lead to erasable and rewriteable optical chips

07.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>