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Why Cocaine is so Addictive

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A team of researchers led by Mary Kay Lobo, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine discovered that the two main neurons (D1 and D2) in the in the brain, play an important ole in the brain's reward center. Activation of D1 neurons increases cocaine reward whereas activation of D2 neurons decreases cocaine reward.

This new information was a result of a study conducted using optogenetics, a technology to optically control neuronal activity in freely moving rodents. Cocaine reward is similar to activating each neuron by disrupting brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is a protein in the brain known for its involvement in neuronal survival, learning, and memory and drug abuse signaling through its receptor TrkB in D1 or D2 neurons. When cocaine enters the body, the receptors signal the neurons. This in return gives the person a high. Continued cocaine use makes the brain crave more neuron stimulation.

In conclusion, the team believes "We can use this information to potentially develop new therapies for cocaine addiction, possibly aimed at altering neuronal activity selectively in either neuronal subtype."