Your Brain -- Addicted to Reward
Brain research over the last several decades continues to show a pattern that is becoming undeniable — if you regularly take a drug that acts on the brain, you will likely change how your brain functions for the rest of your life.
This phenomenon has long been suspected with anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications that inhibit the reuptake of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter between brain cells.
Cocaine is derived from the leaves of the coca plant, grown in western South America.
Many people may not connect the dots, but a new study on cocaine addiction strengthens the argument that brain chemicals rewire the way you think. Cocaine is a chemical that acts on the brain by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
A study published in the most recent issue of The Journal of Neuroscience was sparked by researchers who wanted to find out why cocaine addicts so frequently relapse despite sincere attempts to recover from their addiction.
The researchers used rats to study two neuropeptides — messenger molecules — that are associated with stress and reward in the brain. They found that extraordinary changes occur in the brain at the neuroreceptor level when it is exposed to cocaine.
One of the changes is that neuropeptides released when a person is undergoing stress seem to have an effect on areas of the brain associated with reward. Cocaine apparently disrupts and exaggerates this effect.
Researchers speculate that they may be able to restore the normal interaction between these brain areas with drugs that could help keep cocaine addicts from relapsing.
This area of the brain is also associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, and scientists speculate that soldiers may therefore be more prone to become cocaine addicts.
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