UCSB Study of Cocaine Addiction Reveals Targets for Treatment

Laboratory studies at UCSB have revealed that the diminished brain function and learning impairment that result from cocaine addiction can be treated –– and that learning can be restored.

Karen Szumlinski, a professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at UCSB, and her colleagues Osnat Ben-Shahar and Tod Kippin, have worked in the field of addiction for many years. Senior author of a paper on this topic published recently in The Journal of Neuroscience, Szumlinski is particularly interested in the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, where the process of “executive function” –– or decision-making –– is located. This area is involved in directing one’s behavior in an appropriate manner, and in controlling behavior.

With her research team, Szumlinski discovered that a drug that stimulates a certain type of glutamate receptor –– when aimed at the prefrontal cortex –– could restore learning impairment in rats with simulated cocaine addiction.

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