Brain-derived neurotrophic factors reduce cocaine relapse


Cocaine relapse can now be significantly reduced with the help of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) found that Cocaine relapse was significantly reduced in a preclinical model when BDNF is applied to the nucleus accumbens deep in the brain immediately before the cocaine-seeking behavior.
“We discovered that a very common protein in the brain has an additional significant role in addiction relapse,” said a lead researcher Ana-Clara Bobadilla.
The nucleus accumbens is a tiny cluster of nerve cells deep in the brain. Although small, this region plays a critical role in reward-seeking behaviors. It signals from other parts of the brain to drive reward-motivated behaviors.
The researchers found that BDNF has both a time- and location-dependent beneficial role when administered before a cue-induced relapse event.
In the preclinical model of cocaine addiction, rats were allowed to self-administer cocaine while hearing an auditory cue. The rats learned to associate the cue with the reward of cocaine and continue to self-administer when hearing the cue. In the extinction phase, the rats were not allowed access to cocaine or the cue associated with the drug.
In the last phase, called reinstatement, the rats seek out cocaine upon hearing the cue previously associated with cocaine administration. The drug-seeking behavior that the rats display is similar to how drug cues induce craving in humans and thus are more likely to relapse. Examples of such cues are visiting a neighborhood in which drugs were previously bought or seeing a friend with whom they took drugs.
Addiction researchers are currently studying the function of proteins already present in the brain in an effort to find ways to overcome relapse in strong addictions.
As low serum BDNF levels are seen in cocaine-dependent patients compared to non-addicts, researchers sought a better understanding in regard to the connection between BDNF and cocaine relapse.


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