Over the decades, research has shown that on the other side of the cocaine high is the cocaine crash. Furthermore, understanding how one follows the other can provide insight into the physiological effects of drug abuse.
For decades, brain research has focused on the pleasurable effects of cocaine largely by studying the dopamine pathway. But this approach has left many questions unanswered.
So the Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory (BPL) at UC Santa Barbara decided to take a different approach by examining the motivational systems that induce an animal to seek cocaine in the first place. Their findings appear in today's issue of The Journal of Neuroscience
"We weren't looking at pleasure; we were looking at the animal's desire to seek that pleasure, which we believe is they key to understanding drug abuse," said Aaron Ettenberg, a professor in UCSB's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences who established the BPL in 1982. The lab has been particularly active in the development and use of novel behavioral assays that provide a unique approach to the study of drug-behavior interactions.
The findings suggest that the same neural mechanism responsible for the negative effects of cocaine likely contribute to the animal's decision to ingest cocaine. "Just looking at the positive is looking at only half the picture; you have to understand the negative side as well," said Ettenberg.