Cocaine addiction can severely affect brain functions like learning and impulsive behavior.
The research, which was published in the latest issue of New Scientist, said that it would help shed light on the impulsive behavior seen in addicts. .
Neuroscientists Yuriori Goto and his team at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who conducted the study, had electrically stimulated the two different regions of the brain in a group of rats to examine the flow of information between the areas. They injected the rats with cocaine and measured this "plasticity". They found that after taking the drug the normal connections between the two regions were interrupted.
They then carried out a behavioral analysis. Half of the rats were given cocaine regularly for several days, while the rest were drug free. The rodents were placed in a T-shaped maze where, based on a colored signal, they had to make a choice over which arm of the maze to run down in order to receive a food-based reward.
At first, the drugged rats learned the rules fastest and so got their rewards quicker. But when the rules were changed, it was the drug-free rats that were able to learn the new rules most quickly and get their treats - the cocaine appeared to dull the drugged rats' adaptation abilities.
The cocaine was producing a deficit in their learning response strategy, said a researcher.
Researchers say this study may explain why cocaine addicts are oriented towards pleasure rather than other goals and have an impaired ability to make decisions.
It could also be why addicts go back to taking more of the drug and ex-addicts often become addicted again faster than those who have never taken it.
They hope that understanding how connections operate between these brain regions may lead to new ways of treating drug addiction and a greater understanding of disorders such as schizophrenia, which is linked to the brain regions studied.
Source: Indo-Asian News Service
Medindia on Cocaine- Further information
Cocaine: It is a powerful illegal drug that is often used for its stimulant and addictive properties. The powdered form of the drug can be inhaled or dissolved in water and taken injected into the body. The rock crystal form is called crack and is often heated to inhale the smoke.
Cocaine addiction: Cocaine gives its users an immediate euphoria or "high" that is characterized by hyper-stimulation, reduced feelings of fatigue and mental clarity. But the effect of cocaine on health is very hazardous. Cocaine addict may have constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils of the eyes, increased body temperature, and increased heart rate. Cocaine is known to affect blood pressure periodically. Cocaine increases the risk of having acute cardiac or cerebral emergencies like heart attack and stroke that could be fatal. Deaths from cocaine addiction are typically due to cardiac arrest or seizure followed by respiratory attacks.