Researchers from Bordeaux University in France have revealed that the burst of energy that comes with a cocaine high is a rather accurate reflection of what is going on in the brain of users.
Through experiments conducted in rats exposed to cocaine, the research team mapped out the network of circuits that cause wild firing of neurons that produce dopamine - a neurotransmitter that regulates movement and emotion.
The researchers said, "The findings also explains how cocaine use eventually leads to desensitization."
The researchers used tracer molecules to follow electrical activity in the brain in rats exposed to cocaine. They found that a hub of neurons in the extended amygdala (the brain's motivation or learning center) acts as a relay between activation of the ventral subiculum (the brain's addiction center) and the hyperactive release of dopamine. Since this change happens within the amygdala, it may explain some of the long-term effects on the behavior and motivation that occur after prolonged cocaine use.
The study findings might be helpful for understanding and even changing the perception of natural rewards like those related to food or exercise, the authors concluded in Cell Reports.