Drug addiction has led to many destroyed lives, and weeping families. The same issue is also responsible for thousands of crimes committed every year. The battle against drugs seems never-ending. However, this new study may be the key towards a cocaine-free world.
In a research published in Nature Neuroscience, experts have tweaked the brain of mice, making them impervious to the lure of cocaine. After genetically engineering the animals, they did not appear to crave for drugs even after repeatedly giving the substance.
This technique could be applied to drug addicts when the research expands (c) Popular Science
"They didn't keep going into the room where they received the cocaine and they seemed to be just as happy exploring all around the cage," Shernaz Bamji, a professor in the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said in a statement.
"Addiction is a form of learning," Bamji says.
Also, the mice didn't learn to associate the pleasurable feelings produced by cocaine with the place where they received the drug.
"We repeated the experiment several times to see if we had made a mistake," Bamji says.
The subjects had been genetically engineered to produce high levels of proteins called cadherins in the brain's "reward circuit." It plays an important role in addiction. The scientists were also surprised to learn that proteins can also affect learning.
More remarkably, genetic studies have suggested that people with high levels of cadherins are more susceptible to drug addiction.
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"We thought, hey, more glue, stronger synapses, more learning, more addiction," Bamji says. "But what we actually saw was the opposite."
The experts found the explanation after a closer look in mice brains. They figured, too much glue was actually gumming up the synapses in the reward circuit so they couldn't get stronger. As a result, the mice never learned to crave cocaine, even though it made them feel good.
"Addiction is not just bad judgment, but really is more to do with our biology and our biochemistry," she says.
This study suggests that it may someday possible to treat addiction by changing the way learning occurs in certain areas of the brain.