Tuesday, April 23, 2013

NIDA Researchers Suggest New Direction for Treating Addictions

Using optogenetics, essentially shining a light, on particular cells in the prefrontal cortex can reduce cocaine addiction in rats, according to a study published April 3 in Nature. The senior scientist was Antonello Bonci, M.D., scientific director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). "Our results can be immediately translated to clinical research settings with humans, and we are planning clinical trials to stimulate this brain region using noninvasive methods," Bonci reported in a press statement. "By targeting a specific portion of the prefrontal cortex, our hope is to reduce compulsive cocaine-seeking and craving in patients."

"This exciting study offers a new direction in research for the treatment of cocaine and possibly other addictions," added NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D. "We already knew, mainly from human brain imaging studies, that deficits in the prefrontal cortex are involved in drug addiction. Now that we have learned how fundamental these deficits are, we feel more confident than ever about the therapeutic promise of targeting that part of the brain."

Bonci and his colleagues gave cocaine to two groups of rats—those addicted to cocaine and those not addicted to cocaine—then compared the neuron-firing patterns in the prefrontal cortex in both groups. They found less firing in the deep-layer pyramidal neurons of the prefrontal cortex in the addicted rats than in the nonaddicted rats, implying that such sluggish firing might be critical for cocaine addiction. They then used optogenetics to stimulate the underperforming pyramidal neurons in the addicted rats and found that it reduced cocaine-seeking behavior. "Thus, targeted stimulation of the prefrontal cortex could serve as a promising therapy for treating compulsive drug use," the researchers concluded.

More information about advances in treating cocaine can be found in American Psychiatric Publishing's Cocaine and Methamphetamine Dependence: Advances in Treatment.

(Image: Sebastian Duda/Shutterstock.com)


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.