Could cocaine rewire your brain after just one use? A new study thinks so.
A new study at UC San Francisco’s Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center has revealed that cocaine may rewire the brain and drastically affect decision-making after just one use.
Researchers used life mice to study the frontal love, the area of the brain that handles decision making and memory, when cocaine was introduced into the body.
According to the Huffington Post, after just one dose, researchers found substantial growth of new dendritic spines, which are “tiny, twig-like structures that connect neurons and form the nodes of the brain’s circuit wiring.”
Researchers are saying that these new spines rewired the brain to seek cocaine, explaining why the search for the drug might override other priorities in human users.
The Times reported that just two hours after being injected with cocaine, new neuronal connections were seen forming in the mice’s brains in an area associated with decision-making.
“We’ve long known that when you become a repeated drug user, the search for more drugs tends to dominate your attention and decision-making,” Linda Wilbrecht, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and the lead author of the study, explained to The Huffington Post.
“But it’s quite shocking that these neurological changes happened after just one use.”
The report continued on to say that the cocaine didn’t just affect the mice’s bring scans, but also their behavior:
“Before exposure to cocaine, the mice explored two chambers, differentiated by scent and design, and selected a preference.
“They were then given cocaine and placed in the chamber they did not prefer.
Once put back in the chambers without the drug, the mice overwhelmingly selected the chamber they did not prefer, presumably seeking more cocaine.”
Wilbrecht continued on to say that this study has shown us how drugs dominate what users think about.
“Drug exposure fuels drug use, potentially at the expense of other priorities.”
Does this mean that because cocaine can so quickly rewire the brain, that recovery is impossible? Wilbrecht doesn’t believe so.
“The brain can rewire, and it is rewired by lots of experiences. So even though it was so much more rewired by the exposure to cocaine than it usually is, it can return to normal. I see this as evidence that recovery is possible.”
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