Brain and Cocaine

Would be the euphoric and pleasure effects of cocaine an interaction of their molecules with receptors on neurons in specific regions which produces emotion and excitation?

Joan Carlos, Biologist

A new study using PET (1) shows that cocaine works in large part by occupying or blocking dopamine transporter (DAT) sites, thereby preventing reuptake of dopamine by the brain cells that release it, which then allows higher concentrations of dopamine to remain available in the brain longer than normal. It is this abnormally long presence of dopamine in the brain that is believed to cause the effects associated with cocaine use.

Other seseachers have found that cocaine abusers showed reduced dopamine responses to the drug in the striatum, a region of the brain linked to motivation control and reward. At the same time, they found an abnormal increase in the level of dopamine response in the thalamus, a region of the brain that communicates sensory information.

1. Nature, April 24, 1997

Silvia Helena Cardoso, Psychobiologist

Copyright 1997 Universidade Estadual de Campinas