Home Medizin Studie zeigt die schädlichen Auswirkungen von chronischem Kokainkonsum auf funktionelle Gehirnnetzwerke

Studie zeigt die schädlichen Auswirkungen von chronischem Kokainkonsum auf funktionelle Gehirnnetzwerke

von NFI Redaktion

Researchers from the Departments of Radiology, Neurology, Psychology, and Neuroscience at the UNC School of Medicine conducted a collaborative research project that demonstrated the harmful effects of chronic cocaine use on the functional brain networks.

Their study titled „Changes in Network Connectivity after Long-Term Cocaine Use and Abstinence“ was highlighted by the editor of the Journal of Neuroscience in „This Week in the Journal.“ The results indicate that continued cocaine use affects the way key neuronal networks in the brain communicate with each other, including the Default Mode Network (DMN), Salience Network (SN), and lateral cortical network (LCN).

Disrupted communication between the DMN and SN can make it more challenging to concentrate, control impulses, or feel motivated without the drug. Essentially, these changes can affect how well individuals respond to everyday situations, making recovery and resisting cravings more difficult.“

Li-Ming Hsu, PhD, Assistant Professor of Radiology and lead author of the study

Hsu led this project during his postdoctoral research at the Center for Animal MRI in the Biomedical Research Imaging Center and the Department of Neurology. The work provides new insights into the brain processes underlying cocaine addiction, opening up opportunities for therapeutic development and identification of an imaging marker for cocaine use disorders.

The brain functions like an orchestra, where each musician plays a crucial role in creating a coherent musical piece. Certain parts of the brain need to work together to accomplish a task. The DMN is active during daydreaming and introspection, the SN is essential for attention, and the CEN, like a musical conductor, plays a role in decision-making and problem-solving.

The research was motivated by observations from functional brain imaging studies in humans suggesting that chronic cocaine use alters connectivity within and between major brain networks. The researchers needed a longitudinal animal model to understand the relationship between brain connectivity and the development of cocaine dependence, as well as changes during abstinence.

The researchers used a rat model to mimic human addiction patterns, allowing the models to self-administer a dose through nose poke. Combined with advanced neuroimaging techniques, the behavioral approach provides a deeper understanding of how the brain adapts to prolonged drug use and shows how substances of abuse can alter the function of critical brain networks.

Hsu’s research team used functional MRI scans to examine changes in brain network dynamics in models that self-administered cocaine. Over a period of 10 days followed by abstinence, the researchers observed significant alterations in network communication, particularly between the DMN and SN.

These changes became more pronounced with increasing cocaine intake over the 10 days of self-administration, suggesting a potential target for reducing cravings and supporting recovery. The changes in communication within these networks could also serve as useful imaging biomarkers for cocaine addiction.

The study also provided new insights into the anterior insular cortex (AI) and the retrosplenial cortex (RSC). The former is responsible for emotional and social processing, while the latter controls episodic memory, navigation, and envisioning future events. The researchers noted a difference in co-activity between these two regions before and after cocaine use, indicating a potential target for modulating associated behavioral changes in cocaine use disorders.

„Previous studies have shown changes in functional connectivity with cocaine exposure; the detailed longitudinal analysis of specific network changes in the brain, especially between the anterior insular cortex (AI) and the retrosplenial cortex (RSC), before and after cocaine self-administration and prolonged abstinence, provides new insights,“ said Hsu.


University of North Carolina Health Care

Journal Reference:

Hsu, L.-M., et al. (2024). Intrinsic functional connectivity between the anterior insular and retrosplenial cortices as a moderator and consequence of cocaine self-administration in rats. The Journal of Neuroscience. doi.org/10.1523/jneurosci.1452-23.2023.

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