University at Buffalo researchers have identified a neural pathway that could hold a key to preventing relapse in individuals recovering from cocaine addiction. Their study focused on the activity of Activin receptors in the brain that are located in regions involved in pleasure and reward.
Published online June 1 in Nature Neuroscience, the study authored by Amy Gancarz, PhD, found that the Activin pathway controls the ability of cocaine to alter the connections between various neurons. By manipulating the activity of Activin receptors, researchers were able to change cocaine-taking behavior in animal models.
“Understanding this critical pathway will help us pursue new directions in potential pharmacological and gene therapies to prevent drug relapses,” senior author David Dietz, PhD, assistant professor at the university medical school's Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, said in a June 18 news release.