Heightened cocaine-seeking in male rats linked to poorer Serotonin regulation

From an article published in Dec. 2022 in Frontiers in Pharmacology

Merritt CR, Smith AE, Khanipov K, Golovko G, Dineley KT, Anastasio NC, Cunningham KA. Heightened cocaine-seeking in male rats associates with a distinct transcriptomic profile in the medial prefrontal cortex. Front Pharmacol. 2022 Dec 14;13:1022863. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2022.1022863. PMID: 36588704; PMCID: PMC9797046.

There has been a sharp increase in cocaine-related overdoses recently, but relapse rates have always been high, even among Cocaine Use Disorder (CUD) individuals who have undergone rehabilitation. They struggle with stress, withdrawal symptoms, and cocaine-associated stimuli and there is no treatment available to target the brain functions involved.

This study looks at genetic differences in animal models of cocaine use disorders that could explain why some seem to be more susceptible to relapse than others.

They found distinctions in particular in the Htr2c gene, which encodes the serotonin 5-HT2C receptor (5-HT2CR). They found that in animal models that are more susceptible Htr2c gene is expressed to a lower extent.

This study and many others suggest a good way to support the treatment of addiction is to help the brain regulate its Serotonin function, which is one of the main targets of Sensory Enrichment Therapy.

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