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angle-left Mechanism That Reduces Effect of Cocaine on Brain Discovered

The finding offers hope for development of a new approach to prevent drug use relapses

May 20, 2016

A type of brain cell known as microglia plays a key role in reducing the effects of cocaine in the brain, according to a major study by a team from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) in Montreal.

The discovery, published in the journal Neuron, establishes for the first time that microglia can diminish the adverse changes to neural circuitry brought on by the chronic use of cocaine and has significant implications for developing an effective treatment for addiction.

"What we discovered is that cocaine activates these microglia, which causes the release of an inflammatory signal which then tries to reverse the changes that cocaine is inducing in the neurons," says the study's senior author, Dr. David Stellwagen, a researcher from the Brain Repair and Integrative Neuroscience at the RI-MUHC and associate professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University. Read more