Researchers are continually studying brain function and ability with regards to addiction, believing that there are fundamental elements that can hold the keys to more effective treatments. One new study recently focused on the infralimbic cortext and its role in cocaine addiction.
According to the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers at the University of Iowa found that this portion of the brain had a direct link to cravings for cocaine, and also that it could be manipulated to help eliminate those cravings.
To perform the study, scientists used rats that were exposed to cocaine for a two week period, and then the cocaine was withheld for two weeks. The researchers noted that at first the rats would actively seek out the cocaine after it was being withheld, but towards the end of the second two-week stint, they stopped altogether, as they seemingly lost their cravings.
Cocaine Withdrawal and Relapse Prevention
A second group of rats were also given access to cocaine for two weeks and then had the cocaine withheld from them. But this time, the researchers turned off activity to the infralimbic cortex whenever the rat would actively seek out the drug. The rats who had this part of the brain manipulated never stopped seeking out cocaine, and they were also more likely to relapse to cocaine later on. The scientists also noted that this relapse was most likely to occur in the first five days of the cocaine-free time period.
“No study has looked intensively at exactly how the infralimbic cortex functions, nor the Importance of the first 5 days of treatment when it comes to curtailing drug-seeking behavior,” commented Ryan LaLumiere, co-author of the study and University of Iowa assistant professor to the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “And, while our experiments involved cocaine, we think the results could hold true for the infralimbic cortex’s role in conditioning withdrawal and relapse from other addictive substances, including opioids,” he said.
The information shows that not only is this an important part of the brain when it comes to addiction, but it is highly likely that it plays a major role in relapse and relapse prevention. Future studies may want to focus on medications or procedures that aid this part of the brain in order to make withdrawal and sobriety more possible.