Image of the Week

The Cocaine Brain

  • Published17 May 2013
  • Reviewed17 May 2013
  • Author Michael W. Richardson
  • Source BrainFacts/SfN

Brain scan highlighting changes in the brain related to cocain use.
Wheeler, et al. Journal of Neuroscience 2013.

Studies show that the brains of drug addicts look different than those of people who don’t use drugs. However, it was previously unclear to scientists whether drugs caused these differences in the brain, or whether preexisting differences made addiction more likely. The MRI scan above reveals a mouse’s thinning cortex, the part of the brain associated with higher-level functioning, following exposure to cocaine. Researchers found that changes in brain shape and volume were most pronounced when animals were exposed to cocaine in adolescence, suggesting the impact drug-use has on brain development.



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