With an estimated 1.5 million chronic cocaine users in the U.S., cocaine abuse is a
considerable public health concern (Bolla et al., 2004). The mood elevation and euphoria
associated with cocaine use is the result of the inhibition of the reuptake of dopamine in the
mesolimbic “reward” pathway. Chronic cocaine use produces a number of distinctive
biochemical adaptations within structures in this pathway, and has been the focus in
numerous studies (Berhow et al 1996).
A decrease in functional connectivity (i.e. the level of correlation in neural activity between
distinct brain regions) in the primary motor and visual cortexes has been shown to be an
acute effect of cocaine intake (Li et al 2000). The long-term effects of chronic cocaine-use
on functional connectivity between structures in the mesolimbic pathway, however, has
never before been investigated.
Resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) enables researchers to
observe and analyze spontaneous neural activity since the subject is not performing a task.
An index of resting state functional connectivity can be created by cross-correlating activity
patterns between each of the brain regions of interest (ROIs).
Additional contributors: Christopher Bell; Kelvin O. Lim (faculty mentor).
The Effects of Cocaine Abuse on Functional Connectivity within the Mesolimbic Pathway.
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