In cocaine research, dopamine and glutamate make a brilliant star and supporting player, respectively. One takes center stage, the anointed crowd-pleaser; the other, though a leading actor in other productions, is so overshadowed that admiration of its performance is relegated to an acquired taste. A quick PubMed search recently disclosed their perceived importance: 3,628 abstracts on cocaine and dopamine, 178 for cocaine and glutamate.

Courtesy of François Conquet

François Conquet

Now, however, perceptions may shift—not that dopamine descends from the firmament, but that glutamate will sparkle as brightly. Recent knockout mouse evidence1 from researchers led by François Conquet, CEO of Addex Pharmaceuticals in Geneva, Switzerland, reveals that glutamate's role in cocaine dependence is even more central than dopamine's.

The case for dopamine's centrality remains airtight. Cocaine binds the dopamine transporter, blocking reuptake of dopamine into presynaptic neurons. Blockade increases dopamine concentration in synapses, an event responsible for cocaine's...

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