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Cocaine addiction linked to a glutamate receptor

A previously overlooked glutamate receptor expands our understanding of the neurological basis of learning and addiction.

Tabitha Powledge(tam@nasw.org)

Addiction researchers have paid increasing attention to the neurotransmitter glutamate in the past year or two. Now a Swiss-based team has found that mice lacking a glutamate receptor not previously considered significant in the past do not become dependent on cocaine.

Equally important, the mutant mice appear to be otherwise normal, retaining an interest in natural rewards such as food and water. This makes the receptor (mGluGR5), for which a human homolog is known to exist, a prime target for developers of anti-addiction drugs.

The finding, reported in the September Nature Neuroscience, is one more piece of evidence that glutamate, a neurotransmitter central to learning and memory, is also central to addiction. "What we're saying is that the concept of dependence is a learning process which is mediated by glutamate," says François Conquet, from GlaxoSmithKline R&D at the Institut de Biologie Cellulaire et de Morphologie in Lausanne, Switzerland, and...

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