Scientists use optogenetics to erase memories of drug addiction from rats

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A team of researchers has successfully erased cocaine-related memories in rats using optogenetics.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine made rats addicted to cocaine by giving them an infusion of cocaine each time the rats pressed a lever. The infusion would be accompanied by a tone and a light.

According to the paper published in the journal Cell Reports, the rats would then associate the tone and light with the cocaine high and would exhibit drug-seeking behavior by repeatedly pressing the lever.

The team studied electrical recordings from rat brain tissue and found essential connections between the medial geniculate nucleus and the lateral amygdala. These connections created memories that associated the cocaine high with external cues.

The team then used a biological technique called optogenetics to erase memories related to cocaine use. Optogenetics uses light to alter cell behavior. It allows scientists to turn neurons on or off selectively.

Rats that had memories related to cocaine erased pressed the lever fewer times than those who did not go through the optogenetic procedure. These rats also resisted the drug even when placed in a different environment.

RUNDOWN SHOWS:
1. Rats in the experiment receive cocaine infusion and audio-visual stimulation when they press a lever
2. Scientists study connections between the medial geniculate nucleus and the lateral amygdala
3. Scientists use optogenetics to erase memories of cocaine in the rats' brains
4. Rats that are subjected to optogenetics press lever fewer times

VOICEOVER (in English):

"Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine made rats addicted to cocaine by giving them an infusion of cocaine each time the rats pressed a lever. The infusion would be accompanied by a tone and a light."

"According to the paper published in the journal Cell Reports, the rats would then associate the tone and light with the cocaine high and would exhibit drug-seeking behavior by repeatedly pressing the lever."

"The team studied electrical recordings from rat brain tissue and found essential connections between the medial geniculate nucleus and the lateral amygdala. These connections created memories that associated the cocaine high with external cues."

"The team then used a biological technique called optogenetics to erase memories related to cocaine use. Optogenetics uses light to alter cell behavior. It allows scientists to turn neurons on or off selectively."

"Rats that had memories related to cocaine erased pressed the lever fewer times than those who did not go through the optogenetic procedure. These rats also resisted the drug even when placed in a different environment."


SOURCES:
Cell Reports, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Futurism
https://www.cell.com/cell-reports/fulltext/S2211-1247(18)32080-1
https://www.upmc.com/media/news/012219-cocaine-relapse
https://futurism.com/the-byte/erasing-memories-cocaine-use-drug