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GABA, memory, and drug addiction

Matt Jones jonesmat at ohsu.edu
Mon Feb 22 14:31:25 EST 1999

In article <7albhr$3v08$1 at newssvr04-int.news.prodigy.com> Patti
Muensterman, LEZQ40C at prodigy.com writes:
>  The reason gabamenergics have recently been shown to be effective in 
>decreasing the desire to use certain narcotics such as cocaine and heroin 
>may be the result of re-arranging neural networks so that they don't 
>trigger drug-related memories in the same manner that epileptics have 
>deja vu after heavy electrical activity in the brain before seizures. I 
>would like to hear your ideas on why the gabamanergics reduce drug 

Can you please give the citations for the studies showing that GABAergic
drugs help with drug-seeking behaviour?

Off the top of my head, I can think of a few ways this could work (two
out of three are "artifacts", not really requiring any specific effects). 

1) GABAergic drugs (I assume you mean GABA-mimetic drugs that accentuate
or mimic the action of GABA, like barbiturates, benzodiazepines, some
antiepileptics) are generally sedative/analgesic/anesthetic compounds. So
the sedation itself could account for decreased drug-seeking behaviors
(whether or not the desire has been reduced is a separate problem from
whether the behavior has been attenuated). 

2) These drugs tend to be highly habit-forming. So they may be
_substituting_ for other drugs, without actually reducing the desire for
drug use.  

3) There seem to be interactions between GABAergic systems and other
systems that are more classically involved in reward. For example, most
places in the brain are under GABAergic regulation. So mucking around
with this regulation could increase or decrease the activity of the
neurons that release dopamine (or whatever transmitters are actually
involved in signalling drug-seeking), depending on how the circuits are
wired up. I don't know too much about this, but you might try searching
for papers from John Williams lab. He's had a few recently that deal with
these issues.

Matt Jones

(Thank's for the vote of confidence, Frank)

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