For those who think drug addiction is hardwired in the brain, a new study on mice claims that even a short time spent in a stimulating learning environment can buffer the brain against drug dependence.
University of California scientists fro tracked cocaine cravings in more than 70 adult male mice and found that those rodents whose daily drill included exploration, learning and finding hidden tasty morsels were less likely than their enrichment-deprived counterparts to seek solace in a chamber where they had been given cocaine.
Assistant professor Linda Wilbrecht said that they had compelled behavioural evidence that self-directed exploration and learning altered their reward systems so that when cocaine was experienced, it made less of an impact on their brain.
Wilbrecht said that their data was exciting because it suggested that positive learning experiences, through education or play in a structured environment, could sculpt and develop brain circuits to build resilience in at-risk individuals and that even brief cognitive interventions might be somewhat protective and last a relatively long time.
She added that the data suggested that deprivation may confer vulnerability to drug seeking behavior and that brief interventions may promote long-term resilience.
The research is published in the Journal Neuropharmacology.