Jenkang Tao L&S Sciences
Role of Cocaine and Amphetamine-Regulated Transcript (CART) Peptide in Cocaine Addiction
Drugs of addiction use and “hijack” the neuronal systems normally used in reward learning, which makes finding a treatment specific for addiction highly problematic. Several biological markers of addiction have been identified and are potential treatment targets, but their relationship and role in addictive behavior remains unknown. One such marker is the cocaine and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) peptide that has been found to be upregulated in select groups of neurons in the brain following systemic injections of cocaine in animals. Although previous studies have characterized the CART peptide as a neuromodulator capable of blocking cocaine-mediated locomotor actions and rewarding properties, little is known about CART-expressing neurons and their role in drug addiction. My preliminary data suggests that the activity of CART-expressing neurons is necessary for the maintenance and expression of cocaine-induced behaviors. Using optogenetic and other neuromodulatory techniques, I will further assess the role of CART-expressing neurons in addictive behavior.