Amphetamine Alters Brain Signaling
Prolonged use of amphetamine during adolescence can lead to changes in brain functions that last into adulthood, according to a study published in the journal Neuroscience.
Psychostimulant drugs like amphetamine attack the dopamine system in the brain, which leads to changes in dopamine signaling. Dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter, plays a role in pleasure, memory and learning. Researchers wanted to see how normal brain development in adolescence, including these dopamine signals, is interrupted by amphetamine.
The researchers used rats in this particular study because young rats show the same characteristics as human children. They repeatedly exposed the rats to amphetamine and focused on studying the prefrontal cortex, which is the last part of the brain to fully develop during adolescence. The rats exposed to the drug showed a reduced ability to respond to dopamine. Specifically, their research showed that the drug greatly alters one receptor in particular, the D1 receptor.
The change in signaling lasted about 14 weeks after the exposure to the drug, which would be equivalent to the human adolescents experiencing change in signaling into their 30s.