Neuro Across the Curriculum
Luis Martinez, an assistant professor, with a lab at the University of Minnesota, visited to talk about the research that he has conducted thus far. Martinez’s research has largely revolved around the notion of drug abuse in animal models.
In the research that Martinez presented on his visit to Trinity he looked at the whether metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) is required for the effects of estradiol on locomotor responses to cocaine to take place. The study used ovariectomized rats, which were given injections of cocaine daily. The rats were then tested for locomotor effects on the first and fifth days that they received injections. Two days prior to the locomotor activity tests the rats were also treated with an mGluR5 antagonist and estradiol. The mGluR5 antagonist, MPEP, served to block estradiol’s effect on locomotor sensitization in the rats.
The findings of the study served to establish the role that mGluR5 plays in estradiol’s facilitation of cocaine induced locomotor sensitization. The novel finding shows how estradiol can increase the effect of cocaine induced locomotor sensitization in females. Furthermore, because new data has shown that women exhibit heightened responsiveness to the stimulating and addictive properties of stimulants such as cocaine, the results of this study provide a potential therapeutic target for treating the addictive properties of stimulants in women through the use of the steroid hormone estradiol.
The one drawback that merits further research is the self-administration aspect of the estradiol and mGluR5 treatment for stimulant addiction in women. While the treatment showed promise in its effects on mediating the behavioral sensitization, which is highly correlated to addiction, the rats in this study were not given the choice of whether or not to take the cocaine or treatment to begin with. Therefore, the treatment may have a different effect on females who fall into the population of self-administering drug users. Regardless, this research offered promising results as to a possible treatment for mediating the sex differences of the heightened responsiveness to the stimulating and addictive properties of stimulants.