Recreational drug use during adolescence may disrupt development of an understudied part of the prefrontal cortex, according to a study of male mice published in eNeuro.
Brain cells that utilize the neurotransmitter dopamine are key players in the development of the prefrontal cortex, which continues to mature through early adulthood. During adolescence, the axons of these dopamine neurons extend from the nucleus accumbens to the medial prefrontal frontal cortex.
Cecilia Flores and colleagues show that this delayed growth of dopamine axons also applies to the orbital prefrontal cortex (oPFC), a brain region involved in complex functions such as decision-making, but the development of which is poorly understood. Mice exposed to the stimulant amphetamine at doses similar to those obtained when the drug is abused by humans had fewer synapses in the oPFC, likely as a result of reduced axon growth, compared to control mice. The researchers did not observe ongoing adolescent dopamine axon growth nor similar effects of amphetamine in a neighboring brain region, the piriform cortex. This suggests that the ongoing extension of dopamine axons and their sensitivity to environmental influences like drugs may be unique to the prefrontal cortex.
Article: Dopamine development in the mouse orbital prefrontal cortex is protracted and sensitive to amphetamine in adolescence
Corresponding author: Cecilia Flores (McGill University, Montreal, Canada), firstname.lastname@example.org
eNeuro, the Society for Neuroscience's new open-access journal launched in 2014, publishes rigorous neuroscience research with double-blind peer review that masks the identity of both the authors and reviewers, minimizing the potential for implicit biases. eNeuro is distinguished by a broader scope and balanced perspective achieved by publishing negative results, failure to replicate or replication studies. New research, computational neuroscience, theories and methods are also published.
About The Society for Neuroscience
The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.