Study Examines Impact of Cocaine Abuse

While the use of cocaine can have far-reaching impacts on an individual, the memory and cognitive problems associated with use and abuse may also be linked to pre-existing traits or lifestyle factors. These findings were discussed in a recent Science Daily post and were presented at the Neuroscience 2009, an annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

“Our results clearly demonstrate the negative impact that even limited access to cocaine can have on cognitive function,” said senior author Charles W. Bradberry, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh. “These findings may lead to the development of therapies for cognitive impairments as a way to improve addiction treatment.”

Cocaine users appear to display a full range of cognitive deficits, including problems with decision-making, planning and memory. It was also found that the greater these deficits, the more likely the treatment applied will fail. This finding is part of a multi-year longitudinal study of cognitive assessment in cocaine-exposed rhesus monkey.

To conduct this study, 14 animals were trained to perform two tasks on a touch screen that measured different cognitive capabilities. This testing was done for two groups, one of which was self-administering cocaine on Tuesdays through Fridays. The testing was conducted on Mondays, after the cocaine-using animals were drug-free for roughly 72 hours.

“The types of errors suggest that poor attention and distractedness were significant contributors to the deficits, for they were similar to those made on cognitive tasks by people with attentional deficit disorders,” Bradberry said.

Bradberry plans to continue to investigate whether the brain mechanisms that lead to impaired attention in people with attention deficit disorders may be causing similar problems in people who are chronically addicted to cocaine.

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