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Life Sci. 2010 Jan 2;86(1-2):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2009.11.005. Epub 2009 Nov 13.

Corticotropin releasing factor and neuroplasticity in cocaine addiction.

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Department of Psychiatry, Vall d'Hebron University Hospital, Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.


Corticotropin releasing factor (CRF), one of the major effectors of stress, plays a major role in the natural course of drug addiction by accelerating the acquisition of psychostimulant self-administration and increasing incentive motivation for the drug itself and for drug-associated stimuli. Stress-induced CRF is also considered a predictor of relapse and is responsible for feelings of anxiety and distress during cocaine withdrawal. Despite this knowledge, the role of CRF has not been explored in the context of recent research on reward-related learning, built on the hypothesis that neuroplastic changes in the mesocorticolimbic circuitry underlie addiction. The present review explores the effects of stress on the pattern of interaction between CRF, dopamine and glutamate in distinct structures of the mesocorticolimbic circuitry, including the ventral tegmental area (VTA), amygdala, bed nucleus of stria terminalis (BNST) and the prefrontal cortex (PFC), after acute and chronic cocaine consumption as well as in early withdrawal and protracted abstinence. A better knowledge of the neurochemical and cellular mechanisms involved in these interactions would be useful to elucidate the role of CRF in cocaine-induced neuronal plasticity, which could be useful in developing new pharmacological strategies for the treatment of cocaine addiction.

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