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Lateral Preoptic Area Neurons Linked to Drug Seeking

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The Lab of Dr. David Barker recently published a report in the European Journal of Neuroscience showing for the first time that neurons in a part of the brain's hypothalamus called the 'lateral preoptic area' are activated during key components of drug-seeking behavior.

Dr. Barker, along with undergraduate student Vaishnavi Venkat, Dr. Mark West of the Department of Psychology, and alumni Dr. Kevin Coffey, examined the responses of lateral preoptic area neurons during drug-seeking behaviors, drug-taking behaviors, and when animals receive drug. They discovered from this work that lateral preoptic area neurons are most responsive when rats are making responses to earn cocaine, suggesting that neurons in the lateral preoptic area may provide critical signals during ongoing drug-seeking and drug relapse in humans.