Brad Ackerson, Brigham Young University
The highjacking by alcohol and drugs of abuse of the mesocortico-limbic system in the brain is responsible for addiction, specifically the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and its projecting dopaminergic neurons to the nucleus accumbens (NAc). Over the course of addiction, a hedonic response is developed from lower than normal levels of dopamine (DA) in which the individual pursues drug-seeking behavior. The current accepted treatment methods for addiction are replacement drug therapies, group therapy, or individual counseling – the prior being associated with additional side-effects and an inability to overcome the hedonic response of the addiction. The aim of this study was to evaluate alternative and natural therapeutics that produce long-term potentiation (LTP) of the neuronal systems involved in order to overcome addiction with minimal to no side-effects. Using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV), the effects of baicalein, a flavonoid isolated from the root of Sculletaria Baicalensis, and low-level laser therapy (LLLT) on DA release in the NAc core were evaluated in vitro and in vivo in Wistar rats. Local stimulation evoked in vitro demonstrated that baicalein administration (10, 50, 100 uM) 30 minutes prior to 80 mM ethanol attenuated the DA inhibition of ethanol. DA signals were evoked in vivo in the core of the NAc by electrical stimulation of the medial forebrain bundle (MFB) at the level of the lateral hypothalamus (60 Hz, 60 pulses) in isoflurane anesthetized rats. Both the intraperitoneal (IP) administration of baicalein (1.0 mg/kg) and the administration of LLLT (25 Hz, 630 nm) 30 minutes prior to ethanol (2.0 g/kg) administration IP attenuated the DA inhibition of ethanol. These findings suggest that baicalein and LLLT may prove as effective clinical therapies for addiction.