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Research Abstracts Online
January 2008 - March 2009

University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Medical School
Department of Neuroscience

PI: Alexander E. Kalyuzhny

Image Analysis of Dendritic Spine Morphology

This researcher studied the effects of in vivo exposure to addictive drugs on the structure of neuronal dendrites in the brain’s reward circuits. Previous research has shown that repeated cocaine exposure, for example, increases dendritic spines on neurons in the nucleus accumbens, a region involved in the regulation of motivational states. Although spines are often sites for synaptic contacts between neurons, it is not yet clear whether the new spines present after drug exposure contain functional synapses. This project combined the electrophysiological study of synaptic transmission in these neurons with the study of their dendritic morphology with the goal of a better understanding of the drug-induced changes in the brain that underlie addiction.