Issue Date: January 15, 2007
This Is Your Brain On Inhalants
Huffing. Bagging. Dusting. These are names for getting high by inhaling solvents like the toluene in spray paint. It's a type of substance abuse popular among middle schoolers, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Neurophysiologist Arthur C. Riegel of the University of Arizona, neurochemist Agustin Zapata of NIDA, and their colleagues have now confirmed that toluene exposure increases release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in brain regions associated with reward and addiction (Neuropsychopharmacology, DOI: 10.1038/sj.npp.1301273). Prior studies suggested that toluene might not abide by the prevalent "dopamine hypothesis" for the basis of addiction, Riegel notes. Using microelectrodes in rat brain tissue slices, the researchers observed that toluene selectively stimulates dopamine-releasing neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). This area connects to a key neural reward area, the nucleus accumbens (ACB). With tiny microdialysis tubes to deliver and draw fluids from the VTA and ACB of living rats, the team also was able to use HPLC to directly detect and measure toluene-induced dopamine spikes.
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