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Sons with Cocaine-Addicted Fathers might be Protected from Addiction

Update Date: Nov 12, 2013 01:31 PM EST

Cocaine addiction can greatly impact one's ability to perform daily activities. People who are addicted to this drug might only be focused on getting their next high, causing them to ignore the important tasks and responsibilities. An addiction could force a father to ignore his duties to his children. Despite the effects of cocaine on a father's ability to care for his child or children, a new study that used rat models is reporting that children of fathers who use cocaine might be more resistant to addiction.

For this study, the Penn Medicine research team experimented on two groups of rats and their offspring. In the first groups of male rats, they were allowed to self-administer cocaine for two months. In the other group, the rats were not drugged at all. The team then proceeded to administer cocaine to the offspring from both groups. The male offspring with the drugged fathers did not exhibit an escalation of frenzied movements, which is perceived as an indicator of addiction. The male offspring of the rats that were not given cocaine, however, had increased motor activity, a sign of addiction. The researchers noted that their findings did not apply to female offspring.

The research team then examined the brains of the offspring in both groups. They found that the offspring of rats that were not drugged had different brain activity in their nucleus accumbens, which is responsible for reward seeking and addictive behaviors in comparison to the offspring of the drugged rats. The researchers concluded that for rats, the fathers' drug use appeared to change how the neuroreceptors worked in this region of the brain, which most likely reduced their chances of developing a drug addiction. The researchers stated that even though the offspring of drugged fathers had reduced pleasure from drugs, they could be more susceptible to depression.

Since this is a study conducted in rats, cocaine use in humans and how that affects children is unknown. The research team was led by Mathieu Wimmer, Ph.D., a post-doctoral researcher in the laboratory of R. Christopher Pierce, Ph.D., associate professor of Neuroscience in Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The study's findings will be presented in San Diego at the Society for Neuroscience's Annual Meeting.

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