Methamphetamine abuse impairs motor cortical plasticity and function

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Exposure to addictive drugs triggers synaptic plasticity in reward-related brain regions, such as the midbrain, nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex. Effects of chronic drug exposure on other brain areas have not been fully investigated. Here, we characterize synaptic plasticity in motor cortex after methamphetamine self-administration in rats. We show that this causes a loss of corticostriatal plasticity in rat brain slices and impaired motor learning in the rotarod task. These findings are paralleled by the observation of a lack of transcranial magnetic stimulation-induced potentiation or depression of motor evoked potentials in human patients with addiction, along with poor performance in rotary pursuit task. Taken together, our results suggest that chronic methamphetamine use can affect behavioral performance via drug-evoked synaptic plasticity occluding physiological motor learning.

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