Connectomics Reveals Role of Dopamine in Cocaine Addiction

Researchers have used advanced technology and mice to study dopamine neuron structure, addiction and the brain’s ability to recover.

Using state-of-the-art technology, researchers from the University of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory detailed, for the first time, specific changes that occur in the brains of mice exposed to cocaine.

Using resources at the University of Chicago, the team collected approximately 2,000 40 nanometer-thick sections (1mm = 1 million nm) from dopamine associated sections of the midbrain and forebrain.

From these samples, the SEM generated a collection of 2D, individual images — totaling over 1.5 terabytes of data. These were digitally reassembled using the visualization cluster, Cooley, at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, a DOE Office of Science user facility.

This process creates a 3D volume that allows researchers to identify and trace different anatomical features of the dopamine neurons, which, until recently, had proven something of a challenge.

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