Cocaine-Induced Changes in NMDA Receptor Signaling

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Addictive states are often thought to rely on lasting modification of signaling at relevant synapses. A long-standing theory posits that activity at N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) is a critical component of long-term synaptic plasticity in many brain areas. Indeed, NMDAR signaling has been found to play a role in the etiology of addictive states, in particular, following cocaine exposure. However, no consensus is apparent with respect to the specific effects of cocaine exposure on NMDARs. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that NMDARs interact extensively with multiple membrane proteins and intracellular signaling cascades. This allows for highly heterogeneous patterns of NMDAR regulation by cocaine in distinct brain regions and at distinct synapses. The picture is further complicated by findings that cocaine effects on NMDARs are sensitive to the behavioral history of cocaine exposure such as the mode of cocaine administration. This review provides a summary of evidence for cocaine-induced changes in NMDAR expression, cocaine-induced alterations in NMDAR function, and cocaine effects on NMDAR control of intracellular signaling cascades.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)494-506
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Cocaine
  • Electrophysiology
  • Extrasynaptic
  • N-methyl-D-aspartate
  • NMDA
  • Receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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