How Addiction Affects Offspring

When laboratory rats abuse cocaine, they produce offspring that are less susceptible to addiction, according to the Los Angeles Times. This surprising genetic twist emerged from a study done at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, which found that male pups with cocaine-addicted fathers were less likely to want the drug and more resistant to its effects. By contrast, rats sired by males that had never used cocaine responded to repeated doses of the drug with an escalating frenzy of movement known to foretell addiction.The findings were echoed on the neurological level, where a male parent’s cocaine use determined whether the region of the pup’s brain involved in addictive behaviors lit up with an electrical current. Scientists say the study adds to a growing body of evidence that behavior and environmental circumstances can switch the expression of genes on and off. The process, called epigenetics,is blurring the once stark line between nature and nurture. Researchers said the study “could be incredibly important in developing treatments for addiction.”