Loren Parsons' contribution to addiction neurobiology

Addict Biol. 2018 Nov;23(6):1207-1222. doi: 10.1111/adb.12642. Epub 2018 Jun 27.


Loren (Larry) H. Parsons passed away at the age of 51. In spite of his premature departure, Larry much contributed to the drug abuse field. Since his graduate studies for the Ph.D. in Chemistry in J.B. Justice lab, microdialysis is the tread that links Larry's research topics, namely, the role of dopamine (DA), serotonin (5-HT), gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), glutamate and endocannabinoids (eCBs) in drug reinforcement and dependence. Larry was the first to show that abstinence from chronic cocaine reduces extracellular DA in the NAc, consistent with the so called 'dopamine depletion hypothesis' of cocaine addiction. Another Larry's major contributions are the studies on 5-HT and 5-HT receptors' role in cocaine stimulant actions, which resulted in the identification of 5-HT1B receptors as a critical substrate of cocaine reinforcement. By applying mass spectrometry to eCBs analysis in brain dialysates, Larry's lab showed that ethanol, heroin, nicotine and cocaine differentially affect anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglicerol overflow in the NAc shell, a critical site of drugs of abuse DA stimulant actions. Larry also applied microdialysis to study GABA and glutamate's role in ethanol dependence and heroin reinforcement, providing in vivo evidence for a sensitization of corticotropin-releasing factor-dependent release of GABA in the central amygdala in withdrawal from chronic ethanol and for a reduction of GABA transmission in the ventral pallidum in heroin but not cocaine intravenous self-administration. Larry showed the wide possibilities of microdialysis as a general purpose methodology for monitoring neurotransmitters and neuromodulators in the brain extracellular compartment. From this viewpoint, he stands as the best advocate for microdialysis.

Keywords: amino acid; dependence; dopamine; endocannabinoids; microdialysis; serotonin.