Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Kaliris Salas-Ramirez

Second Advisor

Jay Edelman

Third Advisor

Jonathan Levitt


taurine, cocaine, neurogenesis, male, adolescent


Adolescence is a developmentally critical transition from childhood to adulthood including both maturation of the body and the brain. Neuroplastic changes result in dynamic organization of the brain during adolescence, leaving them vulnerable to development of mental illness and drug-seeking behavior. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the psychostimulant cocaine is the second most popular illicit drug in the world. Cocaine, amongst having many detrimental effects, has shown to also decrease hippocampal neurogenesis, resulting in decreased neuroplasticity and cognitive dysfunction. Previous students in our laboratory have shown that treatment of adult male rats with the essential β-amino acid taurine (2-aminoethanesulfonic acid) has been effective in attenuating the reward value of cocaine in a conditioned place preference paradigm, independent of hormonal status. Taurine has also been shown to be a neuroprotectant and neurogenic. In these studies, taurine was tested as a protectant against cocaine reward by increasing neurogenesis in the brain in adolescent males. Using a conditioned place preference (CPP) cocaine reward paradigm, taurine was found to be ineffective in attenuating cocaine preference in adolescent males and was found to possess rewarding properties itself. Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) was then used to determine if taurine affected neurogenesis in the hippocampus after cocaine treatment. This study determined that taurine was neither protective against cocaine’s rewarding properties or have a significant impact on neurogenesis in the hippocampus of adolescent male rats. Further studies should be performed to determine which mechanisms of plasticity taurine may be affecting to support the rewarding properties of cocaine. Since sex differences exist in taurine therapeutic value, the effects of taurine on the adolescent female brain should be evaluated as well.


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