Extinction and reinstatement of cocaine-seeking in self-administering mice is associated with bidirectional AMPAR-mediated plasticity in the nucleus accumbens shell.

Research paper by Stephanie R SR Ebner, Erin B EB Larson, Matthew C MC Hearing, Anna E AE Ingebretson, Mark J MJ Thomas

Indexed on: 10 Jun '18Published on: 10 Jun '18Published in: Neuroscience


Experience-dependent synaptic plasticity is an important component of both learning and motivational disturbances found in addicted individuals. Here, we investigated the role of cocaine experience-dependent plasticity at excitatory synapses in the nucleus accumbens shell (NAcSh) in relapse-related behavior in mice with a history of volitional cocaine self-administration. Using an extinction/reinstatement paradigm of cocaine-seeking behavior, we demonstrate that cocaine experienced mice with extinguished cocaine-seeking behavior show potentiation of synaptic strength at excitatory inputs onto NAcSh medium spiny neurons (MSNs). Conversely, we found that exposure to various distinct types of reinstating stimuli (cocaine, cocaine-associated cues, yohimbine "stress") after extinction can produce a relative depotentiation of NAcSh synapses that is strongly associated with the magnitude of cocaine-seeking behavior exhibited in response to these challenges. Furthermore, we show that these effects are due to α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor (AMPAR)-specific mechanisms that differ depending on the nature and context of the reinstatement-inducing stimuli. Together, our findings identify common themes as well as differential mechanisms that are likely important for the ability of diverse environmental stimuli to drive relapse to addictive-like cocaine-seeking behavior. Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier Ltd.