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Drug-primed reinstatement of cocaine seeking in mice: increased excitability of medium-sized spiny neurons in the nucleus accumbens

Author(s): Yao‑Ying Ma | Sandy M. Henley | Jeff Toll | James D. Jentsch | Christopher J. Evans | Michael S. Levine | Carlos Cepeda

Journal: ASN Neuro
ISSN 1759-0914

Volume: 5;
Issue: 4;
Start page: e00122;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: intravenous self-administration | nucleus accumbens | relapse | synaptic transmission

To examine the mechanisms of drug relapse, we first established a model for cocaine IVSA (intravenous self-administration) in mice, and subsequently examined electrophysiological alterations of MSNs (medium-sized spiny neurons) in the NAc (nucleus accumbens) before and after acute application of cocaine in slices. Three groups were included: master mice trained by AL (active lever) pressings followed by IV (intravenous) cocaine delivery, yoked mice that received passive IV cocaine administration initiated by paired master mice, and saline controls. MSNs recorded in the NAc shell in master mice exhibited higher membrane input resistances but lower frequencies and smaller amplitudes of sEPSCs (spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents) compared with neurons recorded from saline control mice, whereas cells in the NAc core had higher sEPSCs frequencies and larger amplitudes. Furthermore, sEPSCs in MSNs of the shell compartment displayed longer decay times, suggesting that both pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms were involved. After acute re-exposure to a low-dose of cocaine in vitro, an AP (action potential)-dependent, persistent increase in sEPSC frequency was observed in both NAc shell and core MSNs from master, but not yoked or saline control mice. Furthermore, re-exposure to cocaine induced membrane hyperpolarization, but concomitantly increased excitability of MSNs from master mice, as evidenced by increased membrane input resistance, decreased depolarizing current to generate APs, and a more negative Thr (threshold) for firing. These data demonstrate functional differences in NAc MSNs after chronic contingent versus non-contingent IV cocaine administration in mice, as well as synaptic adaptations of MSNs before and after acute re-exposure to cocaine. Reversing these functional alterations in NAc could represent a rational target for the treatment of some reward-related behaviors, including drug addiction.
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