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J Neurophysiol. 2004 Sep;92(3):1597-607.

Repeated cocaine administration suppresses HVA-Ca2+ potentials and enhances activity of K+ channels in rat nucleus accumbens neurons.

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Neuropsychopharmacology Laboratory, Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, North Chicago, IL 60064-3095, USA.


The nucleus accumbens (NAc) is an important forebrain area involved in sensitization, withdrawal effects, and self-administration of cocaine. However, little is known about cocaine-induced alterations in the neuronal excitability and whole cell neuroplasticity in this region that may affect behaviors. Our recent investigations have demonstrated that repeated cocaine administration decreases voltage-sensitive sodium and calcium currents (VSSCs and VSCCs, respectively) in freshly dissociated NAc neurons of rats. In this study, current-clamp recordings were performed in slice preparations to determine the effects of chronic cocaine on evoked Ca(2+) potentials and voltage-sensitive K(+) currents in NAc neurons. Repeated cocaine administration with 3-4 days of withdrawal caused significant alterations in Ca(2+) potentials, including suppression of Ca(2+)-mediated spikes, increase in the intracellular injected current intensity required for generation of Ca(2+) potentials (rheobase), reduced duration of Ca(2+) plateau potentials, and abolishment of secondary Ca(2+) potentials associated with the primary Ca(2+) plateau potential. Application of nickel (Ni(2+)), which blocks low-voltage activated T-type Ca(2+) channels, had no impact on evoked Ca(2+) plateau potentials in NAc neurons, indicating that these Ca(2+) potentials are high-voltage activated (HVA). In addition, repeated cocaine pretreatment also hyperpolarized the resting membrane potential, increased the amplitude of afterhyperpolarization in Ca(2+) spikes, and enhanced the outward rectification observed during membrane depolarization. These findings indicate that repeated cocaine administration not only suppressed HVA-Ca(2+) potentials but also significantly enhanced the activity of various K(+) channels in NAc neurons. They also demonstrate an integrative role of whole cell neuroplasticity during cocaine withdrawal, by which the subthreshold membrane excitability of NAc neurons is significantly decreased.

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