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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2007 Oct;194(3):321-31. Epub 2007 Jun 24.

The role of dorsal vs ventral striatal pathways in cocaine-seeking behavior after prolonged abstinence in rats.

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  • 1Department of Neurosciences, Medical University of South Carolina, 173 Ashley Avenue, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.

Erratum in

  • Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2007 Dec;195(3):455.



Recent studies have implicated an important role for the dorsal striatum during craving for cocaine and in cocaine-seeking after abstinence in rats.


We compared the effects of pharmacological inactivation of mesencephalic dopamine (DA) cell body regions and dorsal vs ventral striatal terminal fields in an animal model of relapse after chronic cocaine self-administration.


Rats self-administered cocaine for 2 h/day for ten sessions, followed by 2 weeks of abstinence (i.e., no extinction training). Immediately before being returned to the self-administration chamber, we assessed the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid agonist inhibition of midbrain DA regions (substantia nigra [SN] and ventral tegmental area [VTA]) and striatum (dorsolateral caudate-putamen, nucleus accumbens core, and nucleus accumbens shell) on relapse to cocaine-seeking in the absence of reinforcement. Further testing examined daily extinction responding subsequent to the initial relapse test.


Inactivation of the dorsal caudate-putamen and midbrain regions attenuated cocaine seeking, while inactivation of the ventral striatum had no such effects. However, subsequent sessions under extinction conditions revealed a rebound in cocaine seeking in animals that had undergone inactivation in all regions except the dorsolateral caudate-putamen.


The dorsal but not ventral striatum plays a critical role in cocaine seeking immediately after abstinence. These data support the theory that chronic cocaine may shift activity from the ventral to dorsal striatum during drug seeking under certain conditions. While not necessary at the time of relapse, the ventral striatum appears to be involved in processing critical information of the relapse event.

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