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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2009 Aug;205(3):389-97. doi: 10.1007/s00213-009-1544-1. Epub 2009 May 6.

Cue-induced alcohol-seeking behaviour is reduced by disrupting the reconsolidation of alcohol-related memories.

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Department of Addictive Behaviour and Addiction Medicine, University of Heidelberg, Central Institute of Mental Health, J5, 68159 Mannheim, Germany.



In humans, the retrieval of memories associated with an alcohol-related experience frequently evokes alcohol-seeking behaviour. The reconsolidation hypothesis states that a consolidated memory could again become labile and susceptible to disruption after memory retrieval.


The aim of our study was to examine whether retrieval of alcohol-related memories undergoes a reconsolidation process.


For this purpose, male Wistar rats were trained to self-administer ethanol in the presence of specific conditioned stimuli. Thereafter, animals were left undisturbed in their home cages for the following 21 days. Memory retrieval was performed in a single 5-min exposure to all alcohol-associated stimuli. The protein synthesis inhibitor anisomycin, the non-competitive N-methyl-D: -aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist MK-801 and acamprosate, a clinically used drug known to reduce a hyper-glutamatergic state, were given immediately after retrieval of alcohol-related memories. The impact of drug treatment on cue-induced alcohol-seeking behaviour was measured on the following day and 7 days later.


Administration of both anisomycin and MK-801 reduced cue-induced alcohol-seeking behaviour, showing that memory reconsolidation was disrupted by these compounds. However, acamprosate had no effect on the reconsolidation process, suggesting that this process is not dependent on a hyper-glutamatergic state but is more related to protein synthesis and NMDA receptor activity.


Pharmacological disruption of reconsolidation of alcohol-associated memories can be achieved by the use of NMDA antagonists and protein synthesis inhibitors and may thus provide a potential new therapeutic strategy for the prevention of relapse in alcohol addiction.

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