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Synapse. 2009 Oct;63(10):823-35. doi: 10.1002/syn.20666.

c-Fos expression associated with reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior by response-contingent conditioned cues.

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Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, PO Box 871104, Tempe, Arizona 85287-1104, USA.


The capability of cocaine cues to generate craving in cocaine-dependent humans, even after extended abstinence, is modeled in rats using cue reinstatement of extinguished cocaine-seeking behavior. We investigated neural activity associated with incentive motivational effects of cocaine cues using c-fos mRNA and Fos protein expression as markers. Unlike preceding studies, we used response-contingent presentation of discrete cues to elicit cocaine seeking. Rats were first trained to press a lever, resulting in cocaine reinforcement and light and tone cues. Rats then underwent extinction training, during which lever presses decreased. On the test day, rats either received response-contingent cocaine cues or received no cues. The cues reinstated extinguished cocaine-seeking behavior on the test day. In general, cue-elicited c-fos mRNA and protein expression were similar and both were enhanced in the prefrontal cortex, ventral tegmental area (VTA), dorsal striatum, and nucleus accumbens. Cues elicited more widespread Fos protein expression relative to our previous research in which cues were presented noncontingently without prior extinction training, including increases in the VTA, substantia nigra, ventral subiculum, and lateral entorhinal cortex. We also observed a correlation between cocaine-seeking behavior and Fos in the agranular insula (AgI) and basolateral amygdala (BLA). The findings suggest that connections between BLA and AgI play a role in cue-elicited incentive motivation for cocaine and that reinstatement of cocaine seeking by response-contingent cues activates a similar corticolimbic circuit as that observed with other modes of cue presentation; however, activation of midbrain and ventral hippocampal regions may be unique to reinstatement by response-contingent cues.

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