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Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Feb 1;69(3):253-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.09.003. Epub 2010 Nov 3.

Methamphetamine self-administration produces attentional set-shifting deficits and alters prefrontal cortical neurophysiology in rats.

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Department of Neurosciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, 29425, USA.



Chronic methamphetamine abusers exhibit deficits in tasks requiring intact prefrontal cortex function, and prefrontal cortex dysfunction has been implicated in the loss of control over drug use. This study used a combination of behavioral and electrophysiologic assessments in rats with a history of long access methamphetamine self-administration to determine methamphetamine-induced changes in prefrontal cortex-dependent attentional set-shifting performance, drug-seeking, and prefrontal cortex neuronal activity.


Male Long-Evans rats self-administered methamphetamine (.02 mg/infusion, intravenous) or received yoked saline infusions for 6 hours a day for 14 days. Cognitive flexibility was assessed using an attentional set-shifting task before 2 weeks of self-administration and 1 day after self-administration. Animals then underwent 11 days of abstinence, followed by three subsequent tests for context-induced drug seeking. Finally, animals were anesthetized, and single-unit in vivo extracellular recordings were performed in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex.


Methamphetamine-experienced rats showed escalated drug intake and context-induced drug-seeking following abstinence. During the extradimensional set-shift component, meth-experienced rats showed selective impairments that were identical to deficits produced by excitotoxic lesions of the prefrontal cortex. Rats with a history of chronic methamphetamine intake also exhibited higher basal firing frequency and a significantly greater proportion of burst-firing cells in the prefrontal cortex compared with yoked-saline controls.


Prefrontal cortex-specific alterations in neuronal function may play a key role in methamphetamine-induced attentional deficits and drug-seeking. These data support the possibility that targeting prefrontal cortex pathology may improve treatment outcome in methamphetamine addiction.

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