Send to

Choose Destination
Neuron. 2013 Jan 23;77(2):335-45. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.11.022.

Social deprivation enhances VTA synaptic plasticity and drug-induced contextual learning.

Author information

Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research, University of Texas at Austin, 2400 Speedway, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


Drug addiction is driven, in part, by powerful drug-related memories. Deficits in social life, particularly during adolescence, increase addiction vulnerability. Social isolation in rodents has been used extensively to model the effects of deficient social experience, yet its impact on learning and memory processes underlying addiction remains elusive. Here, we show that social isolation of rats during a critical period of adolescence (postnatal days 21-42) enhances long-term potentiation of NMDA receptor (NMDAR)-mediated glutamatergic transmission in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). This enhancement, which is caused by an increase in metabotropic glutamate receptor-dependent Ca(2+) signaling, cannot be reversed by subsequent resocialization. Notably, memories of amphetamine- and ethanol-paired contextual stimuli are acquired faster and, once acquired, amphetamine-associated contextual memory is more resistant to extinction in socially isolated rats. We propose that NMDAR plasticity in the VTA may represent a neural substrate by which early life deficits in social experience increase addiction vulnerability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center