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Addict Biol. 2017 Jan;22(1):70-77. doi: 10.1111/adb.12280. Epub 2015 Jun 19.

The paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus is differentially recruited by stimuli conditioned to the availability of cocaine versus palatable food.

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Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience Department, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA.


The paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT) is not traditionally considered part of the brain addiction neurocircuitry but has received growing attention with regard to a role in the modulation of drug-seeking behavior. This study sought to establish the pattern of neural activation induced by a response-reinstating discriminative stimulus (SD ) conditioned to either cocaine (COC) or a conventional reinforcer using a palatable food substance, sweetened condensed milk (SCM). Male Wistar rats were trained to associate one SD (S+ ; COC or SCM availability) and a distinctly different SD (S- ; non-reward; i.e. the availability of saline or the absence of SCM). Following extinction of COC- and SCM-reinforced responding, rats were presented with the respective S+ or S- alone and tested for the reinstatement of reward seeking. The COC S+ and SCM S+ elicited identical reinstatement, whereas the non-reward S- was behaviorally ineffective. PVT sections were obtained following completion of the reinstatement tests and labeled for Fos. The number of Fos+ neurons was compared among rats that were presented with the COC S+ , SCM S+ or S- . Rats that were presented with the COC S+ exhibited a significant increase in Fos expression compared with rats that were presented with the S- . Moreover, Fos expression was significantly correlated with the number of reinstatement responses that were induced by the COC S+ . In contrast, the SCM S+ and S- produced identical increases in Fos expression, without behaviorally relevant correlations. The findings implicate the PVT as an important site that is selectively recruited during COC-seeking behavior.


Cocaine; discriminative stimulus; reinstatement

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