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J Neurosci. 2018 May 9;38(19):4543-4555. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3113-17.2018. Epub 2018 Apr 23.

Fear Memory Recall Potentiates Opiate Reward Sensitivity through Dissociable Dopamine D1 versus D4 Receptor-Dependent Memory Mechanisms in the Prefrontal Cortex.

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Departments of Anatomy and Cell Biology, and.
Psychiatry, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario N6A 5C1, Canada.
Departments of Anatomy and Cell Biology, and


Disturbances in prefrontal cortical (PFC) dopamine (DA) transmission are well established features of psychiatric disorders involving pathological memory processing, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and opioid addiction. Transmission through PFC DA D4 receptors (D4Rs) has been shown to potentiate the emotional salience of normally nonsalient emotional memories, whereas transmission through PFC DA D1 receptors (D1Rs) has been demonstrated to selectively block recall of reward- or aversion-related associative memories. In the present study, using a combination of fear conditioning and opiate reward conditioning in male rats, we examined the role of PFC D4/D1R signaling during the processing of fear-related memory acquisition and recall and subsequent sensitivity to opiate reward memory formation. We report that PFC D4R activation potentiates the salience of normally subthreshold fear conditioning memory cues and simultaneously potentiates the rewarding effects of systemic or intra-ventral tegmental area (VTA) morphine conditioning cues. In contrast, blocking the recall of salient fear memories with intra-PFC D1R activation, blocks the ability of fear memory recall to potentiate systemic or intra-VTA morphine place preference. These effects were dependent upon dissociable PFC phosphorylation states involving calcium-calmodulin-kinase II or extracellular signal-related kinase 1-2, following intra-PFC D4 or D1R activation, respectively. Together, these findings reveal new insights into how aberrant PFC DAergic transmission and associated downstream molecular signaling pathways may modulate fear-related emotional memory processing and concomitantly increase opioid addiction vulnerability.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Post-traumatic stress disorder is highly comorbid with addiction. In this study, we use a translational model of fear memory conditioning to examine how transmission through dopamine D1 or D4 receptors, in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), may differentially control acquisition or recall of fear memories and how these mechanisms might regulate sensitivity to the rewarding effects of opioids. We demonstrate that PFC D4 activation not only controls the salience of fear memory acquisition, but potentiates the rewarding effects of opioids. In contrast, PFC D1 receptor activation blocks recall of fear memories and prevents potentiation of opioid reward effects. Together, these findings demonstrate novel PFC mechanisms that may account for how emotional memory disturbances might increase the addictive liability of opioid-class drugs.


PTSD; dopamine; fear memory; opioids; prefrontal cortex; ventral tegmental area

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