Factors underlying individual vulnerability to develop alcoholism are largely unknown. In humans, the risk for alcoholism is associated with elevated cue reactivity. Recent evidence suggests that in animal models, reactivity to reward-paired cues is predictive of addictive behaviors. To model cue reactivity in mice, we used a Pavlovian approach (PA) paradigm in which mice were trained to associate a cue with delivery of a food reinforcer. We then investigated the relationship between PA status with habitual and compulsive-like ethanol seeking. After training mice to respond for 10% ethanol, habitual behavior was investigated using both an outcome devaluation paradigm, in which ethanol was devalued via association with lithium chloride-induced malaise, and a contingency degradation paradigm in which the relationship between action and outcome was disrupted. Compulsive-like behavior was investigated in a modified conditioned place preference paradigm in which footshock was paired with the reward-paired chamber. PA was found to be predictive of habitual and compulsive-like ethanol seeking. Additionally, innate risk status was related to epigenetic changes in the gene encoding the requisite subunit of the 5HT3 receptor, Htr3a, as well as 5HT3A protein expression in the amygdala. We then used pharmacological tools to demonstrate that risk status determines the ability of a 5HT3 antagonist to reduce compulsive ethanol seeking. These data indicate that risk status can be identified prior to any alcohol exposure by assessment of cue reactivity, and further that this endophenotype may be predictive of response to pharmacological treatment for components of alcoholism.
The intracellular mechanisms underlying memory reconsolidation critically involve cAMP signaling. These events were originally attributed to PKA activation by cAMP, but the identification of Exchange Protein Activated by cAMP (Epac), as a distinct mediator of cAMP signaling, suggests that cAMP-regulated processes that subserve memory reconsolidation are more complex. Here we investigated how activation of Epac with 8-pCPT-cAMP (8-CPT) impacts reconsolidation of a memory that had been associated with cocaine self-administration. Rats were trained to lever press for cocaine on an FR-1 schedule, in which each cocaine delivery was paired with a tone+light cue. Lever pressing was then extinguished in the absence of cue presentations and cocaine delivery. Following the last day of extinction, rats were put in a novel context, in which the conditioned cue was presented to reactivate the cocaine-associated memory. Immediate bilateral infusions of 8-CPT into the basolateral amygdala (BLA) following reactivation disrupted subsequent cue-induced reinstatement in a dose-dependent manner, and modestly reduced responding for conditioned reinforcement. When 8-CPT infusions were delayed for 3 hours after the cue reactivation session or were given after a cue extinction session, no effect on cue-induced reinstatement was observed. Co-administration of 8-CPT and the PKA activator 6-Bnz-cAMP (10 nmol/side) rescued memory reconsolidation while 6-Bnz alone had no effect, suggesting an antagonizing interaction between the two cAMP signaling substrates. Taken together, these studies suggest that activation of Epac represents a parallel cAMP-dependent pathway that can inhibit reconsolidation of cocaine-cue memories and reduce the ability of the cue to produce reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior.
One strategy proposed to treat addictive disorders is to extinguish the association between environmental stimuli (cues) and actions associated with drug use to reduce relapse. The context specificity of extinction learning, however, impairs the ability of addicts to generalize extinction training to the drug-taking context. We previously reported that the NMDA receptor partial agonist d-cycloserine administered after pavlovian extinction of cocaine cues in the nucleus accumbens core (NAc) reduced cue-induced renewal. Nevertheless, it was unclear whether this was due to disrupted contextual encoding of extinction or enhanced extinction consolidation. Thus, we examined the effect of the NMDA receptor antagonist d-AP5 on context encoding versus cue extinction learning. We also determined the role of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in encoding the cue extinction memory or the context, due to its projections to NAc, and hypothesized the role in conflict monitoring and contextual modulation of decision making. Using rats, we observed that NMDA receptor antagonism in the NAc did not alter context encoding but did interfere with acquisition of the cue extinction memory, i.e., learning, conversely inactivation of the ACC reduced the contextual encoding of extinction but did not interfere with the acquisition or expression of extinction. The observed effects were not present in the absence of cue extinction training. Additionally, the contextual memory did not appear to be consolidated in the ACC as neither postsession inactivation nor protein synthesis inhibition impaired context-appropriate responding. These results have implications for overcoming the context specificity of extinction to treat psychiatric disorders including addiction.
The development of addictive behavior is marked by a loss of behavioral flexibility. In part, this is due to an increase in the ability of environmental stimuli to elicit responding and decreased importance of the action-outcome relationship in behavioral control. It has previously been demonstrated that both inactivation of and dopamine (DA) infusions in the infralimbic prefrontal cortex (PFC) can restore behavioral flexibility in paradigms measuring habitual reward seeking. Here, we investigated the mechanism by which cortical DA would act to enable goal-directed actions after the transition to habitual behavior has been established. Further, we extended this work to include a novel mouse model of compulsive-like behavior in which we assessed reward seeking despite the possibility of adverse consequences. Our data show that DA receptor D1 inhibition or D2 activation both promote the expression of a flexible responding after the development of habitual or compulsive-like behavior, and we suggest that the ability of DA infusions in the infralimbic PFC to restore sensitivity to changes in outcome value depends on activation of DA D2 receptors.
Over the past several years, drug addiction has increasingly been accepted to be a disease of the brain as opposed to simply being due to a lack of willpower or personality flaw. Exposure to addictive substances has been shown to create enduring changes in brain structure and function that are thought to underlie the transition to addiction. Specific genetic and environmental vulnerability factors also influence the impact of drugs of abuse on the brain and can enhance the likelihood of becoming an addict. Long-lasting alterations in brain function have been found in neural circuits that are known to be responsible for normal appetitive learning and memory processes and it has been hypothesized that drugs of abuse enhance positive learning and memory about the drug while inhibiting learning about the negative consequences of drug use. Therefore, the addicts behavior becomes increasingly directed towards obtaining and using drugs of abuse, while at the same time developing a poorer ability to stop using, even when the drug is less rewarding or interferes with functioning in other facets of life. In this review we will discuss the clinical evidence that addicted individuals have altered learning and memory and describe the possible neural substrates of this dysfunction. In addition, we will explore the pre-clinical evidence that drugs of abuse cause a progressive disorder of learning and memory, review the molecular and neurobiological changes that may underlie this disorder, determine the genetic and environmental factors that may increase vulnerability to addiction, and suggest potential strategies for treating addiction through manipulations of learning and memory.
Extinction therapy has been proposed as a method to reduce the motivational impact of drug-associated cues to prevent relapse. Cue extinction therapy, however, takes place in a novel context (e.g., treatment facility), and is unlikely to be effective due to the context specificity of extinction. We tested the hypothesis that d-cycloserine (DCS), which enhances extinction in other procedures, would enhance extinction of cocaine-associated cues in a novel context to reduce cue-induced reinstatement. Male Sprague Dawley rats were trained to self-administer cocaine associated with a cue. The cue was later extinguished in the drug-taking context (context A) or a novel context (context B) using a Pavlovian cue extinction procedure designed to mimic human cue exposure therapy. DCS was administered systemically or into a specific brain region immediately following the cue extinction sessions to enhance the consolidation of extinction learning. We demonstrate that DCS given postextinction session in context B reduces reinstatement in context A, indicating a reduction in the context specificity of extinction learning. The effect of systemic DCS was recapitulated by administration of DCS into the nucleus accumbens core, but not in the basolateral amygdala, dorsal hippocampus, infralimbic or prelimbic prefrontal cortex. DCS treatment caused a reduction in cue-induced reinstatement only when it was given after cue extinction sessions, and not when given 1) in the absence of extinction or 2) after a brief memory reactivation session. A pharmacological method that can render extinction context independent may provide an innovative method to reduce cue-induced relapse in addicts and to study the neurobiology of addiction.
Differences between men and women in alcohol abuse prevalence have long been attributed to social and hormonal factors. It is, however, becoming apparent that sex differences in substance dependence are also influenced by genetic factors. Using a four core genotype mouse model that enables dissociation of chromosomal and gonadal sex, we show that habitual responding for alcohol reinforcement is mediated by sex chromosome complement independent of gonadal phenotype. After moderate instrumental training, chromosomal male (XY) mice became insensitive to outcome devaluation, indicating habitual responding. Chromosomal female (XX) mice remained sensitive to outcome devaluation, signifying goal-directed behavior. There was no effect of gonadal phenotype on habitual responding. Conversely, alcohol drinking was predicted by gonadal phenotype independent of sex chromosome complement. These results indicate that different alcoholism-related behaviors are determined independently by gonadal and chromosomal sex.
Drug addiction is a chronic disorder associated with recurrent craving and relapse often precipitated by the presence of drug-associated stimuli. Pharmacological and behavioral treatments that disrupt drug-associated stimulus memories could be beneficial in the treatment of addictive disorders. Memory restabilization (or reconsolidation) following retrieval of drug-paired stimuli depends upon the amygdala. Here we assessed whether amygdalar PKA is required for the reconsolidation of an appetitive, cocaine-paired stimulus. Rats were trained to lever press for intravenous cocaine infusions paired with a light/tone conditioned stimulus. After 12 d of acquisition, rats either underwent lever extinction (8-12 d) followed by light/tone reactivation and subsequent cue-induced and cocaine-induced (15 mg/kg, i.p.) reinstatement testing or were subsequently tested to assess the ability of the light/tone stimulus to serve as a conditioned reinforcer in the acquisition of a new instrumental response (nose poking). Bilateral intra-amygdalar infusions of the PKA inhibitor Rp-cAMPS (18 microg per side) given immediately following light/tone stimulus reactivation decreased subsequent cue-induced reinstatement and responding with a conditioned reinforcer, while having no effect on cocaine-induced reinstatement. Intra-amygdalar infusions of Rp-cAMPS made 3 h following reactivation or immediately following no stimulus reactivation had no effect on subsequent cue-induced reinstatement. These data show that memory reconsolidation for a cocaine-paired stimulus is retrieval dependent and time limited and critically depends upon amygdalar PKA.
We recorded neuronal activity simultaneously in the medial and lateral regions of the dorsal striatum as rats learned an operant task. The task involved making head entries into a response port followed by movements to collect rewards at an adjacent reward port. The availability of sucrose reward was signaled by an acoustic stimulus. During training, animals showed increased rates of responding and came to move rapidly and selectively, following the stimulus, from the response port to the reward port. Behavioral "devaluation" studies, pairing sucrose with lithium chloride, established that entries into the response port were habitual (insensitive to devaluation of sucrose) from early in training and entries into the reward port remained goal-directed (sensitive to devaluation) throughout training. Learning-related changes in behavior were paralleled by changes in neuronal activity in the dorsal striatum, with an increasing number of neurons showing task-related firing over the training period. Throughout training, we observed more task-related neurons in the lateral striatum compared with those in the medial striatum. Many of these neurons fired at higher rates during initiation of movements in the presence of the stimulus, compared with similar movements in the absence of the stimulus. Learning was also accompanied by progressive increases in movement-related potentials and transiently increased theta-band oscillations (5-8 Hz) in simultaneously recorded field potentials. Together, these data suggest that representations of task-relevant stimuli and movements develop in the dorsal striatum during instrumental learning.
Drug addiction is a progressive and compulsive disorder, where recurrent craving and relapse to drug-seeking occur even after long periods of abstinence. A major contributing factor to relapse is drug-associated cues. Here we review behavioral and pharmacological studies outlining novel methods of effective and persistent reductions in cue-induced relapse behavior in animal models. We focus on extinction and reconsolidation of cue-drug associations as the memory processes that are the most likely targets for interventions. Extinction involves the formation of new inhibitory memories rather than memory erasure; thus, it should be possible to facilitate the extinction of cue-drug memories to reduce relapse. We propose that context-dependency of extinction might be altered by mnemonic agents, thereby enhancing the efficacy of cue-exposure therapy as treatment strategy. In contrast, interfering with memory reconsolidation processes can disrupt the integrity or strength of specific cue-drug memories. Reconsolidation is argued to be a distinct process that occurs over a brief time period after memory is reactivated/retrieved - when the memory becomes labile and vulnerable to disruption. Reconsolidation is thought to be an independent, perhaps opposing, process to extinction and disruption of reconsolidation has recently been shown to directly affect subsequent cue-drug memory retrieval in an animal model of relapse. We hypothesize that a combined approach aimed at both enhancing the consolidation of cue-drug extinction and interfering with the reconsolidation of cue-drug memories will have a greater potential for persistently inhibiting cue-induced relapse than either treatment alone.
The factors underlying vulnerability to alcoholism are largely unknown. We identified in rodents an innate endophenotype predicting individual risk for alcohol-related behaviors that was associated with decreased expression of the neuroplasticity-related polysialylated neural cell adhesion molecule (PSA-NCAM). Depletion of PSA-NCAM in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex was sufficient to render mice unable to extinguish alcohol seeking, indicating a causal role of naturally occurring variation. These data suggest a mechanism of aberrant prefrontal neuroplasticity that underlies enhanced propensity for inflexible addiction-related behavior.
Finding effective long-lasting treatments for drug addiction has been an elusive goal. Consequently, researchers are beginning to investigate novel treatment strategies including manipulations of drug-associated memories. When environmental stimuli (cues) become associated with drug use, they become powerful motivators of continued drug use and relapse after abstinence. Reducing the strength of these cue-drug memories could decrease the number of factors that induce craving and relapse to aid in the treatment of addiction. Enhancing the consolidation of extinction learning and/or disrupting cue-drug memory reconsolidation are two strategies that have been proposed to reduce the strength of cues in motivating drug-seeking and drug-taking behavior. Here, we review the latest basic and clinical research elucidating the mechanisms underlying consolidation of extinction and reconsolidation of cue-drug memories in the hopes of developing pharmacological tools that exploit these signaling systems to treat addiction.
Chronic stress during adolescence is associated with an increased risk for alcoholism and addictive disorders. Addiction is also associated with increased impulsivity, and stress during adolescence could alter cortical circuits responsible for response inhibition. Therefore, the present study determined the effect of chronic exposure to the stress hormone corticosterone (CORT) during adolescence on tests of impulsivity in adulthood and examined possible biochemical mechanisms. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to CORT by their drinking water during adolescence (post-natal day 30-50). The rats were then tested in adulthood to assess behavior on the 5-choice serial reaction time task (5CSRTT), stop-signal reaction time task (SSRTT), and the delay-discounting task, which differentially assess attention, impulsive action, and impulsive choice. Yohimbine-induced impulsivity on the 5CSRTT and biochemical analysis of the lateral orbital frontal cortex (lOFC) was also assessed owing to the ability of yohimbine to activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and influence impulsivity. Adolescent CORT-treated rats were found to behave largely like controls on the 5CSRTT, but did show reduced premature responses when the intertrial interval was increased. Nevertheless, the CORT-treated rats tended to have more yohimbine-induced impulsive responses at low doses on this task, which was not found to be due to increased pCREB in the lOFC, but could be related to a higher expression/activity of the AMPA receptor subunit GluR1. Adolescent CORT-treated rats performed more accurately on the SSRTT, but showed greater impulsivity on the delay-discounting task, as indicated by steeper discounting functions. Therefore, adolescent CORT exposure reduced impulsive action but increased impulsive choice, indicating that chronic stress hormone exposure in adolescence can have long-term consequences on behavior.
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