Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Frequency of cocaine self-administration influences drug seeking in the rat: optogenetic evidence for a role of the prelimbic cortex.

PMID 24633559


High-frequency intake and high drug-induced seeking are associated with cocaine addiction in both human and animals. However, their relationships and neurobiological underpinnings remain hypothetical. The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), basolateral amygdala (BLA), and nucleus accumbens (NAc) have been shown to have a role in cocaine seeking. However, their involvement in regulating high-frequency intake and high cocaine-induced seeking is unclear. We manipulated frequency of cocaine self-administration and investigated whether it influenced cocaine seeking. The contribution of the aforementioned structures was evaluated using changes in expression of the immediate early gene c-Fos and targeted optogenetic manipulations. Rats that self-administered at High frequency (short inter-infusion intervals allowed by short time-out) showed higher cocaine-induced seeking than low frequency rats (long inter-infusions intervals imposed by long time-out), as measured with cocaine-induced reinstatement. c-Fos was enhanced in High frequency rats in the prelimbic (PL) and infralimbic (IL) areas of the mPFC, the BLA, and the NAc core and shell. Correlational analysis of c-Fos revealed that the PL was a critical node strongly correlated with both the IL and NAc core in High frequency rats. Targeted optogenetic inactivation of the PL decreased cocaine-induced reinstatement, but increased cocaine self-administration, in High frequency rats. In contrast, optogenetic activation of the PL had no effect on Low frequency rats. Thus, high-frequency intake promotes a PL-dependent control of cocaine seeking, with the PL exerting a facilitatory or inhibitory effect, depending on operant contingencies. Individual differences in cocaine-induced PL activation might be a source of vulnerability for poorly controlled cocaine-induced seeking and/or cocaine intake.