Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UCLA Previously Published Works bannerUCLA

Drug-Primed Reinstatement of Cocaine Seeking in Mice: Increased Excitability of Medium-Sized Spiny Neurons in the Nucleus Accumbens


To examine the mechanisms of drug relapse, we first established a model for cocaine IVSA (intravenous self-administration) in mice, and subsequently examined electrophysiological alterations of MSNs (medium-sized spiny neurons) in the NAc (nucleus accumbens) before and after acute application of cocaine in slices. Three groups were included: master mice trained by AL (active lever) pressings followed by IV (intravenous) cocaine delivery, yoked mice that received passive IV cocaine administration initiated by paired master mice, and saline controls. MSNs recorded in the NAc shell in master mice exhibited higher membrane input resistances but lower frequencies and smaller amplitudes of sEPSCs (spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents) compared with neurons recorded from saline control mice, whereas cells in the NAc core had higher sEPSCs frequencies and larger amplitudes. Furthermore, sEPSCs in MSNs of the shell compartment displayed longer decay times, suggesting that both pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms were involved. After acute re-exposure to a low-dose of cocaine in vitro, an AP (action potential)-dependent, persistent increase in sEPSC frequency was observed in both NAc shell and core MSNs from master, but not yoked or saline control mice. Furthermore, re-exposure to cocaine induced membrane hyperpolarization, but concomitantly increased excitability of MSNs from master mice, as evidenced by increased membrane input resistance, decreased depolarizing current to generate APs, and a more negative Thr (threshold) for firing. These data demonstrate functional differences in NAc MSNs after chronic contingent versus non-contingent IV cocaine administration in mice, as well as synaptic adaptations of MSNs before and after acute re-exposure to cocaine. Reversing these functional alterations in NAc could represent a rational target for the treatment of some reward-related behaviors, including drug addiction.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View