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Noradrenergic β-Receptor Antagonism within the Central Nucleus of the Amygdala or Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis Attenuates the Negative/Anxiogenic Effects of Cocaine


Cocaine has been shown to produce both initial rewarding and delayed anxiogenic effects. Although the neurobiology of cocaine's rewarding effects has been well studied, the mechanisms underlying its anxiogenic effects remain unclear. We used two behavioral assays to study these opposing actions of cocaine: a runway self-administration test and a modified place conditioning test. In the runway, the positive and negative effects of cocaine are reflected in the frequency of approach-avoidance conflict that animals develop about entering a goal box associated with cocaine delivery. In the place conditioning test, animals develop preferences for environments paired with the immediate/rewarding effects of cocaine, but avoid environments paired with the drug's delayed/anxiogenic actions. In the present study, these two behavioral assays were used to examine the role of norepinephrine (NE) transmission within the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), each of which has been implicated in drug-withdrawal-induced anxiety and stress-induced response reinstatement. Rats experienced 15 single daily cocaine-reinforced (1.0 mg/kg, i.v.) runway trials 10 min after intracranial injection of the β1 and β2 NE receptor antagonists betaxolol and ICI 118551 or vehicle into the CeA or BNST. NE antagonism of either region dose dependently reduced approach-avoidance conflict behavior compared with that observed in vehicle-treated controls. In addition, NE antagonism selectively interfered with the expression of conditioned place aversions while leaving intact cocaine-induced place preferences. These data suggest a role for NE signaling within the BNST and the CeA in the anxiogenic actions of cocaine.

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