Cocaine-induced structural plasticity in frontal cortex correlates with conditioned place preference


Contextual cues associated with previous drug exposure can trigger drug craving and seeking, and form a substantial obstacle in substance use recovery. Using in vivo imaging in mice, we found that cocaine administration induced a rapid increase in the formation and accumulation of new dendritic spines, and that measures of new persistent spine gain correlated with cocaine conditioned place preference. Our data suggest that new persistent spine formation in the frontal cortex may be involved in stimulant-related learning driving appetitive behavior.

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Figure 1: Cocaine exposure increases spine gains in the frontal cortex.
Figure 2: Cocaine increases spine gains in the frontal cortex within 2 h of injection.
Figure 3: New persistent spine gains after cocaine CPP training correlate with the magnitude of gain in preference for the cocaine-paired context.


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We thank J. Whistler, P. Janak, S. Jurado, C. Johnson and C. Bates for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA029150), the State of California, University of California San Francisco, and the P. Royer and K. Clayton Family.

Author information

F.J.M.-C., J.A. and D.P. performed the experiments. L.W. and F.J.M.-C. designed the experiments, analyzed the data and wrote the paper.

Correspondence to Linda Wilbrecht.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Muñoz-Cuevas, F., Athilingam, J., Piscopo, D. et al. Cocaine-induced structural plasticity in frontal cortex correlates with conditioned place preference. Nat Neurosci 16, 1367–1369 (2013).

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