Persistent susceptibility to cue-induced relapse is a cardinal feature of addiction. Discriminative stimuli (DSs) are one type of drug-associated cue that signal drug availability (DS+) or unavailability (DS−) and control drug seeking prior to relapse. We previously established a trial-based procedure in rats to isolate DSs from context, conditioned stimuli, and other drug-associated cues during cocaine self-administration and demonstrated DS-controlled cocaine seeking up to 300 abstinence days. The behavioral and neural mechanisms underlying trial-based DS-control of drug seeking have rarely been investigated. Here we show that following discrimination training in our trial-based procedure, the DS+ and DS− independently control the expression and suppression of cocaine seeking during abstinence. Using microinjections of GABAA + GABAB receptor agonists (muscimol + baclofen) in medial prefrontal cortex, we report that infralimbic, but not prelimbic, subregion of medial prefrontal cortex is critical to persistent DS-controlled relapse to cocaine seeking after prolonged abstinence, but not DS-guided discriminated cocaine seeking or DS-controlled cocaine self-admininstration. Finally, using ex vivo whole-cell recordings from pyramidal neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex, we demonstrate that the disruption of DS-controlled cocaine seeking following infralimbic cortex microinjections of muscimol+baclofen is likely a result of suppression of synaptic transmission in the region via a presynaptic mechanism of action.
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The authors thank Dr. David H. Epstein for statistical input and for thoughtful comments during the writing of this manuscript.
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Madangopal, R., Ramsey, L.A., Weber, S.J. et al. Inactivation of the infralimbic cortex decreases discriminative stimulus-controlled relapse to cocaine seeking in rats. Neuropsychopharmacol. 46, 1969–1980 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-021-01067-6