Cocaine conditioned place preference: unexpected suppression of preference due to testing combined with strong conditioning

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Conditioned place preference (CPP) is widely used for evaluating the rewarding effects of drugs. Like other memories, CPP is proposed to undergo reconsolidation during which it is unstable and sensitive to pharmacological inhibition. Previous studies have shown that cocaine CPP can be apparently erased by extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway inhibition during cocaine reconditioning (re-exposure to the drug-paired environment in the presence of the drug). Here, we show that blockade of D1 receptors during reconditioning prevented ERK activation and induced a loss of CPP. However, we also unexpectedly observed a CPP disappearance in mice that underwent testing and reconditioning with cocaine alone, specifically in strong conditioning conditions. The loss was due to the intermediate test. CPP was not recovered with reconditioning or priming in the short term, but it spontaneously reappeared after a month. When we challenged the D1 antagonist-mediated erasure, we observed that both a high dose of cocaine and a first CPP test were required for this effect. Our results also suggest a balance between D1-dependent ERK pathway activation and an A2a-dependent mechanism in D2 striatal neurons in controlling CPP expression. Our data reveal that, paradoxically, a simple CPP test can induce a complete (but transient) loss of place preference following strong but not weak cocaine conditioning. This study emphasizes the complex nature of CPP memory and the importance of multiple parameters that must be taken into consideration when investigating reconsolidation.

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