Unilateral inactivation of the basolateral amygdala attenuates context-induced renewal of Pavlovian-conditioned alcohol-seeking

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Abstract

Environmental contexts associated with drug use promote craving in humans and drug-seeking in animals. We hypothesized that the basolateral amygdala (BLA) itself as well as serial connectivity between the BLA and nucleus accumbens core (NAC core) were required for context-induced renewal of Pavlovian-conditioned alcohol-seeking. Male Long-Evans rats were trained to discriminate between two conditioned stimuli (CS): a CS+ that was paired with ethanol (EtOH, 20%, v/v) delivery into a fluid port (0.2 mL/CS+, 3.2 mL per session) and a CS− that was not. Entries into the port during each CS were measured. Next, rats received extinction in a different context where both cues were presented without EtOH. At test, responding to the CS+ and CS− without EtOH was evaluated in the prior training context. Control subjects showed a selective increase in CS+ responding relative to extinction, indicative of renewal. This effect was blocked by pre-test, bilateral inactivation of the BLA using a solution of GABA receptor agonists (0.1 mm muscimol and 1.0 mm baclofen; M/B; 0.3 μL per side). Renewal was also attenuated following unilateral injections of M/B into the BLA, combined with either M/B, the dopamine D1 receptor antagonist SCH 23390 (0.6 μg per side) or saline infusion in the contralateral NAC core. Hence, unilateral BLA inactivation was sufficient to disrupt renewal, highlighting a critical role for functional activity in the BLA in enabling the reinstatement of alcohol-seeking driven by an alcohol context.

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