Abstinence to chronic methamphetamine switches connectivity between striatal, hippocampal and sensorimotor regions and increases cerebral blood volume response

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Methamphetamine (meth), and other psychostimulants such as cocaine, present a persistent problem for society with chronic users being highly prone to relapse. We show, in a chronic methamphetamine administration model, that discontinuation of drug for more than a week produces much larger changes in overall meth-induced brain connectivity and cerebral blood volume (CBV) response than changes that occur immediately following meth administration. Areas showing the largest changes were hippocampal, limbic striatum and sensorimotor cortical regions as well as brain stem areas including the pedunculopontine tegmentum (PPTg) and pontine nuclei – regions known to be important in mediating reinstatement of drug-taking after abstinence. These changes occur concomitantly with behavioral sensitization and appear to be mediated through increases in dopamine D1 and D3 and decreases in D2 receptor protein and mRNA expression. We further identify a novel region of dorsal caudate/putamen, with a low density of calbindin neurons, that has an opposite hemodynamic response to meth than the rest of the caudate/putamen and accumbens and shows very strong correlation with dorsal CA1 and CA3 hippocampus. This correlation switches following meth abstinence from CA1/CA3 to strong connections with ventral hippocampus (ventral subiculum) and nucleus accumbens. These data provide novel evidence for temporal alterations in brain connectivity where chronic meth can subvert hippocampal – striatal interactions from cognitive control regions to regions that mediate drug reinstatement. Our results also demonstrate that the signs and magnitudes of the induced CBV changes following challenge with meth or a D3-preferring agonist are a complementary read out of the relative changes that occur in D1, D2 and D3 receptors using protein or mRNA levels.

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