Cocaine impairs serial-feature negative learning and blood-brain barrier integrity

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Previous research has shown that diets high in fat and sugar [a.k.a., Western diets (WD)] can impair performance of rats on hippocampal-dependent learning and memory problems, an effect that is accompanied by selective increases in hippocampal blood brain barrier (BBB) permeability. Based on these types of findings, it has been proposed that overeating of a WD (and its resulting obesity) may be, in part, a consequence of impairments in these anatomical substrates and cognitive processes. Given that drug use (and addiction) represents another behavioral excess, the present experiments assessed if similar outcomes might occur with drug exposure by evaluating the effects of cocaine administration on hippocampal-dependent memory and on the integrity of the BBB. Experiment 1 of the present series of studies found that systemic cocaine administration in rats also appears to have disruptive effects on the same hippocampal-dependent learning and memory mechanism that has been proposed to underlie the inhibition of food intake. Experiment 2 demonstrated that the same regimen of cocaine exposure that produced disruptions in learning and memory in Experiment 1 also produced increased BBB permeability in the hippocampus, but not in the striatum. Although the predominant focus of previous research investigating the etiologies of substance use and abuse has been on the brain circuits that underlie the motivational properties of drugs, the current investigation implicates the possible involvement of hippocampal memory systems in such behaviors. It is important to note that these positions are not mutually exclusive and that neuroadaptations in these two circuits might occur in parallel that generate dysregulated drug use in a manner similar to that of excessive eating.HighlightsCocaine exposure impaired hippocampal-dependent discrimination performance in rats.Cocaine exposure increased BBB permeability in the hippocampus, but not striatum.Cocaine and western diet have similar harmful impact on discrimination and the BBB.Impaired hippocampal memory function may contribute to excess food and drug intake.Obesity and cocaine abuse may involve weakened inhibition of reward memories.

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