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Keywords:

  • c-fos;
  • cingulate cortex;
  • conditioned responses;
  • drug abuse;
  • nucleus accumbens;
  • rats

Abstract

This study examined whether conditioned hyperactivity measured in a cocaine-paired environment was associated with increased expression of Fos-related antigens (FRA) within the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and associated forebrain regions of rats. Three groups of rats were given repeated injections of either cocaine in the test environment and saline in the colony room (group Paired), saline in the test environment and cocaine in the colony room (group Unpaired), or saline in both environments (group Control). All rats were subsequently given a drug-free test for conditioned hyperactivity in the test environment, and their brains were removed so that FRA immunohistochemistry could be conducted. Rats in the Paired group showed conditioned hyperactivity during the conditioning test, and this behavioural response was associated with increased FRA expression within the caudal NAc, the medial prefrontal cortex and the lateral septum relative to the Unpaired and Control groups. Paired rats also showed increased FRA expression within the orbital prefrontal cortex, the claustrum, the caudal amygdala (basolateral and central regions), the paraventricular thalamic nucleus, the subiculum of the hippocampus, and the lateral habenula relative to the Control group. However, the FRA levels in these latter sites were not significantly increased relative to those of Unpaired rats, indicating that genomic responses in these regions were not entirely context dependent. The correspondence between conditioned hyperactivity and enhanced FRA expression within the caudal NAc, the medial prefrontal cortex and lateral septum suggests that these regions may participate in the expression of conditioned responses to cocaine-related stimuli.