• Activated caspase3;
  • BrdU;
  • dentate gyrus;
  • Ki-67;
  • low-frequency stimulation;
  • self-administration


Accumulating evidence demonstrates a functional role for the hippocampus in mediating relapse to cocaine-seeking behavior and extinction-induced inhibition of cocaine seeking, and dentate gyrus neurogenesis in the hippocampus may have a role. Here, we tested the hypothesis that disruption of normal hippocampal activity during extinction alters relapse to cocaine-seeking behavior as a function of dentate gyrus neurogenesis. Adult rats were trained to self-administer cocaine on a fixed-ratio schedule, followed by extinction and cocaine-primed reinstatement testing. Some rats received low-frequency stimulation (LFS; 2 Hz for 25 minutes) after each extinction session in the dorsal or ventral hippocampal formation. All rats received an injection of the mitotic marker 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU) to label developing dentate gyrus neurons during self-administration, as well as before or after extinction and LFS. We found that LFS during extinction did not alter extinction behavior but enhanced cocaine-primed reinstatement. Cocaine self-administration reduced levels of 24-day-old BrdU cells and dentate gyrus neurogenesis, which was normalized by extinction. LFS during extinction prevented extinction-induced normalization of dentate gyrus neurogenesis and potentiated cocaine-induced reinstatement of drug seeking. LFS inhibition of extinction-induced neurogenesis was not due to enhanced cell death, revealed by quantification of activated caspase3-labeled cells. These data suggest that LFS during extinction disrupts hippocampal networking by disrupting neurogenesis and also strengthens relapse-like behaviors. Thus, newly born dentate gyrus neurons during withdrawal and extinction learning facilitate hippocampal networking that mediates extinction-induced inhibition of cocaine seeking and may play a key role in preventing relapse.