Changes in synaptic strength on ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine neurons are thought to play a critical role in the development of addiction-related behaviors. However, it is unknown how a single injection of cocaine at different doses affects locomotor activity, behavioral sensitization, and glutamatergic synaptic strength on VTA dopamine neurons in mice. We observed that behavioral sensitization to a challenge cocaine injection scaled with the dose of cocaine received 1 day prior. Interestingly, the locomotor activity after the initial exposure to different doses of cocaine corresponded to the changes in glutamatergic strength on VTA dopamine neurons. These results in mice suggest that a single exposure to cocaine dose-dependently affects excitatory synapses on VTA dopamine neurons, and that this acute synaptic alteration is directly associated with the locomotor responses to cocaine and not to behavioral sensitization.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.