Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in the nucleus accumbens play an important role in mediating the reinforcing effects of cocaine. However, there is a paucity of data regarding the role of accumbal muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in the reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior. The goal of these experiments was to assess the role of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in the nucleus accumbens core and shell in cocaine and sucrose priming-induced reinstatement. Rats were initially trained to self-administer cocaine or sucrose on a fixed-ratio schedule of reinforcement. Lever-pressing behavior was then extinguished and followed by a subsequent reinstatement phase during which operant responding was induced by either a systemic injection of cocaine in cocaine-experienced rats or non-contingent delivery of sucrose pellets in subjects with a history of sucrose self-administration. Results indicated that systemic administration of the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor antagonist scopolamine (5.0 mg/kg, i.p.) dose-dependently attenuated cocaine, but not sucrose, reinstatement. Furthermore, administration of scopolamine (36.0 μg) directly into the nucleus accumbens shell or core attenuated cocaine priming-induced reinstatement. In contrast, infusion of scopolamine (36.0 μg) directly into the accumbens core, but not shell, attenuated sucrose reinstatement, which suggests that muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in these two subregions of the nucleus accumbens have differential roles in sucrose seeking. Taken together, these results indicate that cocaine priming-induced reinstatement is mediated, in part, by increased signaling through muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in the shell subregion of the nucleus accumbens. Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in the core of the accumbens, in contrast, appear to play a more general (i.e. not cocaine specific) role in motivated behaviors.
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