Extinguishing abnormally strengthened learned responses to cues associated with drugs of abuse remains a key tactic for alleviating addiction. To assist in developing pharmacotherapies to augment exposure therapy for relapse prevention, investigation into neurobiological underpinnings of drug-cue extinction learning is needed. We used regional analyses of c-Fos and GluR2 protein expression to delineate neural activity and plasticity that may be associated with cocaine-cue extinction learning. Rats were trained to self-administer cocaine paired with a light cue, and later underwent a single 2h extinction session for which cocaine was withheld but response-contingent cues were presented (cocaine-cue extinction). Control groups consisted of rats yoked to animals self-administering cocaine and receiving saline non-contingently followed by an extinction session, or rats trained to self-administer cocaine followed by a no-extinction session for which levers were retracted, and cocaine and cues were withheld. Among 11 brain sites examined, extinction training increased c-Fos expression in basolateral amygdala and prelimbic prefrontal cortex of cocaine-cue extinguished rats relative to both control conditions. In dorsal subiculum and infralimbic prefrontal cortex, extinction training increased c-Fos expression in both cocaine-cue and saline-cue extinguished rats relative to the no-extinction control condition. GluR2 protein expression was not altered in any site examined after extinction or control training. Findings suggest that basolateral amygdala and prelimbic prefrontal cortex neurons are activated during acquisition of cocaine-cue extinction learning, a process that is independent of changes in GluR2 abundance. Other sites are implicated in processing the significance of cues that are present early in extinction training.
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