Differential roles of medial prefrontal subregions in the regulation of drug seeking

Brain Res. 2015 Dec 2;1628(Pt A):130-46. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2014.12.024. Epub 2014 Dec 18.


The prefrontal cortex plays an important role in shaping cognition and behavior. Many studies have shown that medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) plays a key role in seeking, extinction, and reinstatement of cocaine seeking in rodent models of relapse. Subregions of mPFC appear to play distinct roles in these behaviors, such that the prelimbic cortex (PL) is proposed to drive cocaine seeking and the infralimbic cortex (IL) is proposed to suppress cocaine seeking after extinction. This dichotomy of mPFC function may be a general attribute, as similar dorsal-ventral distinctions exist for expression vs. extinction of fear conditioning. However, other results indicate that the role of mPFC neurons in reward processing is more complex than a simple PL-seek vs. IL-extinguish dichotomy. Both PL and IL have been shown to drive and inhibit drug seeking (and other types of behaviors) depending on a range of factors including the behavioral context, the drug-history of the animal, and the type of drug investigated. This heterogeneity of findings may reflect multiple subcircuits within each of these PFC areas supporting unique functions. It may also reflect the fact that the mPFC plays a multifaceted role in shaping cognition and behavior, including those overlapping with cocaine seeking and extinction. Here we discuss research leading to the hypothesis that dorsal and ventral mPFC differentially control drug seeking and extinction. We also present recent results calling the absolute nature of a PL vs. IL dichotomy into question. Finally, we consider alternate functions for mPFC that correspond less to response execution and inhibition and instead incorporate the complex cognitive behavior for which the mPFC is broadly appreciated.

Keywords: Addiction; Cocaine; Cognition; Cortex; Drugs; Frontal; Infralimbic; Networks; Prefrontal; Prelimbic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology