Subthalamic nucleus high-frequency stimulation modulates neuronal reactivity to cocaine within the reward circuit

Neurobiol Dis. 2015 Aug;80:54-62. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2015.05.007. Epub 2015 May 14.


The subthalamic nucleus (STN) is a critical component of a complex network controlling motor, associative and limbic functions. High-frequency stimulation (HFS) of the STN is an effective therapy for motor symptoms in Parkinsonian patients and can also reduce their treatment-induced addictive behaviors. Preclinical studies have shown that STN HFS decreases motivation for cocaine while increasing that for food, highlighting its influence on rewarding and motivational circuits. However, the cellular substrates of these effects remain unknown. Our objectives were to characterize the cellular consequences of STN HFS with a special focus on limbic structures and to elucidate how STN HFS may interfere with acute cocaine effects in these brain areas. Male Long-Evans rats were subjected to STN HFS (130 Hz, 60 μs, 50-150 μA) for 30 min before an acute cocaine injection (15 mg/kg) and sacrificed 10 min following the injection. Neuronal reactivity was analyzed through the expression of two immediate early genes (Arc and c-Fos) to decipher cellular responses to STN HFS and cocaine. STN HFS only activated c-Fos in the globus pallidus and the basolateral amygdala, highlighting a possible role on emotional processes via the amygdala, with a limited effect by itself in other structures. Interestingly, and despite some differential effects on Arc and c-Fos expression, STN HFS diminished the c-Fos response induced by acute cocaine in the striatum. By preventing the cellular effect of cocaine in the striatum, STN HFS might thus decrease the reinforcing properties of the drug, which is in line with the inhibitory effect of STN HFS on the rewarding and reinforcing properties of cocaine.

Keywords: Addiction; Arc; Basal ganglia; Deep brain stimulation; Nucleus accumbens; Parkinson; Striatum; c-Fos; catFISH.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basolateral Nuclear Complex / metabolism
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage*
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Globus Pallidus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Reward*
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / cytology
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / drug effects*
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / metabolism*


  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • activity regulated cytoskeletal-associated protein
  • Cocaine