The paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT) is not traditionally considered part of the brain addiction neurocircuitry but has received growing attention with regard to a role in the modulation of drug-seeking behavior. This study sought to establish the pattern of neural activation induced by a response-reinstating discriminative stimulus (SD ) conditioned to either cocaine (COC) or a conventional reinforcer using a palatable food substance, sweetened condensed milk (SCM). Male Wistar rats were trained to associate one SD (S+ ; COC or SCM availability) and a distinctly different SD (S- ; non-reward; i.e. the availability of saline or the absence of SCM). Following extinction of COC- and SCM-reinforced responding, rats were presented with the respective S+ or S- alone and tested for the reinstatement of reward seeking. The COC S+ and SCM S+ elicited identical reinstatement, whereas the non-reward S- was behaviorally ineffective. PVT sections were obtained following completion of the reinstatement tests and labeled for Fos. The number of Fos+ neurons was compared among rats that were presented with the COC S+ , SCM S+ or S- . Rats that were presented with the COC S+ exhibited a significant increase in Fos expression compared with rats that were presented with the S- . Moreover, Fos expression was significantly correlated with the number of reinstatement responses that were induced by the COC S+ . In contrast, the SCM S+ and S- produced identical increases in Fos expression, without behaviorally relevant correlations. The findings implicate the PVT as an important site that is selectively recruited during COC-seeking behavior.
Keywords: Cocaine; discriminative stimulus; reinstatement.
© 2015 Society for the Study of Addiction.