The ventral subiculum (vSUB) plays a key role in addiction, and identifying the neuronal circuits and synaptic mechanisms by which vSUB alters the excitability of dopamine neurons is a necessary step to understand the motor changes induced by cocaine. Here, we report that high-frequency stimulation of the vSUB (HFSvSUB) over-activates ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine neurons in vivo and triggers long-lasting modifications of synaptic transmission measured ex vivo. This potentiation is caused by NMDA-dependent plastic changes occurring in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). Finally, we report that the modification of the BNST-VTA neural circuits induced by HFSvSUB potentiates locomotor activity induced by a sub-threshold dose of cocaine. Our findings unravel a neuronal circuit encoding behavioral effects of cocaine in rats and highlight the importance of adaptive modifications in the BNST, a structure that influences motivated behavior as well as maladaptive behaviors associated with addiction.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.