Adolescent Traumatic Brain Injury Induces Chronic Mesolimbic Neuroinflammation with Concurrent Enhancement in the Rewarding Effects of Cocaine in Mice during Adulthood

J Neurotrauma. 2017 Jan 1;34(1):165-181. doi: 10.1089/neu.2015.4275. Epub 2016 Jun 7.


Clinical psychiatric disorders of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are most prevalent after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Pre-clinical research has focused on depression and anxiety post-injury; however, virtually no data exist examining whether the preference for illicit drugs is affected by traumatic injury in the developing adolescent brain. Using the controlled cortical impact (CCI) model of TBI and the conditioned place preference (CPP) assay, we tested the underlying hypothesis that brain injury during adolescence exacerbates the rewarding properties of cocaine in adulthood possibly through an active inflammatory status in the mesolimbic pathway. Six-week old, C57BL/6 mice sustained a single CCI-TBI to the right somatosensory cortex. CPP experiments with cocaine began 2 weeks post-TBI. Animals receiving cocaine displayed significant place preference shifts compared to saline controls. Further, within the cocaine-experienced cohort, moderate CCI-TBI during adolescence significantly increased the preference shift in adulthood when compared to naïve controls. Additionally, persistent neuroinflammatory responses were observed in the cortex, nucleus accumbens (NAc), and ventral tegmental area post-CCI-TBI. Significant increases in both astrocytic, glial fibrillary acidic protein, and microglial, ionization basic acid 1, markers were observed in the NAc at the end of CPP testing. Moreover, analysis using focused array gene expression panels identified the upregulation of numerous inflammatory genes in moderate CCI-TBI animals, compared to naïve controls, both in the cortex and NAc at 2 weeks post-TBI, before onset of cocaine administration. These results suggest that sustaining moderate TBI during adolescence may augment the rewarding effects of psychostimulants in adulthood, possibly by induction of chronic mesolimbic neuroinflammation.

Keywords: TBI; addiction; adolescent; neuroinflammation; psychostimulants.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / metabolism*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage*
  • Conditioning, Psychological / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism*
  • Limbic System / drug effects
  • Limbic System / metabolism
  • Limbic System / pathology
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / pathology
  • Reward*
  • Self Administration


  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Cocaine