The attribution of incentive salience to reward-predictive stimuli has been shown to be associated with substance abuse-like behavior such as increased drug taking. Evidence suggests that glutamate neurotransmission and sequential N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) activation are involved in the attribution of incentive salience. Here, we further explore the role of second-by-second glutamate neurotransmission in the attribution of incentive salience to reward-predictive stimuli by measuring sign-tracking behavior during a Pavlovian conditioned approach procedure using ceramic-based microelectrode arrays configured for sensitive measures of extracellular glutamate in awake behaving Sprague-Dawley rats. Specifically, we show that there is an increase in extracellular glutamate levels in the prelimbic cortex (PrL) and the nucleus accumbens core (NAcC) during sign-tracking behavior to a food-predictive conditioned stimulus (CS+) compared to the presentation of a non-predictive conditioned stimulus (CS-). Furthermore, the results indicate greater increases in extracellular glutamate levels in the PrL compared to NAcC in response to the CS+, including differences in glutamate release and signal decay. Taken together, the present research suggests that there is differential glutamate signaling in the NAcC and PrL during sign-tracking behavior to a food-predictive CS+.
Keywords: glutamate; incentive salience; nucleus accumbens; pavlovian conditioned approach; prelimbic cortex; sign-tracking.
© 2018 International Society for Neurochemistry.