Ventral pallidum is essential for cocaine relapse after voluntary abstinence in rats

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2019 Dec;44(13):2174-2185. doi: 10.1038/s41386-019-0507-4. Epub 2019 Sep 2.


Addiction is a chronic relapsing disorder, and during recovery many people experience several relapse events as they attempt to voluntarily abstain from drug. New preclinical relapse models have emerged that capture this common human experience, and mounting evidence indicates that resumption of drug seeking after voluntary abstinence recruits neural circuits distinct from those recruited during reinstatement after experimenter-imposed abstinence, or abstinence due to extinction training. Ventral pallidum (VP), a key limbic node involved in drug seeking, has well-established roles in conventional reinstatement models tested following extinction training, but it is unclear whether this region also participates in more translationally relevant models of relapse. Here we show that chemogenetic inhibition of VP neurons decreased cocaine-, context-, and cue-induced relapse tested after voluntary, punishment-induced abstinence. This effect was strongest in the most compulsive, punishment-resistant rats, and reinstatement was associated with neural activity in anatomically defined VP subregions. VP inhibition also attenuated the propensity of rats to display "abortive lever pressing," a species-typical risk assessment behavior seen here during punished drug taking, likely resulting from concurrent approach and avoidance motivations. These results indicate that VP, unlike other connected limbic brain regions, is essential for resumption of drug seeking after voluntary abstinence. Since VP inhibition effects were strongest in the most compulsively cocaine-seeking individuals, this may also indicate that VP plays a particularly important role in the most pathological, addiction-like behavior, making it an attractive target for future therapeutic interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Forebrain / drug effects*
  • Basal Forebrain / physiology*
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Punishment*
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Recurrence


  • Cocaine