The contribution of medium spiny neuron subtypes in the nucleus accumbens core to compulsive-like ethanol drinking

Neuropharmacology. 2021 Apr 1;187:108497. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2021.108497. Epub 2021 Feb 11.


Compulsive alcohol use, or drinking that persists despite negative or aversive consequences, is a defining characteristic of alcohol use disorder. Here, chemogenetic technology (i.e. Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs; DREADDs) was used to inhibit or excite the NAc core or selectively inhibit D1-or D2 receptor-expressing neurons in the NAc core to understand the role of the NAc core and how these subpopulations of neurons may influence compulsive-like ethanol (EtOH) drinking using C57BL/6J, Drd1-cre, and Drd2-cre male and female mice. Compulsive-like EtOH drinking was modeled with a two-bottle choice, drinking in the dark paradigm. The major finding of this study was that mice decreased compulsive-like EtOH intake when the NAc core was inhibited and there was no change of EtOH + quinine intake when the NAc core was excited. Interestingly, inhibition of D1-or D2 receptor-expressing neurons did not alter compulsive-like EtOH intake. Control experiments showed that NAc core excitation and selective inhibition of D1-or D2-receptor-expressing neurons had no effect on baseline EtOH drinking, intake of water, or intake of quinine-adulterated water. CNO reduced amphetamine-induced locomotion in the D1-CRE+ (but not the D2CRE+) group in a control experiment. Finally, pharmacological antagonism of D1 and D2 receptors together, but not separately, reduced quinine-resistant EtOH drinking. These results suggest that the NAc core is a critical region involved in compulsive-like EtOH consumption, and that both D1-and D2 receptor-expressing medium spiny neurons participate in controlling this behavior.

Keywords: Alcohol; Aversion; Dopamine; Drinking in the dark; Nucleus accumbens; Reward.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural