Bidirectional Modulation of Incubation of Cocaine Craving by Silent Synapse-Based Remodeling of Prefrontal Cortex to Accumbens Projections (2014)


DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.08.023


  • This study shows antirelapse plasticity mechanisms induced by drug exposure

  • Shows experience-dependent generation of new neurocircuits via silent synapses

  • Two prefrontal cortex-to-accumbens afferents are differentially remodeled by cocaine

  • A mechanism of incubation of cocaine craving


Glutamatergic projections from the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) to nucleus accumbens (NAc) contribute to cocaine relapse. Here we show that silent synapse-based remodeling of the two major mPFC-to-NAc projections differentially regulated the progressive increase in cue-induced cocaine seeking after withdrawal (incubation of cocaine craving). Specifically, cocaine self-administration in rats generated AMPA receptor-silent glutamatergic synapses within both infralimbic (IL) and prelimbic mPFC (PrL) to NAc projections, measured after 1 day of withdrawal. After 45 days of withdrawal, IL-to-NAc silent synapses became unsilenced/matured by recruiting calcium-permeable (CP) AMPARs, whereas PrL-to-NAc silent synapses matured by recruiting non-CP-AMPARs, resulting in differential remodeling of these projections. Optogenetic reversal of silent synapse-based remodeling of IL-to-NAc and PrL-to-NAc projections potentiated and inhibited, respectively, incubation of cocaine craving on withdrawal day 45. Thus, pro- and antirelapse circuitry remodeling is induced in parallel after cocaine self-administration. These results may provide substrates for utilizing endogenous antirelapse mechanisms to reduce cocaine relapse.