Synapse density and dendritic complexity are reduced in the prefrontal cortex following seven days of forced abstinence from cocaine self-administration

Khampaseuth Rasakham, Heath D Schmidt, Kevin Kay, Megan N Huizenga, Narghes Calcagno, R Christopher Pierce, Tara L Spires-Jones, Ghazaleh Sadri-Vakili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Chronic cocaine exposure in both human addicts and in rodent models of addiction reduces prefrontal cortical activity, which subsequently dysregulates reward processing and higher order executive function. The net effect of this impaired gating of behavior is enhanced vulnerability to relapse. Previously we have shown that cocaine-induced increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression in the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) is a neuroadaptive mechanism that blunts the reinforcing efficacy of cocaine. As BDNF is known to affect neuronal survival and synaptic plasticity, we tested the hypothesis that abstinence from cocaine self-administration would lead to alterations in neuronal morphology and synaptic density in the PFC. Using a novel technique, array tomography and Golgi staining, morphological changes in the rat PFC were analyzed following 14 days of cocaine self-administration and 7 days of forced abstinence. Our results indicate that overall dendritic branching and total synaptic density are significantly reduced in the rat PFC. In contrast, the density of thin dendritic spines are significantly increased on layer V pyramidal neurons of the PFC. These findings indicate that dynamic structural changes occur during cocaine abstinence that may contribute to the observed hypo-activity of the PFC in cocaine-addicted individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e102524
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume9
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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