Inactivation of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in an animal model of relapse: effects on conditioned cue-induced reinstatement and its enhancement by yohimbine
Rationale Drug-associated cues and stress increase craving and lead to greater risk of relapse in abstinent drug users. Animal models
of reinstatement of drug seeking have been utilized to study the neural circuitry by which either drug-associated cues or
stress exposure elicit drug seeking. Recent evidence has shown a strong enhancing effect of yohimbine stress on subsequent
cue-elicited reinstatement; however, there has been no examination of the neural substrates of this interactive effect.
Objectives The current study examined whether inactivation of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), an area previously implicated
in stress activation of drug seeking, would affect reinstatement of cocaine seeking caused by conditioned cues, yohimbine
stress, or the combination of these factors.
Methods Male rats experienced daily IV cocaine self-administration, followed by extinction of lever responding in the absence of cocaine-paired
cues. Reinstatement of responding was measured during presentation of cocaine-paired cues, following pretreatment with the
pharmacological stressor, yohimbine (2.5 mg/kg, IP), or the combination of cues and yohimbine.
Results All three conditions led to reinstatement of cocaine seeking, with the highest responding seen after the combination of cues
and yohimbine. Reversible inactivation of the BNST using the gamma-aminobutyric acid receptor agonists, baclofen + muscimol,
significantly reduced all three forms of reinstatement.
Conclusion These results demonstrate a role for the BNST in cocaine seeking elicited by cocaine-paired cues, and suggest the BNST as
a key mediator for the interaction of stress and cues for the reinstatement of cocaine seeking.