Extinction-induced neuroplasticity attenuates stress-induced cocaine seeking: A state-dependent learning hypothesis

David W. Self, Kwang Ho Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Chronic drug use weakens excitatory neocortical input to the nucleus accumbens (NAc). We previously reported that extinction training, a form of inhibitory learning that progressively reduces cocaine-seeking behaviour when reward is withheld, reverses this deficit by up-regulating GluR1 and GluR2/3 subunits of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid (AMPA) glutamate receptors in the NAc. The level of GluR1 up-regulation is positively associated with a reduction in cocaine seeking, suggesting that extinction-induced up-regulation in AMPA receptors in the NAc opposes motivational influences that maintain cocaine seeking. This hypothesis is supported by the finding that over-expression of GluR1 and GluR2 in the NAc facilitates extinction of cocaine self-administration. Furthermore, a single extinction training session conducted during GluR1 and GluR2 over-expression strongly and selectively attenuates the ability of an environmental Stressor to trigger relapse to cocaine seeking long after GluR1 and GluR2 over-expression declines. These results could suggest that excitatory input to the NAc promotes extinction learning, but only when memory is recalled under stressful situations. Recent studies indicate that both environmental stress and the frustrative stress of withholding reward during extinction of drug self-administration induce similar neurochemical events in the NAc. These neurochemical events could impose a "state-dependency" on extinction learning such that subsequent exposure to stress acts as a cue to enhance retrieval of extinction memory. Our results suggest that extinction-induced up-regulation in NAc AMPA receptors acts reciprocally to facilitate state-dependent extinction learning, as stressful situations evoke extinction memories that exert powerful inhibitory control over drug-seeking behaviour. These results may have important therapeutic implications for behaviour-based approaches aimed at treating drug addiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-155
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2004


  • AMPA (alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid) glutamate receptors
  • Cocaine dependence
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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