Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) modulates synaptic plasticity in the infralimbic cortex via Trk-B receptor activation to reduce drug-seeking in male rats

J Neurosci. 2024 May 7:e0107242024. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0107-24.2024. Online ahead of print.


Drugs of abuse cause changes in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and associated regions that impair inhibitory control over drug-seeking. Breaking the contingencies between drug-associated cues and the delivery of the reward during extinction learning reduces relapse. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has previously been shown to enhance extinction learning and reduce drug-seeking. Here we determined the effects of VNS-mediated release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) on extinction and cue-induced reinstatement in male rats trained to self-administer cocaine. Pairing 10 days of extinction training with VNS facilitated extinction and reduced drug-seeking behavior during reinstatement. Rats that received a single extinction session with VNS showed elevated BDNF levels in the medial PFC as determined via an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Systemic blockade of Tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB) receptors during extinction, via the TrkB antagonist ANA-12, decreased the effects of VNS on extinction and reinstatement. Whole-cell recordings in brain slices showed that cocaine self-administration induced alterations in the ratio of AMPA and NMDA receptor-mediated currents in layer 5 pyramidal neurons of the infralimbic cortex (IL). Pairing extinction with VNS reversed cocaine-induced changes in glutamatergic transmission by enhancing AMPAR currents, and this effect was blocked by ANA-12. Our study suggests that VNS consolidates extinction of drug-seeking behavior by reversing drug-induced changes in synaptic AMPA receptors in the IL, and this effect is abolished by blocking TrkB receptors during extinction, highlighting a potential mechanism for the therapeutic effects of VNS in addiction.Significance Statement Extinction training can reverse maladaptive neuroplasticity induced by drugs of abuse, but adjunct treatments are sought that can facilitate the process and consolidate the newly formed memories. Pairing extinction training with vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) facilitates extinction and reduces drug-seeking behavior during reinstatement. Here, we show that rats receiving a single extinction session with VNS exhibit elevated brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). We also demonstrate that VNS consolidates the extinction of drug-seeking behavior by reversing cocaine-induced changes in synaptic AMPA receptors in the infralimbic cortex (IL) of the mPFC. This effect is blocked by the TrkB antagonist ANA-12, emphasizing the role of BDNF and TrkB receptors in the therapeutic effects of VNS in addiction.

PMID:38719446 | DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0107-24.2024