Double Dissociation between the Anterior Cingulate Cortex and Nucleus Accumbens Core in Encoding the Context versus the Content of Pavlovian Cocaine Cue Extinction
Mary M. Torregrossa, Jessica Gordon, and Jane R. Taylor
J. Neurosci. 2013;33 8370-8377
One strategy proposed to treat addictive disorders is to extinguish the association between environmental stimuli (cues) and actions associated with drug use to reduce relapse. The context specificity of extinction learning, however, impairs the ability of addicts to generalize extinction training to the drug-taking context. We previously reported that the NMDA receptor partial agonist D-cycloserine administered after pavlovian extinction of cocaine cues in the nucleus accumbens core (NAc) reduced cue-induced renewal. Nevertheless, it was unclear whether this was due to disrupted contextual encoding of extinction or enhanced extinction consolidation. Thus, we examined the effect of the NMDA receptor antagonist D-AP5 on context encoding versus cue extinction learning. We also determined the role of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in encoding the cue extinction memory or the context, due to its projections to NAc, and hypothesized the role in conflict monitoring and contextual modulation of decision making. Using rats, we observed that NMDA receptor antagonism in the NAc did not alter context encoding but did interfere with acquisition of the cue extinction memory, i.e., learning, conversely inactivation of the ACC reduced the contextual encoding of extinction but did not interfere with the acquisition or expression of extinction. The observed effects were not present in the absence of cue extinction training. Additionally, the contextual memory did not appear to be consolidated in the ACC as neither postsession inactivation nor protein synthesis inhibition impaired context-appropriate responding. These results have implications for overcoming the context specificity of extinction to treat psychiatric disorders including addiction.