Drug Addicts’ Relapse can be Avoided Through Basolateral Amygdala

by Kathy Jones on  April 17, 2012 at 8:01 PM Alcohol & Drug Abuse News   - G J E 4
Basolateral amygdala may influence a recovering drug addict's desperate craving for more drugs, according to a new study presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) in Miami.
 Drug Addicts’ Relapse can be Avoided Through Basolateral Amygdala
Drug Addicts’ Relapse can be Avoided Through Basolateral Amygdala

Even if former addicts have ceased using drugs for a lengthy period of time, the craving/desire for those substances remains. Environmental cues that are paired with previous drug use can enhance drug seeking. At the same time, inhibitory cues associated with a drug''s unavailability can reduce drug seeking. The amygdala may serve as a critical structure for these interactions.

For this study, alcohol-preferring (P) rats were exposed to the following odors: 1. an odor paired with the operant self-administration of EtOH (CS+); 2. an odor paired with the unavailability of EtOH (CS-); and 3. a neutral odor (CS 0). Subjects were then exposed to on odor for 30 minutes in a non-drug paired environment and neuronal activity was measured through standard c-fos protocols. Microinjections of GABA agonists were then used to pharmacologically silence the bilateral basolateral amygdala (BLA) of P rats in a 2 (active drug or aCSF control injection) by 3 (CS+, CS- or CS 0) experimental design in the operant setting. The results of this study, The Basolateral Amygdala is a Critical Structure for Environment Cue Augmentation of EtOH-Seeking, will be presented by Jessica Wilden, MD, 2:55-3:09 p.m., on Monday, April 16. Co-authors are Sheketha Hauser, PhD; Gerald Deehan Jr., PhD; Zheng-Ming Ding, PhD; William Truitt, PhD; William McBride, MD, PhD; and Zachary Rodd, PhD.

Though neuronal activity was not altered by the conditioned cues in the central or medial amygdala, there was a 60 percent increase in c-fos positive neurons in the basolateral amygdala in CS+ subjects. Since BLA was only activated via the excitatory conditioned cue (CS+), it was hypothesized that activation of BLA enhanced EtOH-seeking. Subsequent pharmacological silencing of the BLA did not affect baseline EtOH-seeking or the inhibitory effect of the CS-, but did prevent enhancement of EtOH-seeking invoked by CS+. Researchers concluded that BLA may mediate the ability of conditioned cues to enhance drug seeking. This region could serve as a target for intervention to reduce drug craving and relapse.

Disclosure: the author reports no conflicts of interest.

The 2012 AANS Annual Meeting press kit includes releases on highlighted scientific research, AANS officer and award winners, and National Neurosurgery Awareness Week. These releases will be posted under Media/Press on the 2012 AANS Annual Meeting website page. Additional information about the AANS Annual Meeting and the Meeting Program is available by clicking here.

Media Representatives: If you would like to cover the meeting or interview a neurosurgeon - either on-site or via telephone - please contact John Iwanski, AANS Director of Member and Public Outreach, at 847-378-0517, or call the Annual Scientific Meeting Press Room beginning Monday, April 16 at 786-276-4501.

Founded in 1931 as the Harvey Cushing Society, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) is a scientific and educational association with more than 8,100 members worldwide. The AANS is dedicated to advancing the specialty of neurological surgery in order to provide the highest quality of neurosurgical care to the public. All active members of the AANS are certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Neurosurgery) of Canada or the Mexican Council of Neurological Surgery, AC. Neurological surgery is the medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of disorders that affect the entire nervous system including the spinal column, spinal cord, brain and peripheral nerves. For more information, visit

Source: Newswise

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