Large‐scale brain correlates of sweet versus cocaine reward in rats

Magalie Lenoir, Sylvia Navailles, Youna Vandaele, Caroline Vouillac‐Mendoza, Karine Guillem, Serge H. Ahmed
Eur J of Neuroscience. 2022-12-01; :
DOI: 10.1111/ejn.15879

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Lenoir M(1), Navailles S(2), Vandaele Y(3), Vouillac-Mendoza C(1), Guillem K(1), Ahmed SH(1).

Author information:
(1)Université de Bordeaux, CNRS, INCIA, UMR 5287, Bordeaux, France.
(2)Thales, Mérignac, France.
(3)Université de Poitiers, INSERM, U-1084, Laboratoire des Neurosciences Expérimentales et Cliniques, Poitiers, France.

Cocaine induces many supranormal changes in neuronal activity in the brain, notably in learning- and reward-related regions, in comparison to nondrug rewards – a difference that is thought to contribute to its relatively high addictive potential. However, when facing a choice between cocaine and a nondrug reward (e.g., water sweetened with saccharin), most rats do not choose cocaine, as one would expect from the extent and magnitude of its global activation of the brain, but instead choose the nondrug option. We recently showed that cocaine, though larger in magnitude, is also an inherently more delayed reward than sweet water, thereby explaining why it has less value during choice and why rats opt for the more immediate nondrug option. Here we used a large-scale fos brain mapping approach to measure brain responses to each option in saccharin-preferring rats, with the hope to identify brain regions whose activity may explain the preference for the nondrug option. In total, fos expression was measured in 142 brain levels  corresponding to 52 brain subregions and composing 5 brain macrosystems. Overall, our findings confirm in rats with a preference for saccharin that cocaine induces more global brain activation than the preferred nondrug option does. Only very few brain regions were uniquely activated by saccharin. They included regions involved in taste processing (i.e., anterior gustatory cortex) and also regions involved in processing reward delay and intertemporal choice (i.e., some components of the septohippocampal system and its connections with the lateral habenula).

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