The prefrontal cortex is critical for execution and inhibition of reward seeking. Neural manipulation of rodent medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) subregions differentially impacts execution and inhibition of cocaine seeking. Dorsal, or prelimbic (PL), and ventral, or infralimbic (IL) mPFC are implicated in cocaine seeking or extinction of cocaine seeking, respectively. This differentiation is not seen across all studies, indicating that further research is needed to understand specific mPFC contributions to drug seeking.
We recorded neuronal activity in mPFC subregions during cocaine self-administration, extinction, and cue- and cocaine-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking.
Both PL and IL neurons were phasically responsive around lever presses during cocaine self-administration, and activity in both areas was reduced during extinction. During both cue- and, to a greater extent, cocaine-induced reinstatement, PL neurons exhibited significantly elevated responses, in line with previous studies demonstrating a role for the region in relapse. The enhanced PL signaling in cocaine-induced reinstatement was driven by strong excitation and inhibition in different groups of neurons. Both of these response types were stronger in PL vs. IL neurons. Finally, we observed tonic changes in activity in all tasks phases, reflecting both session-long contextual modulation as well as minute-to-minute activity changes that were highly correlated with brain cocaine levels and motivation associated with cocaine seeking.
Although some differences were observed between PL and IL neuron activity across sessions, we found no evidence of a go/stop dichotomy in PL/IL function. Instead, our results demonstrate temporally heterogeneous prefrontal signaling during cocaine seeking and extinction in both PL and IL, revealing novel and complex functions for both regions during these behaviors. This combination of findings argues that mPFC neurons, in both PL and IL, provide multifaceted contributions to the regulation of drug seeking and addiction.

© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.