Cell Reports (Aug 2021)

Extinction blunts paraventricular thalamic contributions to heroin relapse

  • Giuseppe Giannotti,
  • Sheng Gong,
  • Nicholas Fayette,
  • Jasper A. Heinsbroek,
  • James E. Orfila,
  • Paco S. Herson,
  • Christopher P. Ford,
  • Jamie Peters

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 36, no. 8
p. 109605


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Summary: Here, we use optogenetics and chemogenetics to investigate the contribution of the paraventricular thalamus (PVT) to nucleus accumbens (NAc) pathway in aversion and heroin relapse in two different heroin self-administration models in rats. In one model, rats undergo forced abstinence in the home cage prior to relapse testing, and in the other, they undergo extinction training, a procedure that is likened to cognitive behavioral therapy. We find that the PVT→NAc pathway is both sufficient and necessary to drive aversion and heroin seeking after abstinence, but not extinction. The ability of extinction to reduce this pathway’s contribution to heroin relapse is accompanied by a loss of synaptic plasticity in PVT inputs onto a specific subset of NAc neurons. Thus, extinction may exert therapeutic reductions in opioid seeking by altering synaptic plasticity within the PVT→NAc pathway, resulting in reduced aversion during opioid withdrawal as well as reduced relapse propensity.