The nucleus accumbens core (AcbC) is a key brain region known to regulate the discriminative stimulus/interoceptive effects of alcohol. As such, the goal of the present work was to identify AcbC projection regions that may also modulate sensitivity to alcohol. Accordingly, AcbC afferent projections were identified in behaviorally naïve rats using a retrograde tracer which led to the focus on the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), insular cortex (IC) and rhomboid thalamic nucleus (Rh). Next, to examine the possible role of these brain regions in modulating sensitivity to alcohol, neuronal response to alcohol in rats trained to discriminate alcohol (1 g/kg, intragastric [IG]) vs. water was examined using a two-lever drug discrimination task. As such, rats were administered water or alcohol (1 g/kg, IG) and brain tissue was processed for c-Fos immunoreactivity (IR), a marker of neuronal activity. Alcohol decreased c-Fos IR in the mPFC, IC, Rh and AcbC. Lastly, site-specific pharmacological inactivation with muscimol + baclofen (GABAA agonist + GABAB agonist) was used to determine the functional role of the mPFC, IC and Rh in modulating the interoceptive effects of alcohol in rats trained to discriminate alcohol (1 g/kg, IG) vs. water. mPFC inactivation resulted in full substitution for the alcohol training dose, and IC and Rh inactivation produced partial alcohol-like effects, demonstrating the importance of these regions, with known projections to the AcbC, in modulating sensitivity to alcohol. Together, these data demonstrate a site of action of alcohol and the recruitment of cortical/thalamic regions in modulating sensitivity to the interoceptive effects of alcohol.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes