Place cells and addictive drugs

BilZ0r BilZ0r at TAKETHISOUThotmail.com
Sat Jun 12 20:19:25 EST 2004

So what do you guys think of an experiment like this:
You have a set-up much like a conditioned place preference box, a two 
compartment case, where a rat can walk from one comparment to the other.
You then record from several hippocampal place cells, and find ones that 
corispond roughly to the the either of the 'rooms'.
Then you give the rat maybe, a microinfusion of methampehtamine into the 
hippocampus, or electrically stimulate the ventral tegmental dopaminergic 
neurons, only when the rat is in the right room.
So behaviourally, we would expect to see the rat spend its time in the 
conditioned room, the right room, because that is where it recieves the 
reward. But your also recording from the place cells. Now will you see an 
increased rate of firing of the place cell?

My idea basically stemed from the fact that people always look at 
synaptic placsticity in the VTA or the Nucleus Accumbens when they are 
interested in drugs of abuse.. I don't really know why, I wouldn't have 
thought palsticity there would have explained addiction very well. I 
always thought that plasticity in the cortex would have far more 
interesting, i.e. when the reward coincides with a stimuli, then the 
cortical cells which code/interpret/are activated by that stimuli will 
strengthen there synapses with other downstream neurons, increases the 
attentional weighting of the stimuli. But it would be very hard to find a 
neuron which is strongly activated by a particular stimuli (I assume). So 
I thought, place cells seem easy enough to find...

I don't know, this stuff is really quite neurosciency for me, and a bit 
out of my neuropharmacology background, but I don't want to get stuck 
working in cultured neurons my whole life, and I'm thinking about a PhD 
or something...

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