Projection-specific potentiation of ventral pallidal glutamatergic outputs after abstinence from cocaine

Liran A. Levi, Kineret Inbar, Noa Nachshon, Nimrod Bernat, Ava Gatterer, Dorrit Inbar, Yonatan M. Kupchik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The ventral pallidum (VP) is a central node in the reward system that is strongly implicated in reward and addiction. Although the majority of VP neurons are GABAergic and encode reward, recent studies revealed a novel glutamatergic neuronal population in the VP [VP neurons expressing the vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VPVGluT2 )], whose activation generates aversion. Withdrawal from drugs has been shown to induce drastic synaptic changes in neuronal populations associated with reward, such as the ventral tegmental area (VTA) or nucleus accumbens neurons, but less is known about cocaine-induced synaptic changes in neurons classically linked with aversion. Here, we demonstrate that VPVGluT2 neurons contact different targets with different intensities, and that cocaine conditioned place preference (CPP) training followed by abstinence selectively potentiates their synapses on targets that encode aversion. Using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings combined with optogenetics in male and female transgenic mice, we show that VPVGluT2 neurons preferentially contact aversion-related neurons, such as lateral habenula neurons and VTA GABAergic neurons, with minor input to reward-related neurons, such as VTA dopamine and VP GABA neurons. Moreover, after cocaine CPP and abstinence, the VPVGluT2 input to the aversion-related structures is potentiated, whereas the input to the reward-related structures is depressed. Thus, cocaine CPP followed by abstinence may allow VPVGluT2 neurons to recruit aversion-related targets more readily and therefore be part of the mechanism underlying the aversive symptoms seen after withdrawal.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1276-1285
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number20
StatePublished - 13 May 2020

Bibliographical note

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  • Cocaine
  • Lateral habenula
  • Optogenetics
  • Slice electrophysiology
  • VGluT2 neurons
  • Ventral pallidum


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