Acute effects of cocaine on movement-related firing of dorsolateral striatal neurons depend on predrug firing rate and dose

Anthony P. Pawlak, Chris C. Tang, Cathy Pederson, Martin B. Wolske, Mark O. West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To investigate striatal mechanisms underlying the acute effects of stimulants on motor behavior, firing rates (FRs) of striatal neurons related specifically to vertical head movement were studied exclusively during vertical head movements. Precocaine FRs were recorded after intraperitoneal saline injection (time 1; T1), and rats performed conditioned vertical head movements (>10,000) similar to those induced by stimulants. After cocaine injection (0, 5, 10, or 20 mg/kg; T2), animals continued in the task. The proportion of long head movements was increased by low doses but decreased by the high dose, which induced stereotypic head movements. Comparing each neuron's FR during movements that were matched between T1 and T2 (e.g., regarding direction, distance), cocaine's effects depended on predrug FR and dose. Plots regressing T2FR on T1FR showed dose-dependent, "clockwise" rotations of regression lines in plots of all the neurons' average FRs and of individual neurons' FRs during different movements. All three doses elevated normally low FRs; the high dose also suppressed many higher FRs. Enhancement of a neuron's FR associated with weak and suppression of FR associated with strong corticostriatal inputs contradict several current theories of dopamine (DA) function. Induction of stereotypy by a single, high-dose injection suggests that this cocaine level exceeded that in other studies using cocaine self-administration, in which stereotypy develops only after several sessions. Suppressive effects observed only at the high dose and in numerous electrophysiological studies of DA agonist effects may be unrepresentative of uniform elevations in lateral striatal firing related to movement observed at lower cocaine levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-683
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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