Neuroanatomical specificity of conditioned responses to cocaine versus food in mice

Jonathan A. Zombeck, Guan Ting Chen, Zachary V. Johnson, David M. Rosenberg, Adam B. Craig, Justin S. Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neural circuits implicated in drug conditioning, craving and relapse overlap extensively with those involved in natural reward and reinforcement. To determine whether specificity could be detected in conditioned brain responses to drugs versus food, male outbred HSD:ICR mice were conditioned to a common environment using either 20 mg/kg cocaine (ip) or a familiar food (under food restriction). The mice were then re-exposed to the same environment without the reinforcer and patterns of brain activation were compared using immunohistochemical detection of Fos. Conditioned place preference tests were conducted first to establish relative potency of each reward and facilitate analysis of correlations between Fos and motivation. Place preference was stronger for cocaine than food. Food- but not cocaine-paired cues increased Fos in the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus whereas the opposite occurred for prefrontal, cingulate and piriform cortices. Individual differences in cocaine place preference were negatively correlated with Fos in the prefrontal cortex. One difference between drugs and natural reinforcers may be lack of feedback from the periphery for drugs which may circumvent control from the hypothalamus in the development of reinforcement circuits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-650
Number of pages14
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 27 2008


  • Cocaine
  • Conditioning
  • Food
  • Fos
  • Mice
  • Natural reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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