Skip to main content
Presentation Time: 2:20-2:40
Home University: North Carolina Central University
Research Mentor: Dr. Kate Reissner, Psychology and Neuroscience
Program: SPIRE
Research Title: The Role of Nucleus Accumbens Astrocyte Rac1 on Cocaine Seeking Behavior

Despite evidence that illicit drug use is a significant and growing public health concern, limited effective interventions are available. Moreover, there are no FDA approved treatments for psychostimulant use disorders. Accordingly, in order to develop more effective treatment strategies, better understanding of cellular mechanisms of relapse to drug use following abstinence is warranted. Previous studies have shown that astrocytes in the rat brain nucleus accumbens are both structurally and functionally impaired following cocaine self-administration and abstinence. Further, evidence suggests that stimulating Gq-mediated signaling in astrocytes can reduce cocaine seeking. Accordingly, this study was designed to test the effects of manipulating nucleus accumbens astrocyte cytoskeletal dynamics on cocaine seeking. Specifically, we utilized both dominant negative (DN) and constitutively active (CA) variants of Rac1, a mediator of actin cycling located in astrocyte peripheral processes. Rats (N=17) were trained on cocaine self-administration (6h/day for 10 days). Twenty-four hours following the last self-administration session, rats received a Day 1 seeking test, followed by intra-accumbens infusions of either AAV5-Gfap-mCherry, AAV5-Gfap-Rac1DN (dominant negative), or AAV5-Gfap-Rac1CA (constitutively active). Following 25 days of home cage abstinence, rats were subsequently tested again on cocaine seeking behavior. Results will inform the potential utility of astrocyte dynamics in opposing motivation for drug use.