Research ArticleNeuroscience

β-Arrestin–biased β-adrenergic signaling promotes extinction learning of cocaine reward memory

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Sci. Signal.  09 Jan 2018:
Vol. 11, Issue 512, eaam5402
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aam5402

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Extinguishing memories to fight addiction

Relapse in cocaine addicts can be prevented by training addicts not to respond to drug-associated cues. This process is called extinction learning in animal models of drug addiction. Activation of the β-adrenergic receptor, which can preferentially stimulate signaling mediated by β-arrestins or G proteins, is implicated in extinction learning. Huang et al. determined that the β-arrestin–dependent pathway was required downstream of β-adrenergic receptor activation to promote extinction learning in two different models, including a self-administration paradigm. Specifically, β-arrestin signaling was required in excitatory neurons in the infralimbic prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain involved in attenuating the association between drugs and cues. Thus, enhancing β-arrestin signaling in the infralimbic prefrontal cortex may augment the effect of cognitive therapy in preventing drug-seeking behavior and relapse in cocaine addicts.