Susan M Ferguson

University of Washington Seattle, Seattle, WA, United States

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Publications (6)47.27 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The dorsal striatum has been implicated in reward-based decision making, but the role played by specific striatal circuits in these processes is essentially unknown. Using cell phenotype-specific viral vectors to express engineered G-protein-coupled DREADD (designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs) receptors, we enhanced Gi/o- or Gs-protein-mediated signaling selectively in direct-pathway (striatonigral) neurons of the dorsomedial striatum in Long-Evans rats during discrete periods of training of a high versus low reward-discrimination task. Surprisingly, these perturbations had no impact on reward preference, task performance, or improvement of performance during training. However, we found that transiently increasing Gi/o signaling during training significantly impaired the retention of task strategies used to maximize reward obtainment during subsequent preference testing, whereas increasing Gs signaling produced the opposite effect and significantly enhanced the encoding of a high-reward preference in this decision-making task. Thus, the fact that the endurance of this improved performance was significantly altered over time-long after these neurons were manipulated-indicates that it is under bidirectional control of canonical G-protein-mediated signaling in striatonigral neurons during training. These data demonstrate that cAMP-dependent signaling in direct-pathway neurons play a well-defined role in reward-related behavior; that is, they modulate the plasticity required for the retention of task-specific information that is used to improve performance on future renditions of the task.
    Journal of Neuroscience 07/2013; 33(28):11668-11676. · 6.91 Impact Factor
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    Susan M Ferguson, John F Neumaier
    Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology 01/2012; 37(1):296-7. · 8.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Dorsal striatum is important for the development of drug addiction; however, a precise understanding of the roles of striatopallidal (indirect) and striatonigral (direct) pathway neurons in regulating behaviors remains elusive. Using viral-mediated expression of an engineered G protein-coupled receptor (hM(4)D), we found that activation of hM(4)D receptors with clozapine-N-oxide (CNO) potently reduced striatal neuron excitability. When hM(4)D receptors were selectively expressed in either direct or indirect pathway neurons, CNO did not change acute locomotor responses to amphetamine, but did alter behavioral plasticity associated with repeated drug treatment. Specifically, transiently disrupting striatopallidal neuronal activity facilitated behavioral sensitization, whereas decreasing excitability of striatonigral neurons impaired its persistence. These findings suggest that acute drug effects can be parsed from the behavioral adaptations associated with repeated drug exposure and highlight the utility of this approach for deconstructing neuronal pathway contributions to behavior.
    Nature Neuroscience 01/2011; 14(1):22-4. · 15.25 Impact Factor
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    Susan M Ferguson, Nolan A Sandygren, John F Neumaier
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    ABSTRACT: Both serotonin-1B (5-HT(1B)) receptors and stress modulate the behavioral and neurobiological effects of psychostimulant drugs. In order to examine how these factors interact to influence the development of behaviors associated with addiction, we used viral-mediated gene transfer to transiently increase expression of 5-HT(1B) receptors in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) shell along with exposure to repeated mild stress (novelty + saline injection) in rats. Once the viral-mediated increases in gene expression had dissipated, the resulting effects of this 5-HT(1B)/stress pairing on the acute locomotor response to amphetamine and on the development of psychomotor sensitization were examined. We report that the increasing expression of 5-HT(1B) receptors on the terminals of NAc shell neurons that project to the ventral tegmental area and repeatedly exposing rats to mild stress subsequently enhance the acute locomotor-activating effects of amphetamine. In addition, the development of psychomotor sensitization (both locomotor activity and stereotypy components) is facilitated. These results suggest that serotonin signaling through NAc 5-HT(1B) heteroreceptors can interact with stress to increase susceptibility to the enduring forms of drug-induced plasticity that are associated with addiction.
    European Journal of Neuroscience 10/2009; 30(8):1576-84. · 3.75 Impact Factor
  • Susan M Ferguson, Ellen S Mitchell, John F Neumaier
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    ABSTRACT: Repeated exposure to cocaine produces enduring forms of drug experience-dependent behavioral plasticity, including conditioned place preference (CPP) and psychomotor sensitization, a progressive and persistent increase in cocaine's psychomotor activating effects. Although serotonin-6 receptors (5-HT6Rs) are abundantly expressed in the brain regions thought to underlie these phenomena, such as the nucleus accumbens (NAc), surprisingly little is known about the role of 5-HT6Rs in the rewarding and psychomotor activating effects of cocaine. Viral-mediated gene transfer was used to selectively increase 5-HT6R expression in the NAc of rats. The effects of 5-HT6R overexpression and the selective 5-HT6R antagonist Ro4368554 on CPP and psychomotor sensitization were examined. Increased expression of 5-HT6Rs in the NAc blocks a CPP to cocaine but has no effect on either the acute locomotor response to cocaine or on the development of cocaine-induced locomotor sensitization. Furthermore, antagonism of 5-HT6Rs facilitates the acquisition of a CPP to cocaine but has no effect on cocaine-induced stereotypy. These results demonstrate that 5-HT6Rs in the NAc can selectively modulate drug reward, possibly through facilitation of reward learning.
    Biological psychiatry 02/2008; 63(2):207-13. · 8.93 Impact Factor
  • Sabiha K Barot, Susan M Ferguson, John F Neumaier
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    ABSTRACT: Whether serotonin-1B (5-HT(1B)) receptor activation enhances or diminishes the reinforcing properties of psychostimulants remains unclear. We have previously shown that increased expression of 5-HT(1B) receptors in nucleus accumbens (NAcc) shell neurons sensitized rats to the locomotor-stimulating and rewarding properties of cocaine. In this study we further examined the contribution of 5-HT(1B) receptors on the effect of cocaine under conditions intended to selectively influence either conditioned place preference or avoidance (CPP or CPA, respectively). Viral-mediated gene transfer techniques were used to overexpress 5-HT(1B) receptors in medial NAcc shell medium spiny neurons projecting to the ventral tegmental area. Animals were then conditioned to associate place cues with the effects of either a low (5 mg/kg) or moderately high (20 mg/kg) dosage of cocaine immediately or 45 min after intraperitoneal cocaine administration. Animals with increased 5-HT(1B) expression showed cocaine-induced CPP immediately after administration of the low 5 mg/kg dose of cocaine, but a CPA 45 min after administration of the high 20 mg/kg dose. Control animals showed no preference at the 5 mg/kg dose and a significant preference at 20 mg/kg. Given this, we believe that increased 5-HT(1B) receptor activation in NAcc shell projection neurons intensifies both the rewarding and negative properties of cocaine use.
    European Journal of Neuroscience 06/2007; 25(10):3125-31. · 3.75 Impact Factor