ABSTRACT: The basolateral amygdala (BLA) plays an important role in the formation of associations between context and drug. BLA activity and BLA-dependent drug-seeking behavior are driven by excitatory inputs. Drug-seeking behavior driven by context involves participation of the BLA, and plasticity of excitatory inputs to the BLA may contribute to this behavior. In this study, amphetamine conditioned place preference (AMPH CPP) was used to model the formation of context-drug associations. Learning-induced changes of excitatory synapses within the BLA were examined. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were assigned to one of three groups, the experimental group (AMPH CPP) or one of two control groups (saline or AMPH delayed pairing). Approximately 24 h after testing their preference, spontaneous and miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs and mEPSCs, respectively) in BLA pyramidal neurons were investigated using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings. There were no between-groups differences in the amplitude or frequency of sEPSCs or mEPSCs. In a higher osmolarity solution to increase release, there was a significantly greater frequency of the mEPSCs in neurons from AMPH CPP animals compared with controls. This was observed with no change detected in the probability of glutamate release. Together, these data demonstrate no evidence for increased synaptic strength, but are consistent with an increase in the number of synapses in the BLA after AMPH CPP. These findings may underlie increased excitatory drive of the BLA after AMPH CPP, and contribute to the animals' preference for the AMPH-paired compartment.
Neuroscience 03/2012; 206:7-16. · 3.38 Impact Factor