The Projection Targets of Medium Spiny Neurons Govern Cocaine-Evoked Synaptic Plasticity in the Nucleus Accumbens

C. Baimel, Laura M. McGarry, Adam G. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We examine synaptic connectivity and cocaine-evoked plasticity at specific networks within the nucleus accumbens (NAc). We identify distinct subpopulations of D1+ medium spiny neurons (MSNs) that project to either the ventral pallidum (D1+VP) or the ventral tegmental area (D1+VTA). We show that inputs from the ventral hippocampus (vHPC), but not the basolateral amygdala (BLA), are initially biased onto D1+VTA MSNs. However, repeated cocaine exposure eliminates the bias of vHPC inputs onto D1+VTA MSNs, while strengthening BLA inputs onto D1+VP MSNs. Our results reveal that connectivity and plasticity depend on the specific inputs and outputs of D1+ MSNs and highlight the complexity of cocaine-evoked circuit level adaptations in the NAc. Baimel et al. examine how cocaine exposure alters specific circuits in the nucleus accumbens medial shell. They find that D1-expressing (D1+) medium spiny neurons projecting to ventral tegmental area and ventral pallidum are distinct populations. These two cell types differ in both their baseline synaptic connectivity and cocaine-evoked synaptic plasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2256-2263.e3
JournalCell Reports
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 27 2019



  • cocaine sensitization
  • medium spiny neuron
  • nucleus accumbens
  • spiny projection neuron
  • synaptic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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