Adolescent cocaine exposure induces prolonged synaptic modifications in medial prefrontal cortex of adult rats

Wei Zhu, Xuhui Ge, Peng Gao, Min Li, Yun Guan, Xiaowei Guan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Substance used during adolescent period increases the risk of psychiatric disorders in later life, but the underlying neural mechanisms remain unclear. We hypothesize that synaptic remodeling and changes of homeostasis in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) following adolescent cocaine exposure may last for a long time, and these modifications may contribute to behavioral deficiencies in adulthood. To address this hypothesis, rats were exposed to cocaine hydrochloride from postnatal day 28 (P28) to P42. When reared to adulthood, rats were subjected to behavioral tests. On P75 and P76, cocaine-experienced rats exhibited increased locomotive and anxiety-like behaviors, as well as impaired non-selective attention. In the cocaine-experienced rats, both levels of synapse-related proteins (synapsin I and PSD-95) and density of synapse and dendrite spine in mPFC were significantly decreased when compared to controls. Unexpected, the expression of molecules related to oxidative stress, inflammation and apoptosis showed no significant changes in mPFC following adolescent cocaine exposure. These findings suggested that adolescent exposure to cocaine induce long-term modification on synapses in mPFC, which might contribute to long-term behavioral outcomes in adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1829-1838
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • Abnormal behaviors
  • Adolescent exposure
  • Cocaine
  • Dendrite spine
  • Medial prefrontal cortex
  • Synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Histology


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