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Acupuncture has been used for treating drug addiction since the 1970s, but little is known about the mechanisms by which acupuncture affects drug cue-induced relapse. The transcription factor delta-FosB (ΔFosB) plays a critical role in behavior and pathology after chronic use of cocaine. ΔFosB regulates glutamate receptor signaling and dendritic spine morphology in animal models. This experimental study compared the effects of electroacupuncture (EA) at acupoints LI4 and LI11 with those of another potentially beneficial intervention, gabapentin (GBP), alone or in combination, on reinstatement of cocaine-induced conditioned place preference (CPP) and levels of ΔFosB and glutamate receptor subunit 2 (GluR2) expression in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). EA at LI4 and LI11 significantly prevented cue-induced cocaine CPP reinstatement, whereas needle insertion without electrical stimulation at these acupoints had no such effect. EA also significantly attenuated cocaine-induced increases in ΔFosB and GluR2 expression in the NAc. Unexpectedly, these effects were reversed when GBP was combined with EA. Treatment with EA at LI4 and LI11 prevented cocaine-induced increases in dendritic spine density in the NAc core and shell. Our results suggest that EA at LI4 and LI11 may prevent cocaine relapse by modulating ΔFosB and GluR2 expression, as well as dendritic spine density.


Ai T M Nguyen, Tran V B Quach, Peddanna Kotha, Szu-Yu Chien, Iona J MacDonald, Hsien-Yuan Lane, Cheng-Hao Tu, Jaung-Geng Lin, Yi-Hung Chen. Electroacupuncture prevents cocaine-induced conditioned place preference reinstatement and attenuates ΔFosB and GluR2 expression. Scientific reports. 2021 Jul 01;11(1):13694

PMID: 34211013

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