Cocaine directly impairs memory extinction and alters brain DNA methylation dynamics in honey bees

Eirik Søvik*, Pauline Berthier, William P. Klare, Paul Helliwell, Edwina L. S. Buckle, Jenny A. Plath, Andrew B. Barron, Ryszard Maleszka

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)
    33 Downloads (Pure)


    Drug addiction is a chronic relapsing behavioral disorder. The high relapse rate has often been attributed to the perseverance of drug-associated memories due to high incentive salience of stimuli learnt under the influence of drugs. Drug addiction has also been interpreted as a memory disorder since drug associated memories are unusually enduring and some drugs, such as cocaine, interfere with neuroepigenetic machinery known to be involved in memory processing. Here we used the honey bee (an established invertebrate model for epigenomics and behavioral studies) to examine whether or not cocaine affects memory processing independently of its effect on incentive salience. Using the proboscis extension reflex training paradigm we found that cocaine strongly impairs consolidation of extinction memory. Based on correlation between the observed effect of cocaine on learning and expression of epigenetic processes, we propose that cocaine interferes with memory processing independently of incentive salience by directly altering DNA methylation dynamics. Our findings emphasize the impact of cocaine on memory systems, with relevance for understanding how cocaine can have such an enduring impact on behavior.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number79
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalFrontiers in Physiology
    Issue numberFEB
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2018

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • addiction
    • Apis mellifera
    • DNMT3
    • demethylation
    • epigenomics
    • TET


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