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.
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- Apis mellifera