Human brain imaging studies have revealed the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) as a key brain region for mediating visceral-pain-cognitive interactions. Recently, we characterized impairments of long-term potentiation and spike-field coherence in the basolateral amygdala (BLA)-ACC network in association with a decision-making deficit in rats with visceral hypersensitivity (VH). Now, by combining integrative neurobiological approaches, we show that ACC-reactive astrogliosis and activity-dependent impairment of lactate release occur in VH rats. Exogenous lactate supply rescues chronic-visceral-pain-caused impairments of ACC phase locking and decision making, which can be mimicked by optogenetic activation of ACC astrocytes. Large-scale electrophysiological recordings in free-moving animals during a decision-making task indicate that optogenetic astrocytic activation improves decision-making performance and engages ACC phase locking and BLA-to-ACC information flow. Collectively, these observations support the idea of an “astrocyte-neuron L-lactate shuttle” and suggest that targeting astrocytes may help with cognitive dysfunctions under chronic visceral pain. Wang et al. examine astrocyte-neuronal L-lactate signaling at the cellular, circuit, and behavioral levels. They find that optogenetic activation of astrocytes in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) triggers lactate release and improves decision making in rats with chronic visceral pain.
Wang, J., Tu, J., Cao, B., Mu, L., Yang, X., Cong, M., … Li, Y. (2017). Astrocytic L-Lactate Signaling Facilitates Amygdala-Anterior Cingulate Cortex Synchrony and Decision Making in Rats. Cell Reports, 21(9), 2407–2418. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2017.11.012