Peer presence and familiarity as key factors to reduce cocaine intake: An effect mediated by the Subthalamic Nucleus


  • Giorla Elodie
  • Nordmann Sandra
  • Vielle Cassandre
  • Pelloux Yann
  • Roux Perrine
  • Protopopescu Camélia
  • Manrique Christine
  • Davranche Karen
  • Montanari Christian
  • Giorgi Lisa
  • Vilotitch Antoine
  • Huguet Pascal
  • Carrieri Patrizia
  • Baunez Christelle

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Rationale Stimulant use, including cocaine, often occurs in a social context whose influence is important to understand to decrease intake and reduce associated harms. Although the importance of social influence in the context of drug addiction is known, there is a need for studies assessing its neurobiological substrate and for translational research. Objectives Here, we explored the influence of peer presence and familiarity on cocaine intake and its neurobiological basis. Given the regulatory role of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) on cocaine intake and emotions, we investigated its role on such influence of social context on cocaine intake. Methods We first compared cocaine consumption in various conditions (with no peer present or with peers with different characteristics: abstinent peer or drug-taking peer, familiar or not, cocaine-naive or not, dominant or subordinate) in rats (n = 90). Then, with a translational approach, we assessed the influence of the social context (alone, in the group, in a dyad with familiar or non-familiar peers) on drug intake in human drug users (n = 77). Results The drug consumption was reduced when a peer was present, abstinent, or drug-taking as well, and further diminished when the peer was non-familiar. The presence of a non-familiar and drug-naive peer represents key conditions to diminish cocaine intake. The STN lesion by itself reduced cocaine intake to the level reached in presence of a non-familiar naive peer and affected social cognition, positioning the STN as one neurobiological substrate of social influence on drug intake. Then, the human study confirmed the beneficial effect of social presence, especially of non-familiar peers. Conclusion Our results indirectly support the use of social interventions and harm reduction strategies and position the STN as a key cerebral structure to mediate these effects.

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