Mefloquine in the nucleus accumbens promotes social avoidance and anxiety-like behavior in mice

Mitra Heshmati, Sam A. Golden, Madeline L. Pfau, Daniel J. Christoffel, Elena L. Seeley, Michael E. Cahill, Lena A. Khibnik, Scott J. Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Mefloquine continues to be a key drug used for malaria chemoprophylaxis and treatment, despite reports of adverse events like depression and anxiety. It is unknown how mefloquine acts within the central nervous system to cause depression and anxiety or why some individuals are more vulnerable. We show that intraperitoneal injection of mefloquine in mice, when coupled to subthreshold social defeat stress, is sufficient to produce depression-like social avoidance behavior. Direct infusion of mefloquine into the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a key brain reward region, increased stress-induced social avoidance and anxiety behavior. In contrast, infusion into the ventral hippocampus had no effect. Whole cell recordings from NAc medium spiny neurons indicated that mefloquine application increases the frequency of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents, a synaptic adaptation that we have previously shown to be associated with increased susceptibility to social defeat stress. Together, these data demonstrate a role for the NAc in mefloquine-induced depression and anxiety-like behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-357
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mefloquine
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Social defeat stress


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