Individual Differences in Different Measures of Opioid Self-Administration in Rats Are Accounted for by a Single Latent Variable

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Individual differences in vulnerability to addiction have been widely studied through factor analysis (FA) in humans, a statistical method that identifies “latent” variables (variables that are not measured directly) that reflect the common variance among a larger number of observed measures. Despite its widespread application in behavioral genetics, FA has not been used in preclinical opioid addiction research. The current study used FA to examine the latent factor structure of four measures of i.v. morphine self-administration (MSA) in rats (i.e., acquisition, demand elasticity, morphine/cue- and stress/cue-induced reinstatement). All four MSA measures are generally assumed in the preclinical literature to reflect “addiction vulnerability,” and individual differences in multiple measures of abuse liability are best accounted for by a single latent factor in some human studies. A one-factor model was therefore fitted to the data. Two different regularized FAs indicated that a one-factor model fit our data well. Acquisition, elasticity of demand and morphine/cue-induced reinstatement loaded significantly onto a single latent factor while stress/cue-induced reinstatement did not. Consistent with findings from some human studies, our results indicated a common drug “addiction” factor underlying several measures of opioid SA. However, stress/cue-induced reinstatement loaded poorly onto this factor, suggesting that unique mechanisms mediate individual differences in this vs. other MSA measures. Further establishing FA approaches in drug SA and in preclinical neuropsychopathology more broadly will provide more reliable, clinically relevant core factors underlying disease vulnerability in animal models for further genetic analyses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number712163
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - Sep 7 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by NIH/NIDA grant R21 DA037728 (JG and AH), NIDA U01 DA051993 (JG and AH), the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute (formerly Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation) Translational Addiction Research Program (AH), Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute Career Development Award (AH), and NIDA training grant T32 DA007097 (YS).

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Swain, Waller, Gewirtz and Harris.


  • behavioral economics
  • factor analysis
  • individual differences
  • multivariate methods
  • opioid self-administration


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