Individual variation in the motivational properties of cocaine

Benjamin T. Saunders, Terry E. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations

Abstract

Cues in the environment associated with drug use draw the attention of addicts, elicit approach, and motivate drug-seeking and drug-taking behavior, making abstinence difficult. However, preclinical studies have identified large individual differences in the extent to which reward cues acquire these incentive motivational properties. For example, only in some rats does a spatially discrete food cue become attractive, eliciting approach and engagement with it, and acts as an effective conditioned reinforcer. Moreover, a discrete cocaine cue also acquires greater motivational control over behavior in rats prone to attribute incentive salience to a food cue. In this study, we asked whether there is similar individual variation in the extent to which interoceptive cues produced by cocaine itself instigate cocaine-seeking behavior. After quantifying individual variation in the propensity to attribute incentive salience to a food cue, rats were trained to self-administer cocaine in the absence of an explicit conditional stimulus. We then assessed motivation for cocaine by: (1) performance on a progressive ratio schedule, and (2) the degree to which a cocaine prime reinstated cocaine-seeking following extinction of self-administration behavior. We found that rats prone to attribute incentive salience to a food cue worked harder for cocaine, and showed more robust cocaine-induced reinstatement. We conclude that there is considerable individual variation in the motivational properties of cocaine itself, and this can be predicted by the propensity to attribute incentive salience to reward cues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1668-1676
Number of pages9
JournalNeuropsychopharmacology
Volume36
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to TER (R37 DA04294). We thank Jacqueline Antonishek and Viktoria Krajnc for technical assistance and Vedran Lovic and Paul Meyer for helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.

Keywords

  • cocaine
  • goal tracking
  • incentive salience
  • motivation
  • reinstatement
  • sign tracking

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