Prevention of the incubation of cocaine seeking by aerobic exercise in female rats

Natalie E. Zlebnik, Marilyn E. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Background: Recent research has demonstrated that aerobic exercise can attenuate craving for drugs of abuse and reduce escalation and reinstatement of drug-seeking behavior in animal models. The present study examined the effects of aerobic exercise on the development of the incubation of cocaine-seeking behavior or the progressive increase in cocaine seeking over a protracted withdrawal period from cocaine self-administration. Methods: Female rats were trained to self-administer cocaine (0.4 mg/kg/inf) during daily 6-h sessions for 10 days. Subsequently, access to cocaine and cocaine-paired cues was discontinued during a 3- or 30-day withdrawal period when rats had access to either a locked or unlocked running wheel. At the end of the withdrawal period, rats were reintroduced to the operant conditioning chamber and reexposed to cocaine-paired cues to examine cocaine-seeking behavior under extinction conditions. Results: Rats with access to a locked running wheel during 30 days of withdrawal had significantly greater cue-induced cocaine-seeking behavior than rats that had access to an unlocked running wheel for 30 days. Further, there was robust incubation of cocaine seeking in rats with access to a locked running wheel as cocaine seeking was notably elevated at 30 vs. 3 days of withdrawal. However, cocaine-seeking behavior did not differ between rats with access to an unlocked running wheel for 30 vs. 3 days, indicating that incubation of cocaine seeking was suppressed following access to exercise for 30 days. Conclusion: Aerobic exercise during extended withdrawal from cocaine self-administration decreased incubation of cue-induced cocaine-seeking behavior and may reduce vulnerability to relapse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3999
Pages (from-to)3507-3513
Number of pages7
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Cocaine
  • Exercise
  • Incubation of craving
  • Relapse
  • Wheel running
  • Withdrawal


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