Responding during signaled availability and nonavailability of iv cocaine and food in rats: Age and sex differences

Justin J. Anker, Natalie E. Zlebnik, Sean F. Navin, Marilyn E. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Rationale Research suggests that age and sex are vulnerability factors for drug abuse. However, few studies have systematically examined their interaction. Objective The purpose of the present study was to examine male and female, adult and adolescent rats under a procedure that measures responding during periods of signaled availability and nonavailability of iv cocaine and food reinforcers. Methods Adolescent and adult rats lever pressed for iv infusions of cocaine or food pellets under a procedure with three components of signaled availability of the reinforcer alternating with two components of signaled nonavailability. Adolescent rats were removed and then later retested under the same conditions as adults, and a group of adult rats was also removed and retested after a similar number of days. A subset of rats earning cocaine infusions under the initial test was later retested with food pellets under the same behavioral task to assess the influence of prior cocaine exposure on subsequent responding for a nondrug reinforcer. Results Adolescents (vs. adults) made more responses during periods of signaled iv cocaine availability and nonavailabiltiy, and adult females responded more than adult males during these periods. Responding during periods of signaled nonavailability of iv cocaine and food did not differ between the initial and subsequent retest conditions in adult rats. Further, adult males and females exposed to cocaine during adolescence responded more during periods of food availability compared to cocaine-naïve adults. Conclusion These results indicate that sex and age are vulnerability factors in cocaine abuse, and cocaine exposure during critical developmental stages can have long-lasting effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-799
Number of pages15
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse grants, R01 DA 003240-27, R01 DA019942-3, K05 015267-08 (MEC), and F31 DA 023301-02 (JJA). The authors would like to thank Thomas Baron, Luke Gliddon, Nathan Holtz, Seth Johnson, Emily Kidd, Brandon Knight, Brianna Lubben, Paul Regier, Amy Saykao, Matthew Starr, Rachael Turner, Troy Velie, and Jeremy Williams for their technical assistance.


  • Adolescence
  • Cocaine seeking
  • Cocaine. Rats
  • Sex differences


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