The role of food deprivation in the maintenance and reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior in rats

Marilyn E. Carroll

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117 Scopus citations


Lever-pressing responses of a group of five rats (Group E) were rewarded with i.v. injections of cocaine (0.1 mg/kg) under conditions of continuous access for eleven 24-h sessions. When the rats were partially food-deprived every third day, cocaine infusions more than doubled during that session. When saline was substituted for cocaine, responding diminished over a 10-day period (Extinction Phase), but when the rats were subsequently food-deprived every third day (Testing Phase), for a total of six cycles (20 sessions), high rates of responding for saline were reinstated only during food deprivation sessions. Seven control groups were included to investigate several questions regarding this effect. Group C-1 received cocaine but no food deprivation experience during the Training Phase, and Group C-2 received food deprivation experience without cocaine access. The results showed that simultaneous presentation of both the food deprivation condition and cocaine was necessary to reinstate food deprivation-induced increases in responding during the Testing Phase. To test for the importance of the contingency between responding and cocaine infusions during food deprivation (and satiation) in the Training phase, Group C-3 was yoked to Group E; they received the same number and pattern of infusions during the Training Phase, but infusions were not contingent upon lever-press responses. This group showed only small increases in saline-maintained responding due to food deprivation during the Testing Phase. Groups C-4 and C-5 were treated as Groups C-3 and E, respectively, except they were partially food-deprived during the 10-day Extinction Phase. Three of five rats in Group C-4 and all rats in Group C-5 showed no increases due to food deprivation during the Testing Phase. Group C-6 was pre-exposed to food deprivation before the experiment began, and Group C-7 was exposed to food deprivation only once during the Training Phase. Both procedures weakened the ability of food deprivation to produce high rates of saline-maintained responding. It was concluded that novel interoceptive stimuli related to food deprivation had become associated with the relatively novel reinforcing effects of cocaine and these interoceptive stimuli functioned as conditioned reinforcers to increase the maintenance and reinstatement of drug-seeking behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-109
Number of pages15
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1985

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author wishes to thank Irwin Boe, Kurt Brattain, Charles France, Rebecca Kragh, Sylvie Lac, Timothy Newman and Michael Walker for their technical assistance. This work was supported by a U.S. Public Health Service Grant No. DA 03240. Some of the results were reported at the Annual Meeting of the Committee on Problems of Drug Dependence, St. Louis, MO, 1984.


  • Cocaine
  • Food deprivation
  • Rats
  • Self administration


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