, Volume 110, Issue 1-2, pp 5-12

Autoshaping i.v. cocaine self-administration in rats: effects of nondrug alternative reinforcers on acquisition

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Abstract

The purpose of this experiment was to examine the effects of a nondrug alternative reinforcer and feeding conditions on the acquisition of cocaine self-administration. Rats were autoshaped to press a lever that resulted in a 0.2 mg/kg IV cocaine infusion. Responses on the lever were monitored during six consecutive autoshaping sessions that occurred each day. A retractable lever was inserted into the operant chamber on a random time 60 s schedule 10 times per session for six sessions that began each hour. Each day the six autoshaping sessions were followed by a 6-h cocaine self-administration session. During self-administration the lever remained extended, and each response on the lever resulted in a cocaine infusion (0.2 mg/kg). The criterion for acquisition of cocaine-reinforced behavior was met when there were 5 consecutive days during which the mean number of infusions during the 6-h self-administration session was at least 100. This procedure was repeated daily until the criterion was met or 30 days elapsed. The rats were also trained to respond on lick-operated automatic drinking devices that delivered 0.05 ml water or a glucose and saccharin solution (G+S) contingent upon each lick response. Five groups of 12–14 rats were compared. The first four groups constituted a 2 × 2 factorial design whereby either G+S or water was available in the home cage for 3 weeks before autoshaping began and G+S or water was available in the operant chamber during autoshaping. These groups were limited to 20 g food per day and all had free access to water. A fifth group had only water available in the home cage and operant chamber, and they had unlimited access to food but no G+S. The results indicated that access to the G+S solution in the operant chamber substantially delayed autoshaping, and a large percentage of these rats did not meet the autoshaping criterion within 30 days. The data from groups that had G+S in the home cage were very similar to those that had only water in the home cage; thus, a history of access to G+S did not interfere with acquisition of cocaine self-administration. Autoshaping in the group that had free access to food was highly variable, but a high positive correlation was found between the amount of food consumed and the number of days taken to meet the acquisition criterion. When the rats from the group that consumed over 20 g were compared to the rats in another group that were limited to 20 g and had no G+S, it was found that the increased food intake markedly decreased the rate of acquisition of cocaine self-administration. These findings indicate that acquisition of cocaine-reinforced behavior is delayed or prevented in environments enriched with nondrug alternative reinforcers such as food and a preferred liquid.