Natural reward-related learning in rats with neonatal ventral hippocampal lesions and prior cocaine exposure
Psychostimulant injections in rats have been shown to alter future performance in natural reward conditioning. These effects may represent a persistent impact of drugs on neurocircuits that interface cognitive and motivational processes, which may be further altered in neuropsychiatric conditions that entail increased addiction vulnerability.
This study investigated whether a rat model of schizophrenia with cocaine addiction vulnerability shows altered natural reward conditioning with or without prior cocaine exposure.
Adult rats with SHAM or neonatal ventral hippocampal lesions were given cocaine (15 mg/kg per day for 5 days) or saline injections, followed 7 days later by natural reward-conditioned learning. Over ten daily sessions, water-restricted rats were assessed for durations of head entries into a magazine during random water presentations, a conditioning stimulus phase predictive of the water reward, and an “inappropriate” phase when conditioning stimuli were absent and reward presentation would be delayed.
Over repeated sessions, lesioned and SHAM rats showed similar reductions in total magazine entry durations, with similar increases in the allocations of entry times during the water presentation. However, lesioned rats, especially those exposed to cocaine, demonstrated reduced allocations of magazine entry times during the conditioning stimulus phase, and increased allocations during the inappropriate phase.
Intact natural reward motivation accompanied by deficient learning of complex contingencies to guide efficient reward approach may represent a form of impulsivity as an addiction vulnerability trait marker in an animal model of schizophrenia.
KeywordsSchizophrenia Dual diagnosis Substance use disorders Addiction Impulsivity Prefrontal cortex Nucleus accumbens Hippocampus Conditioned learning
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