, Volume 194, Issue 1, pp 127–137 | Cite as

Compulsive drug seeking by rats under punishment: effects of drug taking history

  • Yann Pelloux
  • Barry J. Everitt
  • Anthony Dickinson
Original Investigation



Abstinence from drug occurs in human addicts for several reasons, including the avoidance of adverse consequences.


To explore a model of drug use in the face of adverse consequences in rats through intermittent punishment of drug seeking and to investigate whether the ability to withhold seeking responses depends upon the duration of drug history.

Materials and methods

Rats were trained under a seeking–taking chained schedule with sucrose or cocaine as reinforcer. Pressing the seeking lever gave access to the taking lever, and a single press on this lever delivered the reinforcer after which the seeking–taking chain recycled. During punishment, half of the seeking links terminated with a mild foot shock without access to the taking link.


After a moderate history of reinforcement, punishment of the terminal response in the seeking link suppressed both sucrose- and cocaine-seeking responses. By contrast, rats with an extended cocaine history were more resistant to punishment than those with a moderate cocaine history. This enhanced resistance to punishment was due to a sub-group of rats that showed minimal or no suppression of drug seeking. No differences in suppression of sucrose seeking were observed in animals with moderate versus extended sucrose histories.


These results suggest that an extended drug self-administration history decreases the ability of vulnerable rats to suppress their drug seeking.


Drug addiction Drug seeking Cocaine Punishment Vulnerability Compulsion 



The authors thank M. Aitken for programming and statistical advice, D. Eagle and A. Mar for statistical guidance, K. Hellemans for assistance with the manuscript preparation, J. Lee for general discussion and P. Di Ciano for technical advice.

This research was supported by an MRC Programme Grant No. G9536855 to B. J. Everitt, A. Dickinson and T. W. Robbins and was conducted within the University of Cambridge Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, supported by a joint award from the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.

Supplementary material

213_2007_805_Fig1_ESM.jpg (48 kb)
Appendix 1

A finer analysis of nose poke responding of the whole population during baseline revealed that this response was not evenly distributed throughout the session [F(3,111)=6.2, p = 0.001], but the differences in the pattern of responding varied the group [F(6,111)=2.5, p = 0.025]. Whereas animals with a moderate reinforcer history increased nose poke responding at the end of the session specifically during TO (p < 0.034), the extended sensitive group showed a higher nose poke rate after the first cocaine injection specifically during seeking periods (p < 0.042). However, the pattern of nose poking was differently altered during punishment in the three groups [F(6,111)=3.1, p = 0.008]. Whereas in animals with a moderate reinforcer history, nose poke rate became homogeneous throughout the session, animals with an extended reinforcer history presented a lower nose poke rate at the end of the sessions, specifically during seeking (p < 0.001). In contrary to extended sensitive animals, extended resistant group presented a homogeneous nose poke rate throughout the session both during baseline and punishment (JPEG 49 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yann Pelloux
    • 1
  • Barry J. Everitt
    • 1
  • Anthony Dickinson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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