Effects of sex and the estrous cycle on regulation of intravenously self-administered cocaine in rats
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Rationale: Previous research with both humans and animals suggests that there are sex differences in cocaine self-administration; in rodents, ovarian hormones may underlie these differences. Objectives: A two-lever drug self-administration procedure was used to compare regulation of intravenously self-administered cocaine in male and female rats and among females in different phases of the estrous cycle. Methods: Eleven female and seven male age-matched Wistar rats were trained to self-administer nine doses of cocaine (0.0–2.4 mg/kg) during daily 5-h sessions. Experimental test chambers were equipped with two levers and associated stimulus lights. A response on the lever with stimuli signaling an increase in cocaine dose increased the infusion duration by 3 s, and a response on the other lever decreased the infusion duration by 3 s. Results: After responding for cocaine stabilized, regulation was disrupted more in females than in males (r2=78.9, r2=92.6, respectively) with the greatest disruption observed in females during the estrus phase (r2=48.5). Mean dose size varied considerably for males and for females in the metestrus/diestrus and proestrus phases; however, estrus females responded almost exclusively on the lever associated with an increase in cocaine dose. Conclusions: These findings indicate sex differences in the regulation of cocaine self-administration, and they suggest that ovarian hormones may be responsible for the observed sex differences.
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