Access to a running wheel decreases cocaine-primed and cue-induced reinstatement in male and female rats

Department of Psychology, Davidson College, Davidson, NC 28035, USA.
Drug and alcohol dependence (Impact Factor: 3.42). 08/2011; 121(1-2):54-61. DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.08.006
Source: PubMed


Relapse to drug use after a period of abstinence is a persistent problem in the treatment of cocaine dependence. Physical activity decreases cocaine self-administration in laboratory animals and is associated with a positive prognosis in human substance-abusing populations. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of long-term access to a running wheel on drug-primed and cue-induced reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior in male and female rats. methods: Long-Evans rats were obtained at weaning and assigned to sedentary (no wheel) and exercising (access to wheel) groups for the duration of the study. After 6 weeks, rats were implanted with intravenous catheters and trained to self-administer cocaine for 14 days. After training, saline was substituted for cocaine and responding was allowed to extinguish, after which cocaine-primed reinstatement was examined in both groups. Following this test, cocaine self-administration was re-established in both groups for a 5-day period. Next, a second period of abstinence occurred in which both cocaine and the cocaine-associated cues were withheld. After 5 days of abstinence, cue-induced reinstatement was examined in both groups.
Sedentary and exercising rats exhibited similar levels of cocaine self-administration, but exercising rats responded less than sedentary rats during extinction. In tests of cocaine-primed and cue-induced reinstatement, exercising rats responded less than sedentary rats, and this effect was apparent in both males and females.
These data indicate that long-term access to a running wheel decreases drug-primed and cue-induced reinstatement, and that physical activity may be effective at preventing relapse in substance-abusing populations.

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    • "Prior work has demonstrated a reduction in extinction for females with access to W (Zlebnik et al. 2010) and for both males and females with chronic access to W in the home cage (Smith et al. 2012). Although Smith et al. (2012) showed that W decreased extinction responding in both male and female, their results indicated a stronger effect in females than males with a suppression of responding for a greater period of time (i.e., over more days). Together, the results of the present experiment and those of previous studies demonstrate greater cocaine-motivated responding and greater treatment effects of W in female than in male rats. "
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