Unconditioned and conditioned factors contribute to the 'reinstatement' of cocaine place conditioning following extinction in C57BL/6 mice
Relapse to drug use following prolonged periods of abstinence results, in part, from the ability of contextual cues paired previously with self-administered drug to elicit drug craving and -seeking behavior. Given the popularity of the mouse for the genetic analysis of drug-induced behaviors, a place conditioning model of drug-seeking behavior was used to examine the ability of cocaine (COC) to reinstate extinguished conditioned reward in mice. In a series of experiments, COC place conditioning was produced in male C57BL/6 (B6) mice by four pairings of COC (15 or 25 mg/kg, IP) with the non-preferred compartment of a two-compartment place conditioning apparatus. Following a post-conditioning test (Post-Test), place conditioning was extinguished by repeated testing. The mice were then challenged with one of five COC doses (0, 5, 10, 15 or 25 mg/kg, IP) and allowed free access to both environments. Following extinction, COC injections reinstated place conditioning to 100% or greater, relative to the Post-Test. In a control experiment, mice received either COC or SAL paired with non-preferred compartment and were then challenged with either COC (15 mg/kg, IP) or SAL on the Post-Test. COC-conditioned, but not SAL-conditioned, mice exhibited place conditioning when tested in a COC-free state. Interestingly, COC injection on the Post-Test elicited an increase in approach behavior in both SAL- and COC-conditioned mice and this increase was equivalent to that produced by COC conditioning alone. No direct relationships were observed between the magnitude of place conditioning and either COC-induced or -conditioned locomotor hyperactivity in the non-preferred compartment. Thus, at least two independent processes appear to underlie the ability of a COC injection to elicit approach behavior towards the non-preferred compartment of a biased place conditioning apparatus in mice-reactivation of the conditioned incentive motivational properties of COC-paired cues and elicitation of unconditioned behavioral disinhibition. One or both of these processes sensitizes with the passage of time, increasing the propensity of B6 mice to approach non-preferred environments upon COC re-administration.
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