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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2007 Oct;87(4):462-71. Epub 2007 Jun 21.

Prenatal exposure to cocaine alters the development of conditioned place-preference to cocaine in adult mice.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Neuroscience, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02129, United States.


As addiction is increasingly formulated as a developmental disorder, identifying how early developmental exposures influence later responses to drugs of abuse is important to our understanding of substance abuse neurobiology. We have previously identified behavioral changes in adult mice following gestational exposure to cocaine that differ when assessed with methods employing contingent and non-contingent drug administration. We sought to clarify this distinction using a Pavlovian behavioral measure, conditioned place-preference. Adult mice exposed to cocaine in utero (40 or 20 mg/kg/day), vehicle and pair-fed controls were place-conditioned to either cocaine (5 mg/kg or 20 mg/kg, i.p.) or saline injections. The development of conditioned place-preference to cocaine was impaired in mice exposed to cocaine in utero, and was abolished by fetal malnutrition. A context-specific place-aversion to vehicle but not cocaine injection was observed in prenatally cocaine-exposed mice. Locomotor behavior did not differ among prenatal treatment groups. We conclude that early developmental exposure to cocaine may diminish the subsequent rewarding effects of cocaine in adulthood measured with classical conditioning techniques, and that this is not due to changes in locomotor behavior. Sensitivity to acute stress is also altered by prenatal cocaine exposure, consistent with earlier findings in this model.

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