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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2011 May;98(3):440-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2011.02.016. Epub 2011 Feb 22.

Behavioral cross-sensitization between DOCA-induced sodium appetite and cocaine-induced locomotor behavior.

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  • 1Departments of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Health and Human Physiology, and the Cardiovascular Center, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


Behavioral sensitization involves increases in the magnitude of a response to a stimulus after repeated exposures to the same response initiator. Administration of psychomotor stimulants and the induction of appetitive motivational states associated with natural reinforcers like sugar and salt are among experimental manipulations producing behavioral sensitization. In rats, repeated administration of the mineralocorticoid agonist deoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA) initially induces incremental increases in daily hypertonic saline consumption (i.e., sensitization of sodium appetite) in spite of the retention of sodium. The present studies investigated whether sodium appetite sensitization induced by DOCA shares mechanisms similar to those of psychomotor stimulant-induced sensitization, and whether there is evidence for reciprocal cross-sensitization. In Experiments 1 and 3, rats received control or cocaine treatments to induce locomotor sensitization. A week later DOCA (or vehicle) was administered to generate a sodium appetite. Animals pretreated with cocaine showed a greater sodium appetite. In Experiment 2, the order of the putative sensitizing treatments was reversed. Rats first received either a series of DOCA or vehicle treatments either with or without access to saline and were later tested for sensitization of the locomotor response to cocaine. Animals pretreated with DOCA without access to saline showed greater locomotor responses to cocaine than animals receiving vehicle treatments. Together these experiments indicate that treatments generating a sustained salt appetite and producing cocaine-induced psychomotor responses show reciprocal behavioral cross-sensitization. The underlying mechanisms accounting for this relationship may be the fact that psychostimulants and an unresolved craving for sodium can act as potent stressors.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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