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J Neurosci. 2000 Sep 15;20(18):7109-15.

Acute and chronic dopamine dynamics in a nonhuman primate model of recreational cocaine use.

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Departments of Psychiatry and Laboratory Medicine, West Haven Veterans Administration Hospital and Yale University School of Medicine, West Haven, Connecticut 06516, USA.


Using a model of recreational cocaine consumption, we have determined in four rhesus monkeys the impact of self-administered cocaine on mesolimbic and sensorimotor striatal dopaminergic neurotransmission. The effects of cocaine repeated within a self-administration session and across multiple sessions over a 6 month period were determined by the use of fixed-ratio self-administration and microdialysis procedures. The exposure to cocaine was modest, with at most two 0.5 mg/kg infusions permitted in each weekly session. Within a cocaine self-administration session, acute tolerance to the ability of cocaine to elevate extracellular striatal dopamine was observed. Over a period of 6 months of repeated self-administration, there was a significant increase in the impact of a fixed dose on extracellular dopamine, indicating that neurochemical sensitization to the effects of self-administered cocaine occurs in primates. A pronounced dopaminergic response to noncontingent cocaine was also observed, with no increases in extracellular dopamine in response to an unexpected saline substitution, indicating that the neurochemical response to self-administered cocaine is primarily caused by direct pharmacological effects of the drug rather than by conditioning to external environmental cues. These results highlight the contrast in time-dependent changes in neurochemical responsiveness to cocaine, depending on whether within-session or between-session comparisons are made. They also demonstrate that recreational levels of cocaine consumption can result in neurochemical sensitization, an enduring change in brain function that may contribute to addiction.

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