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Behav Brain Res. 2002 Oct 17;136(1):151-60.

Unconditioned and conditioned factors contribute to the 'reinstatement' of cocaine place conditioning following extinction in C57BL/6 mice.

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Department of Physiology and Neuroscience, Basic Science Building, Suite 403, Medical University of South Carolina, 173 Ashley Avenue, Charleston 29425, USA.


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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