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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2009 Dec;34(13):2767-78. doi: 10.1038/npp.2009.127. Epub 2009 Sep 9.

Environmental enrichment reduces cocaine seeking and reinstatement induced by cues and stress but not by cocaine.

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Institut de Physiologie et Biologie Cellulaires, Université de Poitiers, CNRS, Poitiers, France.


Whereas earlier studies have focused on the preventive effects of enriched environments (EE) in drug addiction, in a recent study we suggested that EE can also have 'curative' effects. In fact, we found that cocaine addiction-related behaviors can be eliminated by housing cocaine-treated mice in EE during periods of forced abstinence. However, those results were obtained with two simple models of addiction, conditioned place preference (CPP), and behavioral sensitization. In this study, we used intravenous drug self-administration procedures in rats to further investigate the beneficial effects of EE on cocaine addiction in a reinstatement model of relapse. Singly housed rats learned to self-administer cocaine during 10 consecutive daily sessions (0.6 mg/injection, 6 h/day). They were then housed three per cage in either standard environments (SE) or EE and were kept abstinent in the animal facility until testing for extinction and reinstatement. We found that 30 days of EE significantly and consistently reduced cocaine seeking during a 6-h extinction session. In addition, EE significantly reduced cue- and stress-induced reinstatement. Surprisingly, given our earlier results in mice with CPP, EE did not reduce cocaine-induced reinstatement regardless of the level of exposure to cocaine and the duration of the period of abstinence and exposure to EE. Altogether, these results support the hypothesis that EE can reduce cocaine-induced craving and highlight the importance of positive life conditions in facilitating abstinence and preventing relapse to cocaine addiction.

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