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PLoS One. 2009 Sep 25;4(9):e7170. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007170.

Evidence for habitual and goal-directed behavior following devaluation of cocaine: a multifaceted interpretation of relapse.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States of America.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Cocaine addiction is characterized as a chronically relapsing disorder. It is believed that cues present during self-administration become learned and increase the probability that relapse will occur when they are confronted during abstinence. However, the way in which relapse-inducing cues are interpreted by the user has remained elusive. Recent theories of addiction posit that relapse-inducing cues cause relapse habitually or automatically, bypassing processing information related to the consequences of relapse. Alternatively, other theories hypothesize that relapse-inducing cues produce an expectation of the drug's consequences, designated as goal-directed relapse. Discrete discriminative stimuli signaling the availability of cocaine produce robust cue-induced responding after thirty days of abstinence. However, it is not known whether cue-induced responding is a goal-directed action or habit.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

We tested whether cue-induced responding is a goal-directed action or habit by explicitly pairing or unpairing cocaine with LiCl-induced sickness (n = 7/group), thereby decreasing or not altering the value of cocaine, respectively. Following thirty days of abstinence, no difference in responding between groups was found when animals were reintroduced to the self-administration environment alone, indicating habitual behavior. However, upon discriminative stimulus presentations, cocaine-sickness paired animals exhibited decreased cue-induced responding relative to unpaired controls, indicating goal-directed behavior. In spite of the difference between groups revealed during abstinent testing, no differences were found between groups when animals were under the influence of cocaine.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:

Unexpectedly, both habitual and goal-directed responding occurred during abstinent testing. Furthermore, habitual or goal-directed responding may have been induced by cues that differed in their correlation with the cocaine infusion. Non-discriminative stimulus cues were weak correlates of the infusion, which failed to evoke a representation of the value of cocaine and led to habitual behavior. However, the discriminative stimulus-nearly perfectly correlated with the infusion-likely evoked a representation of the value of the infusion and led to goal-directed behavior. These data indicate that abstinent cue-induced responding is multifaceted, dynamically engendering habitual or goal-directed behavior. Moreover, since goal-directed behavior terminated habitual behavior during testing, therapeutic approaches aimed at reducing the perceived value of cocaine in addicted individuals may reduce the capacity of cues to induce relapse.

PMID:
19779607
PMCID:
PMC2744871
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0007170
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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