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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012 Feb 1;121(1-2):140-7. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.08.022. Epub 2011 Sep 16.

Extinguished cocaine cues increase drug seeking when presented simultaneously with a non-extinguished cocaine cue.

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Psychology Department, American University, Washington, DC 20016, United States.



Previous research with non-drug reinforcers has shown that simultaneously presenting (compounding) an extinguished cue with another cue formerly associated with the same reinforcer can increase rates of cue-controlled behavior. The present study investigated whether an extinguished cocaine cue would energize cocaine seeking when presented simultaneously with another cocaine cue. This study also investigated whether extinction could be enhanced by subjecting an extinguished cocaine cue to further extinction after administration of reinstating injections of cocaine.


Rats were first trained to self-administer cocaine in the presence of three different cues. Then, one of the cues was subjected to the standard extinction treatment. Another cue was subjected to a modified extinction treatment where additional extinction sessions were preceded by non-contingent cocaine injections. The third cue was not extinguished.


The cue subjected to standard extinction ceased to control cocaine seeking when presented alone, but significantly increased cocaine seeking when compounded with the non-extinguished cocaine cue. The cocaine cue subjected to the modified extinction treatment also significantly increased cocaine seeking occasioned by the non-extinguished cocaine cue.


Extending results of previous studies involving non-drug stimuli, the present study showed that extinguished cocaine cues can enhance cocaine seeking when compounded with other cocaine cues. These results illustrate the persistence of drug cues in controlling behavior despite extinction and highlight the need for developing treatments that eliminate this residual energizing capacity that survives extinction.

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