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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2014 May;349(2):192-8. doi: 10.1124/jpet.114.212993. Epub 2014 Feb 24.

Intermittent cocaine self-administration produces sensitization of stimulant effects at the dopamine transporter.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


Previous literature investigating neurobiological adaptations following cocaine self-administration has shown that high, continuous levels of cocaine intake (long access; LgA) results in reduced potency of cocaine at the dopamine transporter (DAT), whereas an intermittent pattern of cocaine administration (intermittent access; IntA) results in sensitization of cocaine potency at the DAT. Here, we aimed to determine whether these changes are specific to cocaine or translate to other psychostimulants. Psychostimulant potency was assessed by fast-scan cyclic voltammetry in brain slices containing the nucleus accumbens following IntA, short access, and LgA cocaine self-administration, as well as in brain slices from naive animals. We assessed the potency of amphetamine (a releaser), and methylphenidate (a DAT blocker, MPH). MPH was selected because it is functionally similar to cocaine and structurally related to amphetamine. We found that MPH and amphetamine potencies were increased following IntA, whereas neither was changed following LgA or short access cocaine self-administration. Therefore, whereas LgA-induced tolerance at the DAT is specific to cocaine as shown in previous work, the sensitizing effects of IntA apply to cocaine, MPH, and amphetamine. This demonstrates that the pattern with which cocaine is administered is important in determining the neurochemical consequences of not only cocaine effects but potential cross-sensitization/cross-tolerance effects of other psychostimulants as well.

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