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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Feb;40(3):577-89. doi: 10.1038/npp.2014.204. Epub 2014 Aug 14.

High locomotor reactivity to novelty is associated with an increased propensity to choose saccharin over cocaine: new insights into the vulnerability to addiction.

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INSERM CIC-1402, Université de Poitiers, Ecole Doctorale Biosanté, Poitiers, France.
Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
Department of Psychology, Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
INSERM, Avenir Team Psychobiology of Compulsive Disorders, Université de Poitiers, Pôle Biologie Santé, Poitiers, France.


Drug addiction is associated with a relative devaluation of natural or socially-valued reinforcers that are unable to divert addicts from seeking and consuming the drug. Before protracted drug exposure, most rats prefer natural rewards, such as saccharin, over cocaine. However, a subpopulation of animals prefer cocaine over natural rewards and are thought to be vulnerable to addiction. Specific behavioral traits have been associated with different dimensions of drug addiction. For example, anxiety predicts loss of control over drug intake whereas sensation seeking and sign-tracking are markers of a greater sensitivity to the rewarding properties of the drug. However, how these behavioral traits predict the disinterest for natural reinforcers remains unknown. In a population of rats, we identified sensation seekers (HR) on the basis of elevated novelty-induced locomotor reactivity, high anxious rats (HA) based on the propensity to avoid open arms in an elevated-plus maze and sign-trackers (ST) that are prone to approach, and interaction with, reward-associated stimuli. Rats were then tested on their preference for saccharin over cocaine in a discrete-trial choice procedure. We show that HR rats display a greater preference for saccharin over cocaine compared with ST and HA whereas the motivation for the drug was comparable between the three groups. The present data suggest that high locomotor reactivity to novelty, or sensation seeking, by predisposing to an increased choice toward non-drug rewards at early stages of drug use history, may prevent the establishment of chronic cocaine use.

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