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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2016 Apr;233(8):1501-11. doi: 10.1007/s00213-016-4247-4. Epub 2016 Mar 10.

Ultrasonic vocalization in rats self-administering heroin and cocaine in different settings: evidence of substance-specific interactions between drug and setting.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology "Vittorio Erspamer", Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.
Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology "Vittorio Erspamer", Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.
Sussex Addiction Research and Intervention Centre (SARIC), School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.



Clinical and preclinical evidence indicates that the setting of drug use affects drug reward in a substance-specific manner. Heroin and cocaine co-abusers, for example, indicated distinct settings for the two drugs: heroin being used preferentially at home and cocaine preferentially outside the home. Similar results were obtained in rats that were given the opportunity to self-administer intravenously both heroin and cocaine.


The goal of the present study was to investigate the possibility that the positive affective state induced by cocaine is enhanced when the drug is taken at home relative to a non-home environment, and vice versa for heroin.


To test this hypothesis, we trained male rats to self-administer both heroin and cocaine on alternate days and simultaneously recorded the emission of ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs), as it has been reported that rats emit 50-kHz USVs when exposed to rewarding stimuli, suggesting that these USVs reflect positive affective states.


We found that Non-Resident rats emitted more 50-kHz USVs when they self-administered cocaine than when self-administered heroin whereas Resident rats emitted more 50-kHz USVs when self-administering heroin than when self-administering cocaine. Differences in USVs in Non-Resident rats were more pronounced during the first self-administration (SA) session, when the SA chambers were completely novel to them. In contrast, the differences in USVs in Resident rats were more pronounced during the last SA sessions.


These findings indicate that the setting of drug taking exerts a substance-specific influence on the ability of drugs to induce positive affective states.


Affect; Cocaine; Context; Drug abuse; Emotion; Environment; Heroin; Reward; Self-administration; Setting; USVs; Ultrasonic vocalizations

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