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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1997 Feb;129(3):277-84.

Predisposition to self-administer amphetamine: the contribution of response to novelty and prior exposure to the drug.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


The present experiment examined the contribution of locomotor response to novelty and prior exposure to amphetamine to rats' predisposition to self-administer a low dose of the drug. Rats were screened for their locomotor response to a novel environment and divided into high (HR) or low (LR) responders based on whether their locomotor scores were above or below the median activity level of the subject sample. Animals were then pre-exposed to nine daily injections of either saline (1 ml/kg, i.p.) or amphetamine (1.5 mg/kg, i.p.). Starting 1 week after pre-exposure, animals in the four different groups (HR pre-exposed to saline or amphetamine; LR pre-exposed to saline or amphetamine) were given the opportunity, in each of ten daily sessions, to lever press for a low dose of amphetamine (10 micrograms/kg per infusion) in a two lever (active versus inactive) continuous reinforcement operant task. Initial lever press performance revealed no difference in active versus inactive lever pressing between amphetamine and saline pre-exposed animals. However, in agreement with previous reports, with successive test sessions amphetamine pre-exposed rats maintained higher levels of active versus inactive lever pressing for drug while saline pre-exposed rats showed a progressive decrease in the pressing of either lever. Interestingly, this enhanced active lever pressing was observed in HR but not LR rats pre-exposed to amphetamine. In addition, HR saline pre-exposed animals showed initial active versus inactive lever pressing equivalent to that of HR amphetamine pretreated rats but this enhanced responding for drug diminished over days and by the last day of self-administration was indistinguishable from that of LR animals having been pre-exposed either to amphetamine or saline. These findings confirm that prior exposure to amphetamine promotes the subsequent self-administration of the drug and suggest that response to novelty may be a predictor more closely linked to an animal's propensity to become sensitized to the facilitatory effects of the drug rather than to an animal's current sensitization state and predisposition to self-administer the drug.

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