Enduring resistance to extinction of cocaine-seeking behavior induced by drug-related cues

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The conditioning of cocaine's pharmacological actions with environmental stimuli is thought to be a critical factor in long-lasting relapse risk associated with cocaine addiction. To study the significance of environmental stimuli in enduring vulnerability to relapse, the resistance to extinction of drug-seeking behavior elicited by a cocaine-related stimulus was examined. Male Wistar rats were trained to associate discriminative stimuli (SD) with the availability of intravenous cocaine (S+) vs. the availability of non-rewarding (S-) saline solution, and then placed on extinction conditions during which intravenous solutions and SD were withheld. The rats were then presented with the S+ or S- alone in 60-min reinstatement sessions conducted at 3-day intervals. To examine the long-term persistence of the motivating effects of the cocaine S+, a subgroup of rats was re-tested following an additional three months of abstinence during which time the rats remained confined to their home cages. Re-exposure to the cocaine S+ selectively elicited robust responding at the previously active lever. The efficacy and selectivity of this stimulus to elicit responding remained unaltered throughout a 34-day phase of repeated testing as well as following the additional extended abstinence period. In pharmacological tests, conducted in a separate group of rats, the dopamine (DA) D1 antagonist SCH 39166 (10 μg/kg), the D2/3 antagonist nafadotride (1 mg/kg), and the D2/3 agonist PD 128907 (0.3 mg/kg) suppressed the cue-induced response reinstatement while the D1 agonist SKF 81297 (1.0 mg/kg) produced a variable behavioral profile attenuating cue-induced responding in some rats while exacerbating this behavior in others. The results suggest that the motivating effects of cocaine-related stimuli are highly resistant to extinction. The undiminished efficacy of the cocaine S+ to induce drug-seeking behavior both with repeated testing and following long-term abstinence parallels the long-lasting nature of conditioned cue reactivity and cue-induced cocaine craving in humans, and confirms a significant role of learning factors in long-lasting vulnerability to relapse associated with cocaine addiction. Finally, the results support a role of DA neurotransmission in cue-induced cocaine-seeking behavior. © 2001 American college of Neuropsychopharmacology. Published by Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.




Weiss, F., Martin-Fardon, R., Ciccocioppo, R., Kerr, T. M., Smith, D. L., & Ben-Shahar, O. (2001). Enduring resistance to extinction of cocaine-seeking behavior induced by drug-related cues. Neuropsychopharmacology, 25(3), 361–372. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0893-133X(01)00238-X

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