Substance abuse is a major issue in today's society, and is an issue of critical importance in the adolescent population. Research indicates that substance use is often initiated during the adolescent period, and that brain reward areas are still undergoing changes during this time. Despite this, little research has investigated the effects of repeated drug use on the reward mechanisms of periadolescent animals. For this reason, the present study examined the effects of repeated cocaine administration on the responsiveness of the nucleus accumbens septi (NAcc) to either cocaine or saline challenge. The data indicate that repeated exposure to cocaine produces temporal shifts in the dopaminergic (DAergic) activity of the NAcc, with peak activity occurring earlier. Importantly, following repeated injections of cocaine, saline injections alone elicit increases followed by a subsequent suppression in DA overflow in the NAcc. These results suggest that the context of cocaine administration produces fundamental changes in the way that neurochemical reinforcement mechanisms respond. The expectancy of the drug alone elicits reward-related activity within the NAcc, which may play a critical role in the development of addiction. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Inc.
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