Experience-dependent effects of cocaine self-administration/conditioning on prefrontal and accumbens dopamine responses

Aiko Ikegami, University of Texas at Austin
Christopher M. Olsen, University of Texas at Austin
Manoranjan S. D’Souza, Ohio Northern University
Christine L. Duvauchelle, University of Texas at Austin


Experiments were performed to examine the effects of cocaine self-administration and conditioning experience on operant behavior, locomotor activity, and nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and prefrontal cortex (PFC) dopamine (DA) responses. Sensory cues were paired with alternating cocaine and nonreinforcement during 12 (limited training) or 40 (long-term training) daily operant sessions. After limited training, NAcc DA responses to cocaine were significantly enhanced in the presence of cocaine-associated cues compared with nonreward cues and significantly depressed after cocaine-paired cues accompanied a nonreinforced lever response. PFC DA levels were generally nonresponsive to cues after the same training duration. However, after long-term training, cocaine-associated cues increased the magnitude of cocaine-stimulated PFC DA levels significantly over levels observed with nonreinforcement cues. Conversely, conditioned cues no longer influenced NAcc DA levels after long-term training. In addition, cocaine-stimulated locomotor activity was enhanced by cocaine-paired cues after long-term, but not after limited, training. Findings demonstrate that cue-induced cocaine expectation exerts a significant impact on dopaminergic and behavioral systems, progressing from mesolimbic to mesocortical regions and from latent to patent behaviors as cocaine and associative experiences escalate.