Certain or uncertain cocaine expectations influences accumbens dopamine responses to self-administered cocaine and non-rewarded operant behavior

Manoranjan S. D’Souza, Ohio Northern University
Christine L. Duvauchelle, University of Texas at Austin


Uncertainty and errors in predicting natural rewards influence associative learning and dopamine activity. The present study was conducted to determine the influence of cue-induced cocaine uncertainty, certainty and prediction error on nucleus accumbens dopamine (NAcc DA) in rats. For Certainty training, distinctive sensory cues were present during cocaine availability and alternate cues were paired with non-reinforced (saline) operant sessions. For Uncertainty training, all cues were equally associated with both cocaine and non-reinforcement. After training, animals self-administered cocaine or saline in the presence of conditioned cues while NAcc DA responses were assessed using in vivo microdialysis. Findings revealed cocaine-stimulated NAcc DA increased significantly less in Certainty- compared to Uncertainty-trained animals, and cocaine-paired cues in the absence of cocaine (Negative Prediction Error) resulted in a significant depression of baseline NAcc DA. These findings provide support for enhanced DA activity during cocaine uncertainty or the development of conditioned cocaine tolerance in subjects certain of a cocaine outcome.