High levels of wheel running protect against behavioral sensitization to cocaine

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Although there is no doubt that the direct action of stimulant drugs on the brain is necessary for sensitization to their behavioral stimulating effects, several experiments indicate that drug action is often not sufficient to produce sensitization. There is considerable evidence that many individual characteristics and experiential variables can modulate the behavioral and neural changes that are seen following repeated exposure to stimulant drugs. In the work presented here, we examined whether chronic wheel running would modulate behavioral sensitization to cocaine, and whether any such influence was contingent on individual differences in wheel running. We found that a 5- or 10-week experience with wheel running protects against behavioral sensitization to cocaine but only in animals with a natural tendency to run the most. Understanding the mechanism underlying the modulating effect of wheel running on behavioral sensitization may have important implications for future studies on the link between drug-induced behavioral and neural adaptations.


▸ Wheel running can have a modulating effect on behavioral sensitization to cocaine.


▸ This influence depends on individual differences in wheel running.


▸ Rats that run the most fail to show sensitization after 5 or 10 weeks wheel running.

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