Pair housing differentially affects motivation to self-administer cocaine in male and female rats

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Female rats exhibit greater intake and motivation to self-administer cocaine. In females but not males, isolation by itself is a stressor, which could lead to increased drug intake. Therefore, we hypothesized that social housing would buffer against stress and reduce the motivation to self-administer cocaine primarily in females. Male and female Sprague-Dawley rats were housed individually or in same-sex pairs. The individually housed rats and one of each pair were allowed to self-administer (SA) a low dose of cocaine (0.2 mg/kg/inf) on a fixed ratio (FR1) schedule for one week. Motivation for cocaine SA was measured for an additional 2 weeks on a progressive ratio schedule. Isolated females had greater cocaine-intake on the FR1 schedule and greater motivation to take cocaine than males. Pair-housing in females, but not males, attenuated the motivation to take cocaine. Isolated females, but not males, showed escalation of their motivation to take cocaine, which was attenuated by pair housing of females. Concluding, the motivation to take cocaine escalates in females but not males, and pair-housing of females attenuates this escalation.

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