Amphetamine-Induced Sensitization and Reward Uncertainty Similarly Enhance Incentive Salience for Conditioned Cues


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Abstract

Amphetamine and stress can sensitize mesolimbic dopamine-related systems. In Pavlovian autoshaping, repeated exposure to uncertainty of reward prediction can enhance motivated sign-tracking or attraction to a discrete reward-predicting cue (lever-conditioned stimulus; CS+), as well as produce cross-sensitization to amphetamine. However, it remains unknown how amphetamine sensitization or repeated restraint stress interact with uncertainty in controlling CS+ incentive salience attribution reflected in sign-tracking. Here rats were tested in 3 successive phases. First, different groups underwent either induction of amphetamine sensitization or repeated restraint stress, or else were not sensitized or stressed as control groups (either saline injections only, or no stress or injection at all). All next received Pavlovian autoshaping training under either certainty conditions (100% CS–UCS association) or uncertainty conditions (50% CS–UCS association and uncertain reward magnitude). During training, rats were assessed for sign-tracking to the CS+ lever versus goal-tracking to the sucrose dish. Finally, all groups were tested for psychomotor sensitization of locomotion revealed by an amphetamine challenge. Our results confirm that reward uncertainty enhanced sign-tracking attraction toward the predictive CS+ lever, at the expense of goal-tracking. We also reported that amphetamine sensitization promoted sign-tracking even in rats trained under CS–UCS certainty conditions, raising them to sign-tracking levels equivalent to the uncertainty group. Combining amphetamine sensitization and uncertainty conditions did not add together to elevate sign-tracking further above the relatively high levels induced by either manipulation alone. In contrast, repeated restraint stress enhanced subsequent amphetamine-elicited locomotion, but did not enhance CS+ attraction.

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