Prenatal Cocaine Alters Social Competition of Infant, Adolescent, and Adult Rats

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This series of experiments examined whether gestational cocaine exposure alters later social behavior exhibited during competition for biologically relevant stimuli. Rat offspring were derived from dams that received subcutaneous injections of 40 mg/kg/3cc cocaine HCl daily on gestational Days 8-20, pair-fed dams injected with saline, or nontreated control dams. Offspring competed with peers for access to a nipple in infancy, and to water in adolescence or adulthood. Prenatal cocaine exposure resulted in a decreased ability of cocaine-exposed infant rats to compete successfully for a nipple. Although adolescent and adult cocaine-exposed rats were no less successful than controls when competing for water, they exhibited a notable increase in aggression toward competitors during testing. Data provide evidence of alterations in social behavior and social competition as a result of prenatal cocaine exposure.

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