Initial rewarding effects of cocaine and amphetamine assessed in a day using the single-exposure place preference protocol

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In rodents, only a single dose of cocaine or amphetamine is required to cause a marked increase in extracellular dopamine, induce hyperlocomotion and cause persistent plasticity changes within dopaminergic neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA). The initial drug experience is suggested to predict vulnerability of developing addiction, but only few studies have assessed the perception of reward accompanying this initial exposure. We recently presented an approach to assess the initial rewarding effects of cocaine in mice with a single-exposure place preference (sePP) protocol, avoiding repeated drug injections. Here, we demonstrate a condensed version of the sePP, allowing assessment of initial subjective reward-perception within a day. By using this protocol, we demonstrate that a single exposure to both cocaine and amphetamine is sufficient to induce place preference. Furthermore, we use chemogenetics (Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs [DREADD]) to show that both inhibitory and stimulatory modulation of VTA DA signalling disrupts cocaine-induced place preference in the condensed sePP. Our findings support the presence of initial reward-perception of both cocaine and amphetamine, and the formation of drug-context association. In addition, our data support that VTA DA signalling prior to drug exposure affects either reward-perception or the time during which associations are formed, thereby preventing induction of cocaine-induced place preference in the sePP. The easy and timesaving sePP protocol should form a critical basis for further deciphering the complex mechanisms underlying the progression from the initial drug experience to escalating drug intake and addiction.

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