Impact of pubertal and adult estradiol treatments on cocaine self-administration

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Estradiol is thought to play a critical role in the increased vulnerability to psychostimulant abuse in women. Sex differences in the ability of estradiol to influence cocaine self-administration in adult rats have been hypothesized to depend upon pubertal estradiol exposure. The current study investigated whether the presence of gonadal hormones during puberty affected cocaine self-administration behavior and its sensitivity to adult estradiol treatment in male and female Sprague–Dawley rats. Subjects were gonadectomized or SHAM-operated at postnatal day (PD) 22, and received either OIL or estradiol benzoate (EB) during the approximate time of puberty (PD27 to PD37). Adult rats were subsequently treated with either EB or OIL 30 min before cocaine self-administration (0.3 mg/kg/inf) in order to examine the effects of pubertal manipulations on the estradiol sensitivity of acquisition on a fixed ratio (FR) 1 schedule, total intake on a FR5 schedule and motivation on a progressive ratio schedule. Adult EB treatment only affected cocaine self-administration in females, which is consistent with previous research. Adult EB treatment enhanced acquisition in all females irrespective of puberty manipulations. All females, except those treated with EB during puberty, displayed increased cocaine intake following adult EB treatment. Adult EB treatment only enhanced motivation in females that were intact during puberty, whereas those treated with EB during puberty showed reduced motivation. Therefore, the sensitivities of different self-administration behaviors to adult estradiol treatment are organized independently in females, with pubertal estradiol exerting a greater influence over motivational processes, and negligible effects on learning/acquisition.

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