Chronic variable stress and intravenous methamphetamine self-administration – Role of individual differences in behavioral and physiological reactivity to novelty

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Stress is a contributing factor to the development and maintenance of addiction in humans. However, few studies have shown that stress potentiates the rewarding and/or reinforcing effects of methamphetamine in rodent models of addiction. The present study assessed the effects of exposure to 14 days of chronic variable stress (CVS), or no stress as a control (CON), on the rewarding and reinforcing effects of methamphetamine in adult rats using the conditioned place preference (Experiment 1) and intravenous self-administration (Experiment 2) paradigms. In Experiment 2, we also assessed individual differences in open field locomotor activity, anxiety-like behavior in the elevated plus maze (EPM), and physiological responses to a novel environment as possible predictors of methamphetamine intake patterns. Exposure to CVS for 14 days did not affect overall measures of methamphetamine conditioned reward or reinforcement. However, analyses of individual differences and direct vs. indirect effects revealed that rats exhibiting high physiological reactivity and locomotor activity in the EPM and open field tests self-administered more methamphetamine and reached higher breakpoints for drug reinforcement than rats exhibiting low reactivity. In addition, CVS exposure significantly increased the proportion of rats that exhibited high reactivity, and high reactivity was significantly correlated with increased levels of methamphetamine intake. These findings suggest that individual differences in physiological and locomotor reactivity to novel environments, as well as their interactions with stress history, predict patterns of drug intake in rodent models of methamphetamine addiction. Such predictors may eventually inform future strategies for implementing individualized treatment strategies for amphetamine use disorders.

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