Pre-trial cocaine biases choice toward cocaine through suppression of the nondrug option


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Abstract

Being under the influence during choice between drug and nondrug options can have a dramatic effect on choice outcomes. When rats face a choice between cocaine and sweet water and are not under the influence, they prefer sweet water. In contrast, when they are under the influence of cocaine, this causes them to shift their choice to cocaine nearly exclusively. Here we sought to characterize the behavioral mechanisms underlying the influence of cocaine on choice. In theory, rats under the influence of cocaine should be in a mixed motivational state, at least temporarily, with both their motivation for cocaine and their motivation for the nondrug option suppressed by the drug satiating and anorexic effects of cocaine, respectively. For this mixed state to shift choice to cocaine, the satiated motivation for cocaine should recover before the suppressed motivation for the preferred nondrug option. The goal of the present study was to test this prediction in rats that expressed a preference for sweet water after extended access to cocaine self-administration. We measured their choice and response latencies to each option after pre-trial, passive administration of cocaine to estimate the duration of its drug satiating and anorexic effects. As expected, pre-trial cocaine caused most rats to shift their choice to cocaine. Though this shift was not simply due to a longer latency to respond for sweet water than for cocaine after pre-trial cocaine, it nevertheless occurred while rats' motivation for the nondrug option was still partially suppressed. Thus, cocaine seems to bias choice toward more cocaine mainly via suppression of the nondrug option.HighlightsBeing drugged or not during choice can dramatically influence choice outcomes.When not under the influence of cocaine, rats prefer sweet water over cocaine.In contrast, when under the influence, most rats shift their choice toward cocaine.This reversal of preference is mainly due a suppression of the motivation for sweet water.

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