Abstinence environment contributes to age differences in reinstatement of cocaine seeking between adolescent and adult male rats

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Extinction responding and cue-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking after 60-days of forced abstinence are attenuated in male rats that self-administered cocaine during adolescence, compared with adults. Given that environmental enrichment during abstinence decreases reinstatement among adults, a possible explanation for attenuated reinstatement among adolescents is that standard pair-housing in prior studies creates a more stimulating environment for younger rats.


Therefore, we tested whether standard pair-housing is necessary for the attenuated reinstatement among adolescents by determining whether an impoverished environment during abstinence would increase reinstatement among adolescents, up to adult levels. Conversely, we also tested whether environmental enrichment could further decrease reinstatement among adolescents, and whether we could replicate effects of environmental enrichment to decrease reinstatement among adults down to adolescent levels (positive controls).


Adolescent and adult male Wistar rats self-administered cocaine intravenously for 12 days (fixed ratio 1; 0.36 mg/kg per infusion; 2 h sessions). Rats were then moved into enriched (grouped, large cages, novel toys), standard (pair-housed, shoebox cages), or impoverished (isolated, hanging cages) housing conditions. After 60 days, extinction and cue-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking were tested, followed by drug-primed reinstatement (0, 5, 10 mg/kg cocaine, i.p.).


Consistent with previous results, extinction and cue-induced reinstatement were attenuated in adolescent-onset groups compared with adults; this age difference also extended to drug-primed reinstatement. In support of the present hypothesis, an impoverished environment during abstinence increased reinstatement among adolescents to levels that were not different from adult standard-housing levels.


These data suggest that abstinence environment influences the enduring effects of cocaine among adolescents as well as adults.

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