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Cue effects on methylphenidate self-administration in rats

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Abstract

Associations between drugs and the stimuli paired with drugs have been proposed as primary factors in drug addiction and relapse. Previous research has found cues paired with drug infusions are important for many classes of drugs. The purpose of the present experiment was to determine if a cue light was necessary to engender reliable self-administration of methylphenidate (MPH), which is a widely prescribed drug for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Rats were given access to MPH (0.3 mg/kg/infusion) or saline for self-administration. Half of the rats in each group had infusions paired with a cue light, whereas the other half did not. Two additional groups of rats received MPH infusions noncontingently; one group's lever pressing turned on the cue light, and the other group's lever pressing had no consequence. Both MPH and the cue functioned as weak reinforcers on their own. The group that lever pressed for MPH paired with a cue light pressed significantly more for MPH than any other group, indicating that the cue and MPH had a synergistic effect on self-administration when combined. Taken together, these results indicate that MPH has reinforcing properties on its own, but that environmental cues also play an important role in enhancing MPH self-administration.

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