A method for evaluating cocaine-induced social preference in rats
Drug addicts are extremely sensitive to cues that predict drug availability and exposure to these cues can facilitate drug relapse. Cues vary in their nature but can include drug-associated paraphernalia, environmental contexts, and discrete conditioned stimuli (e.g., advertisements). One cue that has recently been heavily investigated is that of social interaction. To date, it has been demonstrated that when cocaine is conditioned with social interaction, place preference for cocaine significantly increases, suggesting that the presence of social interaction during a drug-associated “high” enhances the magnitude of drug reward. When social interaction is provided in a mutually exclusive, non-drug environment though, it can serve as a preventative stimulus towards cocaine seeking. What remains unknown is whether contact with rats associated with drug experience facilitates preferential social interactions for those rats. The first step in answering this question is to determine if rats can behaviorally discriminate between drug-associated and non-drug-associated conspecifics, much like humans can differentiate their “drug-friends” from their non-drug-using friends. Using a custom social interaction chamber, in which rats were able to interact with two distinct conspecifics via holes in a boundary wall, we demonstrate that rats exhibit more interactive and investigative behavior towards a partner that was consistently present during the drug-state, than a partner that was present when the rat was “sober”. It is our hope that this protocol will contribute to the development of models designed to study social cue-induced reinstatement, and related neural substrates, and will ultimately contribute to the treatment of substance use disorders.
COCAINE, SOCIAL INTERACTIONS, CONDITIONED PLACE PREFERENCE
Citation: Dingess PM, Deters MJ, Darling RA, Yarborough EA, Brown TE. A method for evaluating cocaine-induced social preference in rats. J Biol Methods 2017;4(1):e66. doi: 10.14440/jbm.2017.145
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