Prior access to a sweet is more protective against cocaine self-administration in female rats than in male rats

Angie M. Cason, Patricia S. Grigson

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23 Scopus citations


It is well established that female rats are more sensitive than male rats to the reinforcing effects of cocaine (Lynch, 2008 [. 42] for review). We hypothesized that greater preference for cocaine would support greater avoidance of a cocaine-paired taste cue in female vs. male rats. Moreover, at least in male rats, greater avoidance of the taste cue is associated with greater cocaine self-administration (Grigson and Twining, 2002 [. 3]). Thus, we anticipated that female rats would not only demonstrate greater avoidance of the drug-paired taste cue, but greater drug-taking as well. We tested these hypotheses by examining avoidance of a saccharin cue in male and female rats following several pairings with self-administered saline or cocaine (0.16, 0.33, or 0.66. mg/infusion). Contrary to expectations, the results showed that female rats exhibited less avoidance of the cocaine-associated saccharin cue than male rats and self-administered less, rather than more, cocaine, Thus, while female rats reportedly take more drug than male rats when the drug is presented in the absence of an alternative reward, they take less drug than male rats when the opportunity to self-administer cocaine is preceded by access to a palatable sweet. Females, then, may not simply be more sensitive to the rewarding properties of drug, but also to the reinforcing properties of natural rewards and this increase in sensitivity to sweets may serve to protect against drug-taking behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-103
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - Mar 5 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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