The mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system has been implicated in conditioned reward (CR), locomotor sensitization, and the reinforcing properties of psychomotor stimulants. Stimuli with formerly motivationally neutral properties that gain incentive properties by their predictive association with primary reinforcers are termed conditioned, or secondary, reinforcers. In these experiments, we investigated whether cocaine sensitization could potentiate augmented responding for CR produced by intra-accumbens amphetamine. After subjects were trained on the CR paradigm for 14 days, they received a regimen of cocaine sensitization or saline injections. On 2 test days, 8-10 days later, subjects were given amphetamine (6 microg/0.5 microl) or saline infusions into the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and responding for CR was measured using the "acquisition of a new response" paradigm. Responding on one novel lever resulted in the delivery of the conditioned stimulus (conditioned reinforcer, or CR lever), whereas responding on the other lever resulted in no CR stimulus presentation (NCR lever). Animals sensitized to cocaine showed increased responding on the CR lever after intra-NAc saline and potentiated CR lever responding after intra-NAc amphetamine. No differences in responding between the cocaine- and saline-treated groups on the NCR lever after the challenge were found. Locomotor sensitization under these conditions was confirmed in a separate group of subjects. These findings show that prior exposures to cocaine results in changes that potentiate the ability of intra-NAc amphetamine to enhance CR. Repeated stimulant drug use may induce long-term neuronal adaptations that result in increased sensitivity to the behavioral, or incentive motivational, effects of stimulant drugs.