Second-order schedules of drug reinforcement in rats and monkeys: measurement of reinforcing efficacy and drug-seeking behaviour

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2000 Dec;153(1):17-30. doi: 10.1007/s002130000566.


Rationale and objectives: To review the literature on the use of second-order schedules of drug reinforcement in the context of experimental investigations of the neural and pharmacological mechanisms underlying addictive behaviour in general and drug-seeking behaviour in particular.

Methods: Second-order schedules of drug reinforcement are described in which responding is maintained not only by the self-administered drug, but also by contingent presentation of drug-paired stimuli that serve as conditioned reinforcers of instrumental behaviour.

Results: The behaviour of rats and monkeys responding under second-order schedules is discussed in relation to self-administered drug dose and the importance of drug-associated cues in maintaining responding for cocaine, morphine or heroin. Drug-seeking behaviour during the period before drug is self-administered is described and compared with drug-seeking behaviour derived from other procedures. In addition, results are summarised that demonstrate the differential involvement of the amygdala and prefrontal cortex in the acquisition of cue-controlled cocaine- and heroin-seeking behaviour, as well as the effects of drugs interacting with D3 dopamine, NMDA and AMPA receptors on drug-seeking behaviour and dopaminergic correlates of drug-paired stimuli presented non-contingently and during responding for cocaine under a second-order schedule.

Conclusions: We argue that the first, drug-free interval (or other period) of responding under a second-order schedule of reinforcement has particular utility in that it provides a measure of drug-seeking behaviour and reinforcing efficacy that are not affected by the pharmacological effects of recently administered drug. It also provides a means of investigating the role of drug-paired stimuli in drug-seeking behaviour, including its behavioural, neural and neurochemical basis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Haplorhini
  • Rats
  • Reinforcement Schedule*
  • Self Administration / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*