Neonatal isolation stress potentiates cocaine seeking behavior in adult male and female rats

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2005 Feb;30(2):322-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1300594.


Little is known with regard to how sex and stress might interact as vulnerability factors in cocaine abuse. In this study, we compared the effects of neonatal isolation stress on cocaine self-administration under extended access conditions and on subsequent responding in a cue-induced reinstatement paradigm in adult male and female rats. Pups from each litter were subjected to either neonatal isolation (1 h/day) or brief daily handling from postnatal day 2 through 12. Adults rats were then trained to self-administer cocaine, and once they acquired lever responding for cocaine under a fixed ratio 1 schedule, they were given 24-h access to intravenous cocaine infusions (1.5 mg/kg) that were available in discrete trials (4, 10 min trials/h) for 7 consecutive days. At 10 days after the last discrete trial session, responding was assessed during six to eight 1-h extinction sessions that were followed by a 1-h cue-induced reinstatement session. Results revealed that females took more cocaine than did males over the 7-day discrete trial self-administration period and tended to respond at higher levels during the initial extinction sessions. Although intake did not differ between handled control rats and isolated rats under extended access conditions, stress effects were observed under subsequent extinction and cue-induced reinstatement testing conditions with isolated rats responding at higher levels during both phases. Notably, stress seemed to obscure sex differences in extinction responding such both isolated males and females responded at high levels. These findings demonstrate robust and enduring effects of neonatal isolation stress on cocaine seeking behavior in adult male and female rats.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / physiology*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Cues
  • Extinction, Psychological / drug effects
  • Female
  • Handling, Psychological
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recurrence
  • Self Administration
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Social Isolation*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*