The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) has been implicated in the development of behavioral sensitization, which is the progressive enhancement of locomotor activity that occurs with repeated administration of psychostimulants. Previous data suggest that mPFC dopamine (DA) transmission may be attenuated in cocaine-sensitized animals, but the onset and duration of this effect have not been investigated. After recovery from stereotaxic surgeries, animals were given four daily injections of saline (1 ml/kg, i.p.) or cocaine (15 mg/kg, i.p.) and were subsequently challenged with saline or cocaine after 1, 7 or 30 d of withdrawal, on which days in vivo microdialysis of the mPFC was conducted simultaneously with monitoring of locomotor activity. Compared to acutely administered controls, the results in cocaine-pretreated animals were as follows: 1d of withdrawal was associated with a significant attenuation in cocaine-induced locomotion and mPFC DA overflow; after 7d, behavioral sensitization was accompanied by a significant attenuation in cocaine-induced elevations in mPFC DA levels; 30 d of withdrawal led to the expression of sensitized behaviors paralleled by an augmentation in cocaine-induced mPFC DA. These data suggest that repeated cocaine produces temporally distinct behavioral effects associated with alterations in mPFC DA responsiveness to cocaine that may be involved in the development of behavioral sensitization.