Decreased motivation following cocaine self-administration under extended access conditions: effects of sex and ovarian hormones

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2005 May;30(5):927-35. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1300656.


We have previously shown that following extended access to cocaine, females, but not males, show marked increases in motivation to obtain cocaine, and we have hypothesized that such changes may contribute to long-term compulsive aspects of addiction that result in a persistent vulnerability to relapse. Here, we investigate the effects of extended cocaine access on short-term motivational changes in both male and female rats. An additional goal was to determine whether estrogen modulates motivation to self-administer cocaine in female rats following extended access to cocaine. A discrete trial procedure was used that allowed rats 24-h access to cocaine infusions (1.5 mg/kg) that were available in discrete trials (four, 10-min trials/h) for 7 consecutive days. Motivation to obtain cocaine was assessed by responding under a progressive ratio schedule, and preference for sucrose (1%) vs water was assessed using a two-bottle, 24-h test. Each was assessed prior to and immediately following discrete trial cocaine self-administration. Results showed that following discrete trial cocaine self-administration, both males and females showed a decrease in preference for sucrose, but only females showed a reduction in levels of responding for cocaine under the progressive ratio schedule, suggesting a sex difference in motivation that was specific to cocaine. Subsequent studies with ovariectomized rats showed that estrogen replacement blocked the decrease in motivation to obtain cocaine infusions. Together, these findings suggest that there is a dissociation between sex and the short- vs long-term alteration in motivation to use cocaine. The mechanisms that may underlie these observed sex differences, including the role of estrogen, are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Ovariectomy
  • Rats
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Self Administration
  • Taste / drug effects
  • Vagina / cytology
  • Vagina / drug effects


  • Estrogens
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Cocaine