Dissociation of psychomotor sensitization from compulsive cocaine consumption

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2006 Mar;31(3):563-71. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1300834.


The transition from drug use to drug addiction is associated with a process of escalation, whereby drug use becomes excessive and difficult to control. Several mechanisms have been advanced to explain escalating patterns of drug use as opposed to nonescalating patterns. Although current evidence favors hedonic tolerance, there remains some dispute about the contribution of behavioral sensitization to cocaine intake escalation. Here, we concurrently assessed the ability of cocaine to induce psychomotor sensitization and drug-seeking behavior in animals with 1-h (short access or ShA) vs 6-h (long access or LgA) access to intravenous (i.v.) cocaine self-administration. As expected, cocaine intake by LgA rats escalated over time and became excessive compared to cocaine intake by ShA rats, which remained low and stable. Despite escalated levels of cocaine consumption, however, LgA rats were not more sensitized to cocaine than ShA rats. The dose-effect function for cocaine-induced locomotion (0.125-1 mg, i.v.) was shifted to the left in LgA rats by the same amount as in ShA rats after cocaine self-administration. In contrast, LgA rats were much more responsive than ShA rats to the motivational effects of cocaine, as measured by the ability of i.v. cocaine to reinstate extinguished drug-seeking behavior. This study demonstrates a dissociation of psychomotor sensitization from the change in motivation underlying the transition to compulsive cocaine consumption, and therefore suggests that responsiveness to the motivational effects of the drug, not psychomotor sensitization, would represent a specific behavioral marker of the transition to and maintenance of compulsive cocaine use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Self Administration


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Cocaine