Behavioural assessment of drug reinforcement and addictive features in rodents: an overview

Addict Biol. 2006 Mar;11(1):2-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2006.00012.x.


Some psychoactive drugs are abused because of their ability to act as reinforcers. As a consequence behavioural patterns (such as drug-seeking/drug-taking behaviours) are promoted that ensure further drug consumption. After prolonged drug self-administration, some individuals lose control over their behaviour so that these drug-seeking/taking behaviours become compulsive, pervading almost all life activities and precipitating the loss of social compatibility. Thus, the syndrome of addictive behaviour is qualitatively different from controlled drug consumption. Drug-induced reinforcement can be assessed directly in laboratory animals by either operant or non-operant self-administration methods, by classical conditioning-based paradigms such as conditioned place preference or sign tracking, by facilitation of intracranial electric self-stimulation, or, alternatively by drug-induced memory enhancement. In contrast, addiction cannot be modelled in animals, at least as a whole, within the constraints of the laboratory. However, various procedures have been proposed as possible rodent analogues of addiction's major elements including compulsive drug seeking, relapse, loss of control/impulsivity, and continued drug consumption despite negative consequences. This review provides an extensive overview and a critical evaluation of the methods currently used for studying drug-induced reinforcement as well as specific features of addictive behaviour. In addition, comic strips that illustrate behavioural methods used in the drug abuse field are provided given for free download under http://www.zi-mannheim/

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Animals
  • Association Learning*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Psychological*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motivation
  • Reinforcement Schedule*
  • Reward
  • Rodentia
  • Self Stimulation
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Wit and Humor as Topic