Cocaine conditioning and sensitization: the habituation factor

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2006 May;84(1):128-33. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2006.04.017. Epub 2006 Jun 9.


The behavioral and neurobiological impact of cocaine can be strongly influenced by the environmental context in which the cocaine effects are experienced. In this report, we present the results of an experimental study in which the effects of environmental context in terms of novelty/familiarity upon locomotor stimulant effects of cocaine were examined. In the first phase of the study, two groups of naïve rats (N=10/group) received either cocaine (10 mg/kg) or saline immediately prior to a 20-min test in a novel open-field environment. After three daily cocaine/saline test sessions, both groups received a saline test to evaluate cocaine conditioned drug effects. In the second phase, two groups (N=10/group) were administered a 20-min saline test 1 day prior to receiving the same cocaine and saline testing regimen as in the first phase. Cocaine sensitization effects were not observed when the cocaine treatments were initiated in a novel environment but were observed when the same cocaine treatments were preceded 1 day by a single 20-min test environment exposure. The maximal locomotion sensitization effects observed, however, did not exceed the locomotor stimulant effects induced by cocaine administered in a novel environment. Thus, the cocaine sensitization manifested following a brief 20-min exposure to the test environment 1 day prior to cocaine administration represented a reversal of an inhibitory habituation effect. Cocaine-conditioned effects were also observed in both phases. These cocaine conditioned effects approximated, but did not exceed, the activation effects generated by a novel environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Conditioning, Classical*
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Cocaine