Hippocampal synaptic plasticity and water maze learning in cocaine self-administered rats

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Aug;1074:427-37. doi: 10.1196/annals.1369.043.


Previously, we have shown that long-term potentiation (LTP) in hippocampus of Lewis rats was significantly modulated by cocaine self-administration. Using a single train of high-frequency stimulation of 100 Hz for 1s (HFS), we found an enhancement of LTP after cocaine self-administration that was maintained even during the extinction of this behavior. However, the effects of cocaine self-administration on a hippocampal-dependent spatial learning task were unknown. Therefore, in the present study our first objective was to analyze if cocaine self-administration might affect the performance in a hippocampus-dependent task, such as the Morris water maze test. Male adult Lewis (LEW) rats self-administered cocaine (1 mg/kg/injection) or saline (0.9% NaCl) for 3 weeks. Three hours after finishing the last self-administration session, animals were submitted to Morris water maze training for 3 consecutives days. A memory test was carried out 24 h after the last training session. No significant differences were found in escape latencies and time spent in the quadrant where the platform was located during training. Given that we did not find any cocaine effect on this spatial learning task, our second objective was to estimate indirectly if brain cocaine levels have failed to modulate LTP in animals that were performing the water maze trials. To this end, we tested if cocaine application to hippocampal slices of naïve subjects was able to evoke LTP. The results indicated that cocaine produced an enhanced LTP in these hippocampal slices. Taking together, the results of the present study suggest that hippocampal LTP-like processes generated after cocaine self-administration are not related to spatial learning hippocampal-dependent tasks, such as the water maze test.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects*
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Self Administration
  • Water


  • Water
  • Cocaine