In this study, the authors examined the long-term effects of prior exposure to cocaine on a delay-discounting task commonly used to measure impulsive choice. Male Long-Evans rats received daily intraperitoneal injections of 30 mg/kg cocaine HCl or saline for 14 days. Following 3 weeks of withdrawal, rats began training. On each trial, rats were given a choice between 2 levers. A press on 1 lever resulted in immediate delivery of a single 45-mg food pellet, and a press on the other resulted in delivery of 4 pellets after a delay period. Impulsive choice was defined as preference for the small immediate over the large delayed reward. Three months after treatment, cocaine-exposed rats displayed increased impulsive choice behavior. They also showed less anticipatory responding (entries into the food trough) during the delays prior to reward delivery, indicating that the enhanced impulsive choice in these rats may be related to deficits in bridging the delay between response and reward. These data demonstrate that cocaine exposure can cause enduring increases in impulsive choice behavior, consistent with observations in human subjects with drug addictions.
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