Supersensitivity to the reinforcing effects of cocaine following 6-hydroxydopamine lesions to the medial prefrontal cortex in rats

Brain Res. 1991 Mar 15;543(2):227-35. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(91)90032-q.


The effects of neurotoxic lesions to the medial prefrontal cortex on both the acquisition and maintenance of intravenous cocaine self-administration were examined. In one experiment, acquisition of intravenous cocaine self-administration (0.25, 0.5 or 1.0 mg/kg/infusion) was measured in separate groups of rats 14 days following either a sham or 6-hydroxydopamine lesion to the medial prefrontal cortex. For sham rats, the 1.0 and 0.5 mg/kg dose supported reliable self-administration as indicated by discriminative responding. These rats reliably chose a lever that resulted in the delivery of these doses of cocaine over an inactive lever. Reinforced response rates were reduced when 0.25 mg/kg was the available dose and there was a loss of discriminative responding for some of the rats suggesting that it was close to threshold for self-administration. For rats that sustained a 70% depletion of dopamine in the medial prefrontal cortex, the dose-response curve was an inverse function across the entire dose range tested. In contrast to the data from the control rats, lesioned rats had a high rate of reinforced responses and demonstrated good discrimination for all doses including 0.25 mg/kg/infusion, suggesting a supersensitive response to the initial reward effect of cocaine. Another group of rats was first screened for reliable cocaine self-administration (0.5 mg/kg/infusion) and then subjected to either the prefrontal cortical 6-hydroxydopamine or sham lesion. Dose-response curves for cocaine self-administration were compared 14 days following the infusions. The lesioned rats responded reliably for low doses of cocaine that were unable to maintain responding in sham rats. These data support the hypothesis that the medial prefrontal cortex plays an important role in cocaine self-administration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry / drug effects
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects*
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Hydroxydopamines / toxicity*
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Oxidopamine
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Self Administration
  • Sympathectomy, Chemical*


  • Hydroxydopamines
  • Oxidopamine
  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine