Prevention of the incubation of cocaine seeking by aerobic exercise in female rats

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 Oct;232(19):3507-13. doi: 10.1007/s00213-015-3999-6. Epub 2015 Jul 11.


Background: Recent research has demonstrated that aerobic exercise can attenuate craving for drugs of abuse and reduce escalation and reinstatement of drug-seeking behavior in animal models. The present study examined the effects of aerobic exercise on the development of the incubation of cocaine-seeking behavior or the progressive increase in cocaine seeking over a protracted withdrawal period from cocaine self-administration.

Methods: Female rats were trained to self-administer cocaine (0.4 mg/kg/inf) during daily 6-h sessions for 10 days. Subsequently, access to cocaine and cocaine-paired cues was discontinued during a 3- or 30-day withdrawal period when rats had access to either a locked or unlocked running wheel. At the end of the withdrawal period, rats were reintroduced to the operant conditioning chamber and reexposed to cocaine-paired cues to examine cocaine-seeking behavior under extinction conditions.

Results: Rats with access to a locked running wheel during 30 days of withdrawal had significantly greater cue-induced cocaine-seeking behavior than rats that had access to an unlocked running wheel for 30 days. Further, there was robust incubation of cocaine seeking in rats with access to a locked running wheel as cocaine seeking was notably elevated at 30 vs. 3 days of withdrawal. However, cocaine-seeking behavior did not differ between rats with access to an unlocked running wheel for 30 vs. 3 days, indicating that incubation of cocaine seeking was suppressed following access to exercise for 30 days.

Conclusion: Aerobic exercise during extended withdrawal from cocaine self-administration decreased incubation of cue-induced cocaine-seeking behavior and may reduce vulnerability to relapse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / prevention & control*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Cues
  • Drug-Seeking Behavior / drug effects
  • Extinction, Psychological / drug effects
  • Female
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / methods*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / psychology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Running*
  • Self Administration


  • Cocaine