Male Lister hooded rats were raised from weaning either alone (isolation reared) or in groups of five (socially reared controls). At 5 months of age, experiments began. Experiment 1 examined the effect of isolation rearing upon the locomotor response to a novel environment, and the locomotor stimulant effect of an injection of cocaine (10 mg/kg). Isolation reared animals were more active in a novel environment, and were more responsive to the locomotor stimulant action of cocaine. In succeeding experiments, the effects of isolation rearing on the reinforcing efficacy of intravenous cocaine were assessed. Animals were never "primed" with noncontingent infusions of cocaine at any time during these experiments. In experiment 2, the effect of isolation rearing upon the acquisition of the intravenous self-administration of cocaine was examined. Two levers were present in the operant chambers. Depression of one lever resulted in the intravenous delivery of a 1.5 mg/kg infusion of cocaine, responses on the second, control lever were recorded but had no programmed consequences. Isolation reared animals acquired a selective response on the drug lever at a slower rate than socially reared controls. In experiment 3, a full cocaine dose-response function was examined. Isolation rearing shifted the cocaine dose-response function to the right. In addition, isolation rearing impaired the selectivity of the response on the drug lever at lower doses of cocaine. In experiment 4, the effect of isolation rearing upon the response to a conditioned reinforcer associated previously with cocaine delivery was observed. In the absence of cocaine, the contingent presentation of the conditioned reinforcer enhanced selectively the rate of response by socially reared controls. However, isolation reared animals were unresponsive to this manipulation. These data are discussed with reference to dysfunctional cortico-limbic-striatal systems, and their interactions with the mesoaccumbens dopamine projection.