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Reversal of cocaine-conditioned place preference and mesocorticolimbic Zif268 expression by social interaction in rats

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Little is known how social interaction, if offered as an alternative to drug consumption, affects neural circuits involved in drug reinforcement and substance dependence. Conditioned place preference (CPP) for cocaine (15 mg/kg i.p.) or social interaction (15 minutes) as an alternative stimulus was investigated in male Sprague-Dawley rats. Four social interaction episodes with a male adult conspecific completely reversed cocaine CPP and were even able to prevent reacquisition of cocaine CPP. Social interaction also reversed cocaine CPP-induced expression of the immediate-early gene zif268 in the nucleus accumbens shell, the central and basolateral amygdala and the ventral tegmental area. These findings suggest that social interaction, if offered in a context that is clearly distinct from the previously drug-associated ones, may profoundly decrease the incentive salience of drug-associated contextual stimuli. The novel experimental design facilitates the neurobiological investigation of this phenomenon which may be beneficial for human drug users in treatment.
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Keywords: Cocaine; conditioned place preference; relapse; social interaction; substance dependence; zif268

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Experimental Psychiatry Unit 2: Institute for Neuroscience 3: Medical University Innsbruck, Austria, Center for Drug Abuse Research Translation, University of Kentucky, USA 4: Department of General Psychiatry and Social Psychiatry

Publication date: 01 April 2011

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