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Extended-access, but not limited-access, methamphetamine self-administration induces behavioral and nucleus accumbens dopamine response changes in rats



To better understand the neurobiology of methamphetamine (METH) dependence and the cognitive impairments induced by METH use, we compared the effects of extended (12 h) and limited (1 h) access to METH self-administration on locomotor activity and object place recognition, and on extracellular dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens and caudate-putamen. Rats were trained to self-administer intravenous METH (0.05 mg/kg). One group had progressively extended access up to 12-h sessions. The other group had limited-access 1-h sessions. Microdialysis experiments were conducted during a 12-h and 1-h session, in which the effects of a single METH injection (self-administered, 0.05 mg/kg, i.v.) on extracellular dopamine levels were assessed in the nucleus accumbens and caudate-putamen compared with a drug-naive group. The day after the last 12-h session and the following day experimental groups were assessed for their locomotor activities and in a place recognition procedure, respectively. The microdialysis results revealed tolerance to the METH-induced increases in extracellular dopamine only in the nucleus accumbens, but not in the caudate-putamen in the extended-access group compared with the control and limited-access groups. These effects may be associated with the increased lever-pressing and drug-seeking observed during the first hour of drug exposure in the extended-access group. This increase in drug-seeking leads to higher METH intake and may result in more severe consequences in other structures responsible for the behavioral deficits (memory and locomotor activity) observed in the extended-access group, but not in the limited-access group.