• Amygdala;
  • cocaine addiction or dependence;
  • CRF or CRH or corticotropin-releasing factor or corticotropin-releasing hormone;
  • operant intravenous drug self-administration;
  • stress;
  • neuropeptide


Cocaine-induced neuroadaptation of stress-related circuitry and increased access to cocaine each putatively contribute to the transition from cocaine use to cocaine dependence. The present study tested the hypothesis that rats receiving extended versus brief daily access to cocaine would exhibit regional differences in levels of the stress-regulatory neuropeptide corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). A secondary goal was to explore how CRF levels change in relation to the time since cocaine self-administration. Male Wistar rats acquired operant self-administration of cocaine and were assigned to receive daily long access (6 hours/day, LgA, n = 20) or short access (1 hour/day, ShA, n = 18) to intravenous cocaine self-administration (fixed ratio 1, ∼0.50 mg/kg/infusion). After at least 3 weeks, tissue CRF immunoreactivity was measured at one of three timepoints: pre-session, post-session or 3 hours post-session. LgA, but not ShA, rats showed increased total session and first-hour cocaine intake. CRF immunoreactivity increased within the dorsal raphe (DR) and basolateral, but not central, nucleus of the amygdala (BLA, CeA) of ShA rats from pre-session to 3 hours post-session. In LgA rats, CRF immunoreactivity increased from pre-session to 3 hours post-session within the CeA and DR but tended to decrease in the BLA. LgA rats showed higher CRF levels than ShA rats in the DR and, pre-session, in the BLA. Thus, voluntary cocaine intake engages stress-regulatory CRF systems of the DR and amygdala. Increased availability of cocaine promotes greater tissue CRF levels in these extrahypothalamic brain regions, changes associated here with a model of cocaine dependence.