Co-sensitivity to the incentive properties of palatable food and cocaine in rats; implications for co-morbid addictions


Francesco Leri, Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada. E-mail:


Several lines of evidence suggest that there may be a shared vulnerability to acquire behaviors motivated by strong incentive stimuli. Non-food restricted male Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 78) underwent place conditioning with Oreos, and were subsequently tested on cocaine self-administration (SA) on fixed and progressive ratios, as well as extinction and reinstatement by cocaine primes and by consumption of Oreos. Although there was a group preference for the Oreo-paired compartment, at the individual level some rats (69%) displayed a preference and others did not. In cocaine SA, ‘preference’ rats achieved higher break points on a progressive ratio, and displayed greater responding during extinction and cocaine-induced reinstatement. Within the context of this study, Oreo-cocaine cross-reinstatement was not observed. In a control study, rats (n = 29) conditioned with a less palatable food (rice cakes) also displayed individual differences in place preference, but not on subsequent cocaine tests. These findings indicate that there is a relationship between incentive learning promoted by palatable foods and by cocaine. This supports the hypothesis that co-morbid food-drug addictions may result from a shared vulnerability to acquire behaviors motivated by strong incentives.