Cocaine Induced Locomotor Activity is Increased by Prior Handling in Adolescent but not Adult Female Rats

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Handling, Adolescent, Female, Cocaine, Locomotor activity, Novel environment

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Adolescence is a period of transition that is associated with increased levels of stress and a heightened propensity to initiate drug use. Neuronal development is still occurring during this transitional period, which includes the continued development of the dopamine system during the adolescent period. In the present study, the effects of pre-test handling on cocaine-induced locomotor activity were investigated among female adolescent and young adult rats upon presentation to a novel environment. On postnatal days (PND) 41–44 and 56–59 animals were handled (b.i.d.) in the colony room for 3 min. On PND 45 or PND 60, animals were removed from the colony room, weighed, and administered an acute injection of either cocaine or saline and presented to a novel environment where behavior was recorded for 30 min. Adolescent females (PND 45) that were handled prior to cocaine administration demonstrated elevated levels of cocaine-induced activity relative to their age-matched non-handled counterparts and also to their handled-adult counterparts. In contrast, among non-handled animals, young adults (PND 60) exhibited elevated drug-induced locomotion at several time points during the trial. Non-handled adolescent animals demonstrated the previously described “hyporesponsive” behavioral profile relative to their non-handled adult counterparts. The results from the present experiment indicate that adolescent animals may be more sensitive to basic laboratory manipulations such as pre-test handling, and care must be taken when utilizing adolescent animals in behavioral testing. Handling appears to be a sensitive manipulation in elucidating differences in cocaine-induced behavioral activation between ages.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Physiology & Behavior, v. 86, issue 4, p. 568-572