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Dopamine, Sucrose, Microdialysis, Neurochemistry, Nucleus accumbens, Development; Adolescence

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The use of cocaine during adolescent development could alter the normal growth of brain regions affected by cocaine, specifically the reward system, and impact the adult mesolimbic system. However, there is scant literature aimed at determining whether animals are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of drugs during adolescence. The present study investigated whether cocaine pretreatment in either adolescence or adulthood altered the dopaminergic response to a naturally reinforcing substance in adulthood. To evaluate the responsivity of the mesolimbic system after repeated cocaine, sucrose was offered during the dialysis procedure and dialysates were collected. Regardless of age all saline pretreated rats had significant increases in sucrose-induced extracellular dopamine (DA) levels in the nucleus accumbens septi (NAcc) as compared to baseline levels. Rats pretreated with cocaine as adults also had significant increases in DA levels after sucrose. Interestingly, sucrose intake significantly enhanced DA levels in cocaine pretreated adolescent rats as compared to all other conditions. The results from the present study show that in rats pretreated with cocaine during adolescence there is an enhanced response of the dopaminergic system in animals exposed to a naturally reinforcing substance. Therefore, cocaine exposure during adolescence results in long-term functional changes in the mesolimbic pathway. Future studies need to ascertain the underlying mechanisms and their potential role in cocaine addiction.

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Neurotoxicology and Teratology, v. 29, issue 1, p. 57-65

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