Chronic Cocaine or Ethanol Exposure During Adolescence Alters Novelty-Related Behaviors in Adulthood

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Adolescence, Cocaine, Ethanol, Novelty preference, Development

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Adolescence is a time of high-risk behavior and increased exploration. This developmental period is marked by a greater probability to initiate drug use and is associated with an increased risk to develop addiction and adulthood dependency and drug use at this time is associated with an increased risk. Human adolescents are predisposed toward an increased likelihood of risk-taking behaviors [Zuckerman M. Sensation seeking and the endogenous deficit theory of drug abuse. NIDA Res Monogr 1986;74:59–70.], including drug use or initiation. In the present study, adolescent animals were exposed to twenty days of either saline (0.9% sodium chloride), cocaine (20 mg/kg) or ethanol (1 g/kg) i.p. followed by a fifteen-day washout period. All animals were tested as adults on several behavioral measures including locomotor activity induced by a novel environment, time spent in the center of an open field, novelty preference and novel object exploration. Animals exposed to cocaine during adolescence and tested as adults exhibited a greater locomotor response in a novel environment, spent less time in the center of the novel open field and spent less time with a novel object, results that are indicative of a stress or anxiogenic response to novelty or a novel situation. Adolescent animals chronically administered ethanol and tested as adults, unlike cocaine-exposed were not different from controls in a novel environment, indicated by locomotor activity or time spent with a novel object. However, ethanol-exposed animals approached the novel object more, suggesting that exposure to ethanol during development may result in less-inhibited behaviors during adulthood. The differences in adult behavioral responses after drug exposure during adolescence are likely due to differences in the mechanisms of action of the drugs and subsequent reward and/or stress responsivity. Future studies are needed to determine the neural substrates of these long lasting drug-induced changes.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, v. 86, issue 4, p. 637-642