According to the CDC, 874,000 people over the age of eleven tried cocaine for the first time in 2018. Of that group, only a small portion will go on to develop drug abuse patterns, suggesting that there may be individual vulnerabilities to drug addiction. My name is Kyra Katz. I am a fourth-year psychology student at the University at Buffalo. I'm part of Dr. Paul Meyer's lab, which studies motivation and addiction. We are interested in the factors that may be implicated in the transition from recreational drug use to drug abuse. One factor that I became particularly interested in was anxiety, so this spring I developed my own line of research as part of our lab's ongoing project, with the help of Christopher King, a graduate student in our lab. While it is known that anxiety and cocaine-abuse are often intertwined, it is uncertain whether anxiety is influencing the addiction-like behavior. By using an animal model, we hope to untangle the relationship between these two behaviors.
A variety of individual traits can contribute to problematic drug use, including anxiety. Here, we compared cocaine self-administration behavior with anxiety-like behavior in heterogeneous stock rats (n=22). We used a 15-minute light/dark box test to measure rats' tendency to avoid well-lit areas, quantifying anxiety-like behavior. Then, rats underwent an intermittent access paradigm (IntA), during which they could lever press for 0.5 mg/kg/infusions of cocaine in eight five-minute bouts across 15 four-hour sessions. Drug-directed motivation was assessed using a progressive-ratio (PR) test, where the response requirement for each successive infusion of cocaine was increased. We found subjects exhibiting less anxiety-like behavior during the light/dark box also showed higher cocaine intake on the last day of training (r = 0.51, p < 0.05). However, performance during PR was independent of anxiety-like behavior, suggesting anxiety can influence consumption of the drug independently from motivation.
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