Chronic adolescent exposure to fluoxetine effects on physiology, behavior, and cocaine preference

Nikki Hammond

This is a picture of one of the Sprague-Dawley rats that we used for this study.

A picture of one of the Sprague-Dawley rats that we used for this study.

Undergraduate Student Project


There are over 120 million people worldwide who suffer from depression and there is a steady 20% increase of diagnoses per year (Wenthur, 2013). As this number grows it is important for us to know how FLX interacts with other drugs.

My name is Nikki Hammond. I'm a senior biology major at the University at Buffalo. With the support of the Experimental Learning Network funding, I was able to conduct research in the Research Institute on Addiction (RIA) under Dr. Panayotis Thanos as my principal investigator. Dr. Thanos's lab studies the mechanisms for drug addiction disorders, alcoholism and obesity. My job this past year was to set up, perform and analyze behavioral tests.

Depressive and substance use disorders comorbidity is a prevalent mental health concern for adolescents (Armstrong, 2002). It is important to see how FLX affects substance use since there is an underlying comorbidity with depression. I was interested in exploring the possible effects of chronic FLX exposure on physiology, behavior and cocaine preference due to this comorbidity.


Fluoxetine (FLX) is a SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant. The most common brand name for FLX is "Prozac". There are over 120 million people worldwide who suffer from depression (Wenthur, 2013). As the rate of people with depression continues to grow, it is important to know what are effects of chronic exposure of FLX on vulnerability to other psychostimulants and their abuse. Specifically, we examined vulnerability to abuse cocaine. To examine the interactions of FLX in an animal model (Sprague-Dawley rat), there were two groups (water and FLX). Physiological measurements and behavior were recorded throughout the study. To determine the effects of FLX on cocaine reward we tested animals on cocaine conditioned place preference behavior. Overall, chronic FLX decreased body weight, increased anxiety-like behavior, decreased depressive-like behavior and decreased preference towards cocaine. Further studies would need to be performed to see if commonly taken drugs have interactions with FLX.

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