Sign-tracking predicts increased choice of cocaine over food in rats
The purpose of this study was to determine whether the tendency to sign-track to a food cue was predictive of rats’ choice of cocaine over food. First, rats were trained on a procedure where insertion of a retractable lever was paired with food. A sub-group of rats – sign-trackers – primarily approached and contacted the lever, while another subgroup – goal-trackers – approached the site of food delivery. Rats were then trained on a choice task where they could choose between an infusion of cocaine (1.0 mg/kg) and a food pellet (45 mg). Sign-trackers chose cocaine over food significantly more often than did goal-trackers. These results support the incentive-salience theory of addiction and add to a growing number of studies which suggest that sign-trackers may model an addiction-prone phenotype.