Stimulus control of cocaine self-administration
Environmental stimuli that set the occasion wherein drugs are acquired can trigger drug-related behavior. Investigating the stimulus control of drug self-administration in laboratory animals should help us better understand this aspect of human drug abuse. Stimulus control of cocaine self-administration was generated here for the first time using multiple and chained schedules with short, frequently-alternating components--like those typically used to study food-maintained responding. The procedures and results are presented along with case histories to illustrate the strategies used to produce this stimulus control. All these multicomponent schedules contained variable-interval (VI) components as well as differential-reinforcement-of-other-behavior (DRO) or extinction components. Schedule parameters and unit dose were adjusted for each rat to produce stable, moderate rates in VI components, with minimal postreinforcement (infusion) pausing, and response cessation in extinction and DRO components. Whole-body drug levels on terminal baselines calculated retrospectively revealed that all rats maintained fairly stable drug levels (mean, 2.3 to 3.4 mg/kg) and molar rates of intake (approximately 6.0 mg/kg/hr). Within this range, no relation between local VI response rates and drug level was found. The stimulus control revealed in cumulative records was indistinguishable from that achieved with food under these schedules, suggesting that common mechanisms may underlie the control of cocaine- and food-maintained behavior.