Reference place conditioning procedure with cocaine: Increased sensitivity for measuring associatively motivated choice behavior in rats

Carmela M. Reichel, Jamie L. Wilkinson, Rick A. Bevins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


Place conditioning is widely used to study the conditioned rewarding effects of drugs. In the standard version, one reward (cocaine) is compared with no reward (saline). A modified variant of this task, 'reference-conditioning' procedure, compares two potentially rewarding stimuli (high vs. low cocaine dose). There has been little research on the utility of this procedure. Experiment 1 used the standard protocol with saline administered before confinement to the reference compartment of a place conditioning chamber. On alternate days, saline, 2.5, 5, 7.5, 10, or 20mg/kg cocaine was administered before confinement to the opposite compartment. In experiments 2 and 3, reference-compartment saline was replaced with 5 and 7.5mg/kg cocaine, respectively. Relative to saline, 7.5-20mg/kg cocaine had comparable conditioned rewarding effects (i.e. similar increase in time in paired compartment). When cocaine replaced saline, there was competition at doses lower than 7.5mg/kg. Rats that received 7.5 versus 2.5mg/kg spent similar time in each compartment, indicating competition. Competition was not seen with 5 versus 20mg/kg; preference was for the 20mg/kg compartment. Experiment 4 showed that the competition at 2.5mg/kg was not due to reward sensitization. The reference-conditioning procedure has increased the sensitivity for measuring associatively motivated choice behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-331
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural pharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2010



  • Pavlovian drug conditioning
  • conditioned place preference
  • learning
  • rat
  • stimulant abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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