Individual differences in cocaine-induced locomotor activity of male Sprague-Dawley rats are not explained by plasma corticosterone levels

Anna M. Nelson, Melissa J. Kleschen, Nancy R. Zahniser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Humans differ in their initial response to, and subsequent abuse of, addictive drugs like cocaine. Rodents also exhibit marked individual differences in responsiveness to cocaine. Previously, we classified male Sprague-Dawley rats as either low or high cocaine responders (LCRs or HCRs, respectively), based on their acute low-dose cocaine-induced locomotor activity, and found that with repeated drug exposure LCRs exhibit greater cocaine locomotor sensitization, reward and reinforcement than HCRs. Differential cocaine-induced increases in striatal dopamine help to explain the LCR/HCR phenotypes. Differential levels of stress and/or anxiety could also contribute but have not been explored. Here we measured open-field activity and plasma corticosterone levels both pre- and post-cocaine treatment in LCRs, HCRs, and saline-treated controls. The three groups did not differ in baseline locomotor activity or corticosterone levels. Importantly, LCR/HCR differences in corticosterone levels were also not observed following acute cocaine (10. mg/kg, i.p.), when cocaine induced approximately 3.5-fold greater locomotor activity in HCRs than LCRs. Additionally, there were no LCR/HCR differences in plasma corticosterone levels following 5 days of once-daily cocaine, during which time LCRs developed locomotor sensitization such that their cocaine-induced locomotor activity no longer differed from that of HCRs. Likewise, there were no group activity differences in any of four concentric zones within the open-field chamber. In summary, neither plasma corticosterone levels nor thigmotaxis-type anxiety appears to be a factor that contributes to the observed cocaine-induced LCR/HCR behavioral differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-13
Number of pages5
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cocaine
  • Corticosterone
  • HPA-axis
  • Individual differences
  • Locomotor activity
  • Locomotor sensitization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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