A major theme of addiction research has focused on the neural substrates of individual differences in the risk for addiction; however, little is known about how vulnerable populations differ from those that are relatively protected. Here, we prospectively measured dopamine (DA) neurotransmission prior to cocaine exposure to predict the onset and course of cocaine use. Using in vivo voltammetry, we first generated baseline profiles of DA release and uptake in the dorsomedial striatum (DMS) and nucleus accumbens of drug-naïve male rats prior to exposing them to cocaine using conditioned place preference (CPP) or operant self-administration. We found that the innate rate of DA uptake in the DMS strongly predicted motivation for cocaine and drug-primed reinstatement, but not CPP, responding when “price” was low, or extinction. We then assessed the impact of baseline variations in DA uptake on cocaine potency in the DMS using ex vivo voltammetry in naïve rats and in rats with DA transporter (DAT) knockdown. DA uptake in the DMS of naïve rats predicted the neurochemical response to cocaine, such that rats with innately faster rates of DA uptake demonstrated higher cocaine potency at the DAT and rats with DAT knockdown displayed reduced potency compared to controls. Together, these data demonstrate that inherent variability in DA uptake in the DMS predicts the behavioral response to cocaine, potentially by altering the apparent potency of cocaine.
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We would like to thank Kristen Kornsey and Douglas Fox for their expert technical assistance, and the Drug Supply Program at NIDA for providing cocaine HCl. We would also like to thank Dr. Erik Oleson from the University of Colorado for providing the R-script used in behavioral economics analysis.
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Shaw, J.K., Pamela Alonso, I., Lewandowski, S.I. et al. Individual differences in dopamine uptake in the dorsomedial striatum prior to cocaine exposure predict motivation for cocaine in male rats. Neuropsychopharmacol. (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-021-01009-2