This study aimed to assess the impact of companions on the rewarding effects of cocaine. Three cage mates, serving as companions, were housed with each experimental mouse throughout cocaine-place conditioning in a cocaine-induced conditioned place preference (CPP) paradigm using conditioning doses of 10 and 20 mg/kg. The presence of companions decreased the magnitude of the CPP. At 20 mg/kg, cocaine stimulated dopamine (DA) release in the nucleus accumbens as evidenced by a significant decrease in total (spontaneous and electrical stimulation-provoked) DA release in accumbal superfusate samples. The presence of companions prevented this cocaine-stimulated DA release; such a reduction in cocaine-induced DA release may account for the reduction in the magnitude of the CPP in the presence of the companions. Furthermore, cocaine pretreatment (2.5 mg/kg) was found to prevent the companion-produced decreases in cocaine (10 mg/kg/conditioning)-induced CPP as well as the cocaine (10 mg/kg)-stimulated DA release. Moreover, the presence of methamphetamine (MA) (1 mg/kg)-treated companions decreased cocaine (20 mg/kg/conditioning)-induced CPP and prevented the cocaine (20 mg/kg)-stimulated DA release. Finally, the presence of companions decreased the magnitude of the CPP could not seem to be accounted for by cocaine-stimulated corticosterone (CORT) release. Taken together, these results indicate that familiar companions, regardless of their pharmacological status, may exert dampening effects on CPP induced by moderate to high conditioning doses of cocaine, at least in part, by preventing cocaine-stimulated DA release in the nucleus accumbens.
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