Altered cocaine-induced behavioral sensitization in adult mice exposed to cocaine in utero

Claire Crozatier, Rejean M. Guerriero, Flavie Mathieu, Bruno Giros, Marika Nosten-Bertrand, Barry E. Kosofsky

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38 Scopus citations


Behavioral sensitization induced by psychostimulants is characterized by increased locomotion and stereotypy and may reflect aspects of neuronal adaptations underlying drug addiction in humans. To study the developmental contributions to addictive behaviors, we measured behavioral responses in adult offspring to a cocaine sensitization paradigm following prenatal cocaine exposure. Pregnant Swiss-Webster (SW) mice were injected twice daily from embryonic days 8 to 17 (E8-E17, inclusive) with cocaine (20 or 40 mg/kg/day; COC20 and COC40, respectively), or saline vehicle (SAL and SPF40) subcutaneously (s.c.). A nutritional control group of dams were 'pair-fed' with COC40 dams (SPF40). P120 male offspring from each prenatal treatment group were assigned to a behavioral sensitization group and injected with cocaine (15 mg/kg) or saline intraperitoneally (i.p.) every other day for seven doses. Locomotor activity and stereotypy were measured during habituation, cocaine initiation, and following a cocaine challenge 21 days after the last initiation injection. As expected, animals demonstrated significantly more locomotion and stereotypic behavior following acute and recurrent injection of cocaine compared to saline-injected animals. However, for each prenatal treatment group, cocaine-sensitized animals showed unique temporal profiles for the increase in locomotor sensitization and stereotypy over the course of the sensitization protocol. Two features that distinguished the altered behavioral progression of prenatally cocaine-exposed animals (COC40) from control (SAL) animals included blunted augmentation of locomotion and enhanced patterns of stereotypic behavior. These findings provide evidence that the behavioral activating effects of cocaine in adult animals are altered following exposure to cocaine in utero.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-105
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental Brain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Dec 30 2003


  • Behavioral sensitization
  • Drug abuse
  • Prenatal cocaine
  • Prenatal mouse model
  • Stereotypy


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