Long-term effects of prior cocaine exposure on Morris water maze performance


Cocaine addiction is associated with long-term cognitive alterations including deficits on tests of declarative/spatial learning and memory. To determine the extent to which cocaine exposure plays a causative role in these deficits, adult male Long-Evans rats were given daily injections of cocaine (30 mg/kg/day × 14 days) or saline vehicle. Three months later, rats were trained for 6 sessions on a Morris water maze protocol adapted from Gallagher, Burwell, and Burchinal [Gallagher, M., Burwell, R., & Burchinal, M. (1993). Severity of spatial learning impairment in aging: development of a learning index for performance in the Morris water maze. Behavioral Neuroscience, 107, 618-626]. Rats given prior cocaine exposure performed similarly to controls on training trials, but searched farther from the platform location on probe trials interpolated throughout the training sessions and showed increased thigmotaxis. The results demonstrate that a regimen of cocaine exposure can impair Morris water maze performance as long as 3 months after exposure. Although the impairments were not consistent with major deficits in spatial learning and memory, they may have resulted from cocaine-induced increases in stress responsiveness and/or anxiety. Increased stress and anxiety would be expected to increase thigmotaxis as well as cause impairments in searching for the platform location, possibly through actions on ventral striatal dopamine signaling. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Neurobiology of Learning and Memory