The proposed research will determine how conditioned incentive functions established with traditional reinforcers (e.g., food) compare to those produced when behavior is maintained by drug self-administration. These findings would be directly relevant to recent proposals that the study of """"""""drug craving"""""""" be approached from an incentive-motivational framework. The independent variable will be the proportion of drug reinforcers earned in tone and in light components of the training schedule relative to the proportion earned in the absence of these stimuli. The dependent variable will be the very sensitive stimulus compounding assay that reveals the influence of excitatory and inhibitory conditioned incentive properties established to discriminative stimuli. The former properties energize behavior and the latter depress it. Initially, cocaine will be used to establish stimulus control because it is an efficacious reinforcer that produces minimal physical dependence. Other studies would determine the incentive-motive function for drugs that produce physical dependence (e.g., heroin) as well as the nature (appetitive or aversive) of the motivational mechanisms controlling various types of drug-reinforced behavior. Preliminary studies report, for the first time, (1) rats' responding for cocaine under a three-component multiple schedule, and (2) increased drug seeking and intake produced by compounding discriminative stimuli controlling self-administration. These findings support the feasibility of the proposed research program while revealing its potential for providing insights into the mechanisms responsible for the remarkable persistence of drug-seeking behavior in humans. When the program is completed, we should have (1) attained a much better understanding of the role of conditioned incentive mechanisms in the maintenance of behavior by drugs of abuse, (2) compared conditioned incentive functions developed with conventional reinforcers and drugs, (3) developed an assay to compare incentive-motive functions for different drugs that maintain behavior, (4) determined whether selective associations occur for drug reinforcers and how they are related to the incentive-motive process, (5) determined how drug maintained behavior is related to traditional appetitive and evasive reinforcement mechanisms, (6) incorporated drug-maintained behavior under general-process learning theory and contingency analysis by making connections with the major theoretical model of motivation in animal learning, and (7) provided new insights into potential drug abuse treatment strategies through behavioral manipulations.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
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Special Emphasis Panel (SRCD (27))
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Lynch, Minda
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American University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
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Tunstall, Brendan J; Kearns, David N (2016) Cocaine can generate a stronger conditioned reinforcer than food despite being a weaker primary reinforcer. Addict Biol 21:282-93
Weiss, Stanley J; Kearns, David N (2016) Cocaine cues retain silent traces of an excitatory history after conversion into conditioned inhibitors: 'the ghost in the addict'. Behav Pharmacol 27:293-300
Tunstall, Brendan J; Kearns, David N (2015) Sign-tracking predicts increased choice of cocaine over food in rats. Behav Brain Res 281:222-8
Tunstall, Brendan J; Kearns, David N (2014) Reinstatement in a cocaine versus food choice situation: reversal of preference between drug and non-drug rewards. Addict Biol 19:838-48
Tunstall, Brendan J; Riley, Anthony L; Kearns, David N (2014) Drug specificity in drug versus food choice in male rats. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 22:364-72
Tunstall, Brendan J; Verendeev, Andrey; Kearns, David N (2013) Outcome specificity in deepened extinction may limit treatment feasibility: co-presentation of a food cue interferes with extinction of cue-elicited cocaine seeking. Drug Alcohol Depend 133:832-7
Kearns, David N; Tunstall, Brendan J; Marks, Katherine R et al. (2012) Extinction of goal tracking also eliminates the conditioned reinforcing effects of an appetitive conditioned stimulus. Psychon Bull Rev 19:135-8
Tunstall, Brendan J; Verendeev, Andrey; Kearns, David N (2012) A comparison of therapies for the treatment of drug cues: counterconditioning vs. extinction in male rats. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 20:447-53
Kearns, David N; Tunstall, Brendan J; Weiss, Stanley J (2012) Deepened extinction of cocaine cues. Drug Alcohol Depend 124:283-7
Kearns, David N; Weiss, Stanley J (2012) Extinguished cocaine cues increase drug seeking when presented simultaneously with a non-extinguished cocaine cue. Drug Alcohol Depend 121:140-7

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