Social reward-conditioned place preference: A model revealing an interaction between cocaine and social context rewards in rats

Kenneth J. Thiel, Alec C. Okun, Janet Neisewander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

147 Scopus citations


A recent thrust in drug abuse research is the influence of social interactions on drug effects. Therefore, the present study examined conditioned place preference (CPP) as a model for assessing interactions between drug and social rewards in adolescent rats. Parameters for establishing social reward-CPP were examined, including the number of conditioning sessions/day (1 or 2), the total number of sessions (2, 8, or 16), and the duration of sessions (10 or 30 min). Subsequently, the effects of cocaine or dextromethorphan on social reward-CPP and play behavior were examined. The results demonstrate that social reward-CPP (i.e., preference shift for an environment paired previously with a rat) was similar using either 1 or 2 conditioning sessions/day and either 10 or 30 min sessions; however, social reward-CPP increased as the number of social pairings increased. Additionally, a low dose of cocaine (2 mg/kg, IP) and a low number of social pairings (2 pairings) failed to produce CPP when examined alone, but together produced a robust CPP, demonstrating an interaction between these rewards. The non-rewarding drug, dextromethorphan (30 mg/kg, IP), failed to enhance social reward-CPP, suggesting that drug-enhanced social reward-CPP is specific to rewarding drugs. Surprisingly, there was no relationship between play behaviors and preference shift in drug-naïve animals. Furthermore, cocaine inhibited play behavior despite enhancing social reward-CPP, suggesting that aspects of social interaction other than play behavior likely contribute to social reward. The findings have important implications for understanding the influence of social context on cocaine reward during adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-212
Number of pages11
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2008


  • Adolescence
  • Cocaine
  • Conditioned place preference
  • Drug reward
  • Social interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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