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Heather Palacorolla

Palacorolla, Heather. (2013, May). Compulsive drug seeking in the neonatal ventral hippocampal lesion model of schizophrenia. 
Mentor: Dr. Anne Marie Brady


The study investigated the hypothesis that an over-representation of rats in neonatal ventral hippocampal lesion (NVHL) model of schizophrenia will transition from controlled to compulsive drug seeking.  Substance abuse is prevalent among people with schizophrenia and most drugs they abuse exacerbate their symptoms.  It has been suggested, therefore, that drug addiction is a core symptom of schizophrenia.  To study this hypothesis, male Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 13) were given bilateral excitotoxic lesions in the ventral hippocampus at postnatal day 7 or a sham surgery.  As adults, rats were trained to self-administer cocaine or sucrose on a fixed ratio 1 schedule.  Then rats entered a seeking-taking (ST) chained schedule in which pressing on the seeking lever gave access to the taking lever and a single press on the taking lever administered the assigned reward.  Rats then entered a single progressive ratio session before rebaselining on the ST-chain and entering 8-10 days of punishment testing in which half the cycles resulted in a footshock without gaining access to the taking lever.  The preliminary results found that cocaine NVHL rats appeared to seek cocaine under punishment at a higher rate than sham rats, though the results did not reach significance due to small sample sizes.  Further, due to the large variability within the lesion and sham groups, cocaine NVHL rats did not achieve higher breakpoints than sham rats.  Overall, the results suggest that NVHL animals may exhibit compulsive drug seeking supporting the idea that drug addiction is a core symptom of schizophrenia.

Keywords: schizophrenia, NVHL, drug-seeking, drug addiction, progressive ratio, punishment  

Read the paper (download the pdf)