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Understanding sensory reinforcement and the effects of stimulant drugs on sensory reinforcers is potentially important for understanding their influence on addiction processes. Experiment 1 explored the reinforcing properties of a visual stimulus and the effects of methamphetamine (METH) on responding maintained by a visual reinforcer (VRF) in male rats. Snout poke responses to the active alternative produced the VRF according to variable interval (VI) schedules of reinforcement, and responses to an inactive alternative had no programmed effect. Experiment 2 explored the effects of METH on choice between the VRF and a water reinforcer (H2ORF) using concurrent VI schedules in male rats. In Experiment 1, response-contingent onset of the VRF produced an increase in both the relative frequency and absolute rate of active responding. The rate of both active and inactive responding declined across the 40-min test sessions. METH did not differentially enhance active responding for the VRF. Instead, METH nondifferentially increased the rate of responding and attenuated the within-session decline of responding. In Experiment 2, METH differentially increased the rate of responding for the VRF relative to the H2ORF. The results of these exploratory experiments indicate that the reinforcing effects of the VRF were weak and transient. In addition, METH treatment increased responding, and the specificity of the enhancement of METH was dependent upon the testing conditions. Potential explanations of these differences, such as novelty and reinforcer type, are discussed.


Amy M Gancarz, Lisham Ashrafioun, Michele A San George, Kathy A Hausknecht, Larry W Hawk, Jerry B Richards. Exploratory studies in sensory reinforcement in male rats: effects of methamphetamine. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology. 2012 Feb;20(1):16-27

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PMID: 21942261

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