Self-administered cocaine causes long-lasting increases in impulsive choice in a delay discounting task. Academic Article uri icon


  • Cocaine use is associated with high levels of impulsive choice (preference for immediate over delayed rewards), but it is not clear whether cocaine use causes elevated impulsive choice, or whether elevated impulsive choice is solely a predisposing factor for cocaine use. This study examined the effects of prior cocaine self-administration on rats performing a delay discounting task commonly used to measure impulsive choice. Male Long-Evans rats were implanted with intravenous catheters, and following recovery, were trained to self-administer 30 mg/kg/day cocaine HCl (approx. 0.5 mg/kg/infusion) for 14 consecutive days (a control group received yoked intravenous saline infusions). Following three weeks of withdrawal, all rats were food-restricted and began training on the delay discounting task in standard operant chambers. On each trial, rats were given a choice between two levers. A press on one lever delivered a small food reward immediately, and a press on the other delivered a large food reward after a variable delay period. Rats that self-administered cocaine displayed greater impulsive choice (enhanced preference for the small immediate over the large delayed reward, as reflected by shorter indifference points) compared to controls, but were no different from controls on a "probabilistic discounting" task in which they chose between small certain and large uncertain rewards. These data suggest that self-administered cocaine can cause lasting elevations in impulsive choice, and that the high levels of impulsive choice observed in human cocaine users may be due in part to long-term effects of cocaine on brain function.

published proceedings

  • Behav Neurosci

altmetric score

  • 6

author list (cited authors)

  • Mendez, I. A., Simon, N. W., Hart, N., Mitchell, M. R., Nation, J. R., Wellman, P. J., & Setlow, B.

citation count

  • 106

complete list of authors

  • Mendez, Ian A||Simon, Nicholas W||Hart, Nigel||Mitchell, Marci R||Nation, Jack R||Wellman, Paul J||Setlow, Barry

publication date

  • August 2010