Dissertation Research

My dissertation project aims to investigate the roll of stress on escalation of cocaine self-administration in male and female rats. First, I am evaluating how an established predator odor model of stress influences self-administered intravenous (I.V.) cocaine intake in male and female rats in short- and long-access paradigms. This stress model dichotomizes stressed animals into those who avoid the predator odor and those who do not develop an aversion, thereby representing subjects that are susceptible to developing a long-lasting stress response and those that are not, respectively. Second, I am studying how this behavior affects stress-related neuropeptide activity in the central amygdala by examining neuronal activation of CRF-positive cells and CRF content. Third, I am testing whether antagonizing the CRF1 receptor in the central amygdala will rescue stress-induced escalation of cocaine self-administration in males and females in short- and long-access designs. These experiments serve to test our hypothesis that CeA CRF mediates stress-induced increases in long access cocaine self-administration in Avoider rats and that these effects will be greater in female rats.