RATIONALE - The rewarding effects of physical activity and abused drugs are caused by stimulation of similar brain pathways. Low (LVR) and high (HVR) voluntary running lines were developed by selectively breeding Wistar rats on running distance performance on postnatal days 28-34. We hypothesized that LVR rats would be more sensitive to the locomotor-activating effects of cocaine than HVR rats due to their lower motivation for wheel running.
OBJECTIVES - We investigated how selection for LVR or HVR behavior affects inherited activity responses: (a) open field activity levels, (b) habituation to an open field environment, and (c) the locomotor response to cocaine.
METHODS - Open field activity was measured for 80 min on three successive days (days 1-3). Data from the first 20 min were analyzed to determine novelty-induced locomotor activity (day 1) and the habituation to the environment (days 1-3). On day 3, rats were acclimated to the chamber for 20 min and then received saline or cocaine (10, 20, or 30 mg/kg) injection. Dopamine transporter (DAT) protein in the nucleus accumbens was measured via Western blot.
RESULTS - Selecting for low and high voluntary running behavior co-selects for differences in inherent (HVR > LVR) and cocaine-induced (LVR > HVR) locomotor activity levels. The differences in the selected behavioral measures do not appear to correlate with DAT protein levels.
CONCLUSIONS - LVR and HVR rats are an intriguing physical activity model for studying the interactions between genes related to the motivation to run, to use drugs of abuse, and to exhibit locomotor activity.