Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Joshua S. Beckmann


Drug-specific reward and associated effects on neural signaling are often studied between subjects, where one group self-administers drug and a separate group self-administers a natural reinforcer. However, exposure to drugs of abuse can cause long-term neural adaptations that can affect how an organism responds to drug reward, natural reward, and their reward-associated stimuli. Thus, to isolate drug-specific effects it is important to use models that expose the same organism to all of the aforementioned. Multiple schedules provide a means of dissociating the rewarding effects of a drug from the rewarding effects of food within a single animal. Further, drug users do not take drugs in isolation; rather, they are often faced with several concurrently available commodities (e.g. monetary goods, social relationships). Thus, using choice measures to assess the relative subjective value of drug reinforcers in both humans and animals promotes a translational understanding of mechanisms that govern drug-associated decision-making. Thus, in order to gain a more translational view of the neurobehavioral mechanisms that underlie drug-associated behavior, in the first study, glutamate was measured in the nucleus accumbens core (NAcC) and prefrontal cortex (PrL) in freely-moving rats as they behaved in a cocaine-food multiple schedule procedure. In the second study, oxygen dynamics were measured in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) of freely-moving rats as they behaved in a cocaine/food choice procedure. The results from the first study showed that, in the NAc and PrL, there was an increase in glutamate release when animals earned cocaine. Further, the number of glutamate peaks that occurred per cocaine lever press and per cocaine reinforcer was increased compared to food. In the second study, OFC oxygen dynamics were positively correlated with cocaine/food choice and generally tracked preference. Further, OFC oxygen dynamics were greater to cocaine related events. Taken together, these results showed the feasibility of combining electrochemical measurements with complex drug-related behavioral procedures. These results also highlight the importance of the PrL, NAcC, and OFC in the valuation of drug and non-drug commodities. Overall, these results add to our understanding of the neurobehavioral mechanisms that guide drug-associated behavior and create more precise experimental avenues to research potential treatments.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This research was supported by the National Institute of Drug Abuse grant DA033373.