Animal models have significantly contributed to the understanding of reward-related behaviors, such as in Substance Use Disorder research. One of the most heavily utilized paradigms to date is conditioned place preference (CPP). However, CPP is limited by non-contingent exposure. Our new method advances this classic method by utilizing its benefits and simultaneously diminishing its limitations. We used a traditional 3-compartment CPP apparatus, where each chamber differs by both visual and tactile contexts. We restructured the apparatus allowing for insertion of bottles so that mice could orally self-administer sucrose or morphine-containing solutions in a specific context. Our results show that mice who self-administer sucrose or morphine show a place preference for the sucrose- or morphine-paired chamber. This place preference lasts for 21 d in sucrose-treated, but not morphine-treated mice. Additionally, we found that that mice will drink more water in the morphine-paired context during extinction tests. This model combines the distinct contextual cues associated with conditioned place preference and combines them with voluntary self-administration, thus enabling researchers to measure behavior using a model that incorporates spatial memory involved in affective states, while also providing a quantifiable readout of context/environment-specific drug seeking. In conclusion, we combined CPP and voluntary intake to establish a novel technique to assess not only preference for a context associated with rewarding stimuli (natural or drug), but also seeking, retention, and locomotor activity. This model can be further utilized to examine other drugs of abuse, extinction training, other learning models, or to allow for the assessment of neurobiological manipulations.
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