Sign tracking predicts cue-induced but not drug-primed reinstatement to methamphetamine seeking in rats: effects of oxytocin treatment

Nicholas A. Everett*, Harry A. Carey, Jennifer L. Cornish, Sarah J. Baracz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The incentive sensitisation theory of addiction posits that drug-associated stimuli become imbued with incentive motivational properties, driving pathological drug seeking. However, pre-existing variability in the incentive salience to non-drug reward cues (‘sign trackers’ (STs); ‘goal trackers’ (GTs)) is also predictive of the desire for and relapse to cocaine and opioids. Here, we asked whether variation in propensity to attribute incentive salience to a food cue is predictive of reinstatement to the highly addictive psychostimulant methamphetamine (METH), and whether treatment with the promising anti-addiction therapy oxytocin differentially reduces METH behaviour between STs and GTs. Methods: Rats were trained to associate a Pavlovian cue with delivery of a sucrose pellet over 8 days. They then received jugular vein catheters for intravenous METH self-administration, followed by behavioural extinction, and cue-induced and METH-primed reinstatement to METH-seeking behaviours. Oxytocin was administered prior to self-administration and reinstatement tests. Results: Despite the self-administration of similar amounts of METH, STs reinstated more to METH cues than did GTs, yet METH-priming reinstated STs and GTs similarly. Furthermore, oxytocin attenuated cue-induced reinstatement more so in STs than in GTs, and reduced METH-primed reinstatement to a greater extent in the top quartile of reinstaters, indicating that oxytocin treatment may be most effective for those at highest risk of addiction. Conclusions: This pre-existing bias towards reward cues presents a possible tool to screen for METH addiction susceptibility and may be useful for understanding the neurobiology of addiction and for pharmacotherapeutic discovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1271–1279
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • methamphetamine
  • oxytocin
  • sign tracking
  • incentive salience
  • relapse


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