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Extrapolation Exercise of the Day: Female Rats Prefer Cocaine to Actual Food

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Wed, Nov 17, 2010 at 7:59 AM
click to enlarge PSA: This is Turkish delight, not cocaine - A. SCATTERGOOD
  • A. Scattergood
  • PSA: This is Turkish delight, not cocaine

If you spent a lot of time in college dorms in the 80s, the results of a new University of California, Santa Barbara, study won't come as too much of a surprise. Earlier this week, scientists reported at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting that, when given a choice between food and cocaine, male rats will pick the food -- but female rats will consistently choose coke over actual sustenance.

"Females and males seem to be very different when it comes to the incentive value of cocaine," Kerry Kerstetter of UCSB said. The rats were trained to press one lever to receive food or a separate lever to receive cocaine. The scientists don't yet have an explanation for the gender difference, although they believe that hormones may play a part. The results of the study may help to clarify the differences in addiction between genders, as women have demonstrated a greater susceptibility to cocaine and have greater difficulty kicking the habit.

Interestingly, when the researches more than doubled the amount of cocaine on the levers, the male rats did start choosing the drugs over the food. Maybe they should have doubled the amount of cheese on the top of the pizza simultaneously. (Or added beer, or turned on ESPN.) You know, just to make it a competition.

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