A glucocorticoid receptor antagonist reduces sign-tracking behavior in male Japanese quail.

Beth Ann Rice, Shannon E. Eaton, Mark A. Prendergast, Chana K. Akins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Addiction is characterized as a chronic debilitating disease. One devastating feature of addiction is the susceptibility of relapse (40-60%) after stretches of abstinence. One theory that may account for relapse suggests that drug cues (e.g., paraphernalia) may increase stress hormones, and this may prompt relapse. Repeatedly pairing a neutral cue with a reward is commonly utilized to measure what subjects learn about a cue that is predictive of reward. Research has shown that animals that attend to a cue more than to the reward (sign trackers) may be more vulnerable to drug addiction. Additionally, research has shown that sign tracking is associated with an increase in corticosterone, a primary stress hormone. PT150 is a novel glucocorticoid receptor antagonist that moderates the release of corticosterone. In the current experiment, it was hypothesized that subjects given repeated administration of PT150 would reduce sign tracking compared to subjects given placebo. Time spent (in seconds) near a cue that predicts reward (conditional stimulus) served as a measure of sign tracking, and PT150 or placebo was administered following sign tracking. An independent-samples t test revealed that subjects that received PT150 had reduced time spent near the conditioned stimulus compared to controls. Given the devastating effects of drug addiction, identification of a potential pharmacological intervention in the reduction of relapse would be of great value. Therefore, future research is needed to validate the use of PT150 in reducing behaviors associated with drug addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-334
Number of pages6
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Lynda Sharrett-Field for guidance in drug administration and measurements; Joshua Beckman for early stage development of procedures; and Palisades Therapeutics, LLC, for the generous gift of PT150. This research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health (Grant T32DA03520 awarded to Craig Rush; Grant R01DA025032 awarded to Chana K. Akins). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. This funding source had no other role beyond financial support. All authors contributed in a significant way to the manuscript, and all authors have read and approved the final manuscript. Prior dissemination of the current research ideas and preliminary data analysis was presented as poster presentations at Behavior, Biology, and Chemistry: Translational Research in Addiction; European Behavior and Psychology Society; and the Pavlovian Society in 2017.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.


  • Pavlovian conditioning
  • addiction
  • corticosterone
  • sign tracking
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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