Remifentanil-food choice follows predictions of relative subjective value

Jonathan J. Chow, Joshua S. Beckmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Preclinical studies into drug vs. nondrug choice have emerged to better model and investigate the neurobehavioral mechanisms underlying drug preference. Current literature has suggested that drugs of abuse have inherently low value, thus promoting food preference. Herein, we examined remifentanil vs. food choice to test both the relative value hypothesis and the ‘direct effects’ (pharmacological effects of drugs on alternative reinforcers) hypothesis of opioid preference. Methods: Adult male rats were trained under two choice procedures (controlled vs. uncontrolled reinforcer frequency) for remifentanil vs. food choice. Furthermore, a series of procedural manipulations known to affect drug reinforcement were tested under both choice procedures. Using remifentanil self-administration data, pharmacokinetic profiles were calculated and analyzed to determine if opioid intake was related to opioid preference. Results: Both choice procedures produced dose-dependent preference. Moreover, procedural manipulations produced comparable changes in remifentanil preference under both choice procedures. In addition, calculated pharmacokinetic data revealed that preference was dissociable from intake under the controlled reinforcer frequency choice procedure. Conclusions: When compared to the ‘direct effects’ hypothesis, remifentanil preference was better predicted by the relative value hypothesis, formalized in generalized matching. Use of a controlled reinforcer frequency schedule successfully removed the drug preference-intake confound found in most drug-choice procedures. Importantly, drug preference under the controlled reinforcer frequency schedule remained sensitive to procedural manipulations known to affect drug reinforcement. Thus, given that differential drug intake itself affects neurobiological measurements, future use of controlled reinforcer frequency schedules may help to better isolate the neurobehavioral mechanisms that mediate opioid preference.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108369
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse grants DA033373 , DA045023 , and DA047368 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.


  • Choice
  • Magnitude
  • Matching
  • Rat
  • Remifentanil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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