I never imagined I would title an article as absurdly as I have here, but we live in an era of clickbait, and Mice, Miles Davis and Mounds of Cocaine sounds far more interesting than Music-induced Context Preference Following Cocaine Conditioning in Rats.
This study, published in Behavioural Neuroscience, aimed to determine the rats’ preference for contrasting pieces of music (Miles Davis’ Four (1954) and Beethoven’s Fur Elise) and to see if this preference could be altered as a result of cocaine-paired conditioning. It also sought to show that repeated administration of a drug in a particular environment causes animals to subsequently develop a preference for that environment. If Pavlov’s experiment on dogs rings a bell (that pun was absolutely intended), you may recall some basic ideas about classical conditioning. This experiment utilized a tool called Conditioned Place Preference (CPP) to evaluate the animal’s liking for a stimulus based upon the amount of time it spends in an area that has been associated with that stimulus.
In order to determine their baseline musical preferences, the rats were given control of their auditory surroundings by means of an apparatus with two compartments fitted with speakers and motion sensors. When motion was detected within a compartment, the song that corresponded with that side of the apparatus was played. Thus, this system allowed the rats to control the music they were hearing by moving between compartments.
Through the means of this unusual (and slightly cruel) method, the assessment indicated that rats preferred Beethoven to Miles Davis. Of the 20 rats examined, eighteen of them showed a preference for Beethoven, and only two showed a preference for Miles Davis. In a similar way, it was determined that they preferred silence to Beethoven.
Now for the part that involves banned Schedule (II) Drugs; the rats were subjected to two 60 minute conditioning sessions per day for four days. 12 test subjects received one daily conditioning session that paired cocaine and the music they initially preferred least, and one daily conditioning session that paired the preferred music with saline. 8 control subjects received saline during both conditioning sessions with both music samples.
Like your stoner friend who insists that Pink Floyd sounds better when one is high, the animals in the test group, receiving cocaine in association with their least preferred music, showed an increased preference for that music when compared to control animals. Rats conditioned with cocaine spent significantly more time in the presence of the cocaine-paired music than control animals during the final preference test.
Anything for science! But seriously, don’t do drugs.
But why are we studying the music preferences of inebriated rodents? You, the reader naively asks. Firstly, it is wildly unethical to lock up humans in a Plexiglass box and force them to listen to hours of the same song on repeat while administering cocaine, hence we resort to animal models to study the effects of such conditioning. Secondly, studies like these uncover important information relating to drug usage and may help to develop better treatments for addiction. Other studies have demonstrated that like non-humans, humans also exhibit a preference for a place previously associated with amphetamine usage. The authors of the paper also suggest that if one were to pair a drug known to reduce drug-seeking with a particular musical selection, it is possible that the musical conditioned stimulus alone could then attenuate drug-seeking behaviour and may prove to be a promising solution in the near future.
That being said the author of this article condemns cocaine use and would like to quote the poster in the Indoor Stadium at IISER TVM: Don’t do drugs.