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EXAMINING SIMULTANEOUS ALCOHOL AND ∆9-TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL SELF-ADMINISTRATION ON BEHAVIORAL FLEXIBILITY AND DORSAL STRIATAL CB1 EXPRESSION IN CHAP MICE
Although marijuana and alcohol are two of the most commonly used drugs in the United States, relatively little is understood about how these drugs interact to effect drug use, cognitive behaviors, and neurophysiological changes. Specific drug use patterns such as simultaneous use may produce differential effects for consumption and other behaviors in addition to unique neurobiological changes compared to singular drug use. In order to better understand the effects of simultaneous alcohol and marijuana (SAM) use, we used the selectively bred crossed High Alcohol Preferring mice to examine consummatory, cognitive, and neurobiological changes following chronic alcohol and THC self-administration. We hypothesized that SAM mice would consume more drug than animals exposed to either substance alone. We used an operant behavioral flexibility paradigm to assess cognitive impairments believing that drug-exposed animals would show deficits relative to Control animals, with SAM mice being the most impaired of all drug conditions. Finally, we assessed CB1 receptor changes in the dorsal striatum, as this region is critical for behavioral flexibility (Bissonette & Powell, 2012; Ragozzino, 2007), CB1 receptors are the primary target of THC and these receptors are involved in numerous alcohol related behaviors (Maldonado et al., 2006; Pava & Woodward, 2012). Contrary to our hypothesis, SAM animals did not consume higher levels of drug compared to mice exposed to only THC or alcohol. Interestingly, female THC consumption was robust when THC was consumed alone but was reduced when simultaneous access to alcohol was available. Surprisingly, although we speculated that drug- exposed mice would be impaired compared to Control animals, and that SAM animals would likely be more compromised than THC and alcohol for Reversal Learning and Attentional Set-Shifting respectively, behavioral flexibility deficits were absent in our paradigm. Finally, alterations to dorsal striatal CB1 receptor expression were observed following a Short Abstinence period. Despite an absence of cognitive behavioral effects, this research contributes to furthering our understanding of co-drug use for consummatory and neurobiological changes, both of which are critically necessary given the evolving landscape surrounding simultaneous alcohol and recreational marijuana use.