Date of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Luis Martinez

Second Advisor

Michael Puljung


Cocaine use during pregnancy can have severe consequences for both the mother and baby. In nonpregnant individuals, the sex steroid hormone estradiol acts via its receptors in the brain to enhance motivation for cocaine in females; however, no studies to date have investigated this mechanism in pregnant individuals. To address whether brain estrogen receptor activation is required for motivation to seek cocaine during pregnancy, pregnant rats were first implanted with an intracerebroventricular cannula connected to a subcutaneous pump delivering either the estrogen receptor antagonist ICI or vehicle. Motivation for cocaine was assessed using conditioned place preference (CPP) testing. During this test, rats were repeatedly conditioned with cocaine (10 mg/kg; initially non-preferred chamber) and saline (initially preferred chamber) across six consecutive days. A CPP score was then calculated as the change in time spent in the cocaine-paired chamber post- versus pre- conditioning. Unexpectedly, vehicle-implanted animals failed to show a CPP for cocaine, therefore we could not draw firm conclusions regarding estradiol’s role in motivation for cocaine. Future directions include expanding the sample size of animals that are scored using a secondary pretest based on preliminary data suggesting that a secondary pretest may be more indicative of true side preferences.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College, Hartford CT for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience.