A wide range of mental illnesses show high rates of addiction comorbidities regardless of their genetic, neurodevelopmental, and/or adverse-environmental etiologies. Understanding how the spectrum of mental illnesses produce addiction vulnerability will be key to discovering more effective preventions and integrated treatments for adults with addiction and dual diagnosis comorbidities. A population of 131 rats containing a spectrum of etiological mental illness models and degrees of severity was experimentally generated by crossing neonatal ventral hippocampal lesions (NVHL; n = 68) or controls (SHAM-operated; n = 63) with adolescent rearing in environmentally/socially enriched (ENR; n = 66) or impoverished (IMP; n = 65) conditions. This population was divided into 2 experiments: first, examining NVHL and IMP effects on novelty and mild stress-induced locomotion across 3 adolescent ages; second, looking at initial cocaine reactivity and long-term cocaine behavioral sensitization in adulthood. NVHL and IMP-environmental conditions independently produced remarkably similar and robustly significant abnormalities of hyperreactivity to novelty, mild stress, and long-term cocaine sensitization. The combined NVHL-IMP groups showed the most severe phenotypes across the board, so that the mental illness and addiction vulnerability phenotypes increased together in severity in a consistent stepwise progression from the healthiest rats to those with the greatest loading of etiological models. These findings add weight to our understanding of mental illness and addiction vulnerability as brain disorders that are biologically and developmentally unified in ways that transcend etiological causes, and yet co-intensify with increased loading of etiological conditions. Combining neurodevelopmental and adverse-environmental models of mental illness may provide an approach to identifying and therapeutically targeting cortical-striatal-limbic network mechanisms that generate addiction and dual diagnosis diseases.
© 2020 S. Karger AG, Basel.