Although recreational drug use by human adolescents is a well-known and long-standing problem, relatively little is known regarding differences in behavioral and physiological responses to abused substances in adolescent vs adult animals. The present study compared effects of the psychomotor stimulant, cocaine, in periadolescent (postnatal days 37-52) and adult (postnatal days 75-90) male Wistar rats. Locomotion and motor stereotypy were recorded after acute and repeated cocaine injections (0, 10, or 20 mg/kg cocaine, intraperitoneal (i.p.), four injections spaced 5 days apart). Spontaneous acquisition of intravenous (i.v.) cocaine self-administration was investigated in two dose groups ( approximately 0.37 or 0.74 mg/kg/infusion) over 14 days. Dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens were recorded under basal conditions (no net flux method) and after cocaine administration ( approximately 0.37, 0.74, and 2.92 mg/kg/i.v. infusion or 20 mg/kg i.p.) using in vivo microdialysis. The locomotor data are in partial agreement with previous reports of hyposensitivity to acute cocaine in periadolescent vs adult rats; periadolescents were less active overall than adults. Moreover, adult rats exhibited significant locomotor sensitization after repeated injection of 10 mg/kg cocaine, whereas periadolescents required the high dose of 20 mg/kg cocaine to demonstrate sensitization. Neither age group showed sensitization of motor stereotypies. No age-related difference was observed in acquisition of cocaine self-administration, or in basal or cocaine-stimulated nucleus accumbens dopamine. These experiments imply a developmental dissociation between the motor activating and reinforcing effects of cocaine. Similarities in dopamine levels across age groups suggest that age-specific motor responses to cocaine are not mediated by dopamine in the nucleus accumbens.