Rats were pretreated with daily cocaine or saline injections for 1 week. The rats treated with daily cocaine were separated into two groups: a sensitized group of animals demonstrating > 20% increase in motor activity on the last injection compared with the first injection of daily cocaine, and a nonsensitized group showing < 20% elevation. At 2–3 weeks after the last daily injection, four experiments were performed to assess changes in excitatory amino acid (EAA) transmission in the nucleus accumbens produced by repeated cocaine administration. (1) Rats were challenged with a microinjection of AMPA into the shell or core of the nucleus accumbens. The sensitized rats demonstrated greater motor activity than did the saline-pretreated or nonsensitized animals after AMPA injection into either subnucleus. (2) It was shown that the behavioral distinction between sensitized, nonsensitized, and control rats in behavioral responsiveness to AMPA was not mediated by differences in AMPA-induced dopamine release. (3) The extracellular content of glutamate was measured after a cocaine challenge given at 21 d of withdrawal. Cocaine elevated the levels of glutamate in the core of sensitized rats, but not of nonsensitized or control rats. (4) Microinjection of the non-NMDA antagonist 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline- 2,3-dione into the core abolished the augmented motor response to a cocaine challenge in sensitized rats, but was without effect on cocaine- induced motor activity in nonsensitized animals. These results indicate that repeated cocaine administration increases EAA transmission in the nucleus accumbens only in rats that develop behavioral sensitization to cocaine.