Motivational state determines the functional role of the mesolimbic dopamine system in the mediation of opiate reward processes
Laviolette SR, Nader K, van der Kooy D.
Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology,
Neurobiology Research Group,
University of Toronto,
Medical Sciences Building, Toronto, Ont., Canada.
Behav Brain Res 2002 Feb 1;129(1-2):17-29


We have previously reported that mesolimbic dopamine (DA) substrates are critically involved in the rewarding effects of opiates only during states of opiate-dependence and withdrawal. However, in previously drug-naive animals, opiate reward is mediated through a DA-independent neural system. In the present study, we report that bilateral microinjections of a DA receptor antagonist, alpha-flupenthixol (0.3-3 microg/0.5 microl) into the nucleus accumbens (NAc), blocks morphine reward (10 mg/kg, i.p.) in opiate-withdrawn animals, but not in opiate-naive animals, suggesting that accumbal dopamine receptors are required for opiate reward signaling in drug-deprived motivational states. Next, the role of dopamine was examined in the development of opiate dependence and somatic withdrawal, and expression of withdrawal aversions. Pretreatment with alpha-flupenthixol (0.8 mg/kg, i.p.) before morphine injections during the development of opiate dependence did not effect expression of withdrawal aversions or the expression of somatic withdrawal. We have previously reported that pretreatment with a dopamine receptor antagonist, alpha-flupenthixol, blocks the aversive effects of opiate withdrawal. We now report that pretreatment with a direct dopamine receptor agonist, apomorphine (1.0-5.0 mg/kg, i.p.) before conditioning in a state of withdrawal, also blocks the aversive effects of opiate withdrawal. We propose that the aversive motivational effects of opiate withdrawal may be mediated by a specific dopaminergic neuronal signal.
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