, Volume 142, Issue 1, pp 85-94

Chronic morphine induces long-lasting changes in acetylcholine release in rat nucleus accumbens core and shell: an in vivo microdialysis study

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 Previously, only in vitro studies have shown that chronic administration of morphine provokes long-lasting enhanced activity of accumbal cholinergic neurons, which may contribute to the behavioural sensitization, positive reinforcement and aversive effects associated with enhanced drug-seeking. The present study was aimed at clarifying whether these adaptive changes would also be supported by in vivo microdialysis measurements in freely moving rats, distinguishing between the accumbal substructures shell and core, and observing behavioural changes simultaneously. Acute administration of morphine dose-dependently decreased acetylcholine (ACh) release in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), with 10 mg/kg SC being most effective, 5 mg/kg ineffective. On day 5 of spontaneous abstinence from chronic morphine treatment (10–40 mg/kg morphine dose once daily for 5 days), when withdrawal symptoms were still present, even a lower morphine dose (5 mg/kg) was effective in decreasing ACh release in the NAc. During the later phase of abstinence, when no withdrawal symptoms were detectable, the opposite effect, i.e. an increase of ACh release was found. This later effect may represent a long-lasting neuroadaptive effect of morphine. These adaptive effects seemed to be more prominent in the NAc shell. Concurrent with these changes in ACh release, morphine challenges produced marked behavioural stereotypes, possibly indicating behavioural sensitization.

Received: 7 April 1998 / Final version: 23 July 1998