Opioids, Behavior, and Learning in Mammalian Development

  • Priscilla Kehoe
Part of the Handbook of Behavioral Neurobiology book series (HBNE, volume 9)


Endogenous opioid peptides and their binding sites reside within systems found in the brain and spinal cord, the pituitary, the adrenal medulla, and the autonomic nervous system (Akil, Watson, Young, Lewis, Khachaturian, and Walker, 1984; Basbaum and Fields, 1984; Khachaturian, Lewis, Schafer, and Watson, 1985). These systems seem to be involved in the modulation of physiological and behavioral responsivity to endogenous and environmental demands. Morley (1981) suggested that the discovery of the opioid systems and their diverse functions concerning stress extends Cannon’s flight-or-fight (1929) concept and Selye’s theory of general adaptation (1976). Specifically, opioid physiology embraces thermal, cardiac, respiratory, miotic, and immune functions, among others (see Watson, Akil, Khachaturian, Young, and Lewis, 1984, for a review). Changes in opioid physiology and in derivative behaviors actually occur during stressful or emergency situations. For example, rats confronted with a novel experience and stressful handling demonstrate increased body temperature, which is naloxone-reversible and is correlated with increased beta-endorphin activity (Blasig, Holit, Bauerle, and Herz, 1978; Clark, 1979). Thermal fluctuations may thus reflect opioid preparation to meet environmental demands. Furthermore, evidence for opioid involvement in stress-induced enhancement of tumor growth has been found (Lewis, Shovit, Ternor, Nelson, Gale and Liebeskind, 1983).


Pain Sensitivity Opioid System Endogenous Opioid Opiate Receptor Opioid Antagonist 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Priscilla Kehoe
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTrinity CollegeHartfordUSA

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