Behavioral expression of opiate withdrawal is altered after prefrontocortical dopamine depletion in rats: monoaminergic correlates.

E Espejo
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2001-08-01; 25(2): 204-212
DOI: 10.1016/s0893-133x(01)00226-3

The objective of this study was to establish the effects of prefrontocortical dopamine depletion on opiate withdrawal and prefrontocortical neurochemical changes elicited by morphine dependence and withdrawal. The dopaminergic content was also measured in the nucleus accumbens during withdrawal, in order to detect reactive changes induced by prefrontocortical lesion. Withdrawal was induced by naloxone in morphine-dependent rats. Monoamine levels were analyzed post-mortem by high performance liquid cromatography. The results showed that chronic morphine dependence did not modify basal levels of monoamines in sham rats, revealing neuroadaptation of prefrontocortical dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin systems to chronic morphine. The neuroadaptive phenomenon remained after prefrontocortical lesion (> 79% dopamine depletion). On the other hand, a strong increase of dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin contents in the medial prefrontal cortex of sham rats was detected during opiate withdrawal. However, in lesioned rats, the increase of prefrontocortical dopamine and serotonin content, but not that of noradrenaline, was much lower. In the nucleus accumbens, prefrontocortical lesion reactively enhanced the dopaminergic tone and, although opiate withdrawal reduced dopaminergic activity in both sham and lesioned rats, this reduction was less intense in the latter group. At a behavioral level, some symptoms of physical opiate withdrawal were exacerbated in lesioned rats (writhing, mastication, teeth-chattering, global score) and exploration was reduced. The findings hence indicate that: (i) prefrontocortical monoaminergic changes play a role in the behavioral expression of opiate withdrawal; (ii) the severity of some withdrawal signs are related to the dopaminergic and serotonergic tone of the medial prefrontal cortex rather than to the noradrenergic one, and (iii) an inverse relationship between mesocortical and mesolimbic dopaminergic systems exists.

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