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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1999 Nov;23(7):993-1010.

Psychobiological risk factors for vulnerability to psychostimulants in human adolescents and animal models.

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  • 1Section of Behavioural Pathophysiology, Labor. F.O.S., Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy. laviola@iss.it

Abstract

Adolescence is associated with an increased risk of developing drug abuse/dependence. During this ontogenetic phase, brain and hormonal systems are still undergoing crucial maturational rearrangements, which take place together with significant modifications in psychosocial development. However, the neurohormonal and behavioral facets of adolescence have been poorly investigated in relation to the vulnerability to psychostimulants such as MDMA ("Ecstasy") and amphetamine (AMPH). Novelty-seeking, a temperamental/behavioral trait that is typical of this age period, might substantially contribute to both psychological and psychobiological vulnerability. In humans, an elevated score of novelty-sensation seeking and a derangement of monoaminergic function were both associated with late adolescence MDMA users compared to controls. In animal models of periadolescence, the search for novel stimuli and sensations actually shares a common neurobiological substrate (the reward-related brain mesolimbic pathways) with psychostimulants. The present review summarises recent work in mice, which indicates that periadolescent subjects are characterized by an unbalanced and "extremes-oriented" behavior and by elevated novelty-seeking compared to adults. Repeated and intermittent administration of cocaine or AMPH was associated with the development of a prominent locomotor sensitization in periadolescents, which failed to exhibit the marked sensitization of the stereotyped behavioral syndrome--possibly associated with poor welfare--that was typical of adults. A unique profile of integrated behavioral and physiological hyporesponsivity to both forced novelty and acute AMPH administration during periadolescence was also found. As a whole, these results, together with previous work on this topic, suggest that periadolescents may be more "protected" from AMPH-related aversive properties, and perhaps more vulnerable to the experience of internal states of reward, than older animals. Thus, the present animal model of adolescence seems to represent a reliable and useful method for the investigation of vulnerability to a variety of habit-forming agents or emotional experiences whose positive reinforcing properties may rely on common neurobiological substrates. A deeper understanding of psychostimulant effects during adolescence on the complex interaction between genetic, neurobiologic, psychosocial, and environmental factors will lead to earlier and more effective prevention and treatment.

PMID:
10580313
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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