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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2001 Jul-Aug;69(3-4):373-82.

D1 or D2 antagonism in nucleus accumbens core or dorsomedial shell suppresses lever pressing for food but leads to compensatory increases in chow consumption.

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  • 1Unit 1020, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, 406 Babbidge Road, Storrs, CT 06269-1020, USA.


Although interference with dopamine (DA) systems can suppress lever pressing for food reinforcement, it is not clear whether this effect occurs because of a general disruption of food motivation. One way of assessing this has been a choice procedure in which a rat responds on an fixed ratio 5 (FR5) schedule for preferred Bioserve pellets while a less preferred lab chow is concurrently available in the operant chamber. Untreated rats consume little of the chow, preferring to respond for the Bioserve pellets. Previous studies have shown that depleting DA in the accumbens substantially decreased lever pressing while increasing chow consumption. In the present study, low doses (0.0625-1.0 microg) of the D1 antagonist SCH 23390 or the D2 antagonist raclopride were injected into the either the core or shell subregions of nucleus accumbens, and rats were tested on the concurrent lever pressing/feeding task. Analysis of the dose response curves showed that injections of SCH 23390 into the core were more potent than injections into the shell for suppressing lever pressing (i.e., the ED(50) was lower in the core). Nevertheless, injections of either drug into either site suppressed lever pressing and increased intake of the concurrently available chow. Across both drugs and at both sites, the amount of chow consumed was negatively correlated with the total number of responses. Neither drug significantly increased response duration, suggesting that accumbens DA antagonism did not produce the type of motor impairment that leads to severe alterations in the form of lever pressing. In summary, the blockade of D1 or D2 receptors in nucleus accumbens core or shell decreased lever pressing for food reinforcers, but rats remained directed toward the acquisition and consumption of food. These results indicate that accumbens D1 antagonism does not decrease lever pressing because of a general reduction in food motivation. Nevertheless, interference with accumbens DA does appear to set constraints upon which responses are selected for obtaining food, and may impair the ability of animals to overcome work-related response costs in order to obtain food.

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