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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Dec 19;92(26):12304-8.

Intravenous cocaine, morphine, and amphetamine preferentially increase extracellular dopamine in the "shell" as compared with the "core" of the rat nucleus accumbens.

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  • 1Department of Toxicology, University of Cagliari, Italy.


The nucleus accumbens is considered a critical target of the action of drugs of abuse. In this nucleus a "shell" and a "core" have been distinguished on the basis of anatomical and histochemical criteria. The present study investigated the effect in freely moving rats of intravenous cocaine, amphetamine, and morphine on extracellular dopamine concentrations in the nucleus accumbens shell and core by means of microdialysis with vertically implanted concentric probes. Doses selected were in the range of those known to sustain drug self-administration in rats. Morphine, at 0.2 and 0.4 mg/kg, and cocaine, at 0.5 mg/kg, increased extracellular dopamine selectivity in the shell. Higher doses of cocaine (1.0 mg/kg) and the lowest dose of amphetamine tested (0.125 mg/kg) increased extracellular dopamine both in the shell and in the core, but the effect was significantly more pronounced in the shell compared with the core. Only the highest dose of amphetamine (0.250 mg/kg) increased extracellular dopamine in the shell and in the core to a similar extent. The present results provide in vivo neurochemical evidence for a functional compartmentation within the nucleus accumbens and for a preferential effect of psychostimulants and morphine in the shell of the nucleus accumbens at doses known to sustain intravenous drug self-administration.

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