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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2000 Oct;152(2):200-7.

Chronic food restriction in rats augments the central rewarding effect of cocaine and the delta1 opioid agonist, DPDPE, but not the delta2 agonist, deltorphin-II.

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Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York 10016, USA.



Chronic food restriction augments the self-administration and locomotor stimulating effects of opiates, psychostimulants and NMDA antagonists. The extent to which these effects can be attributed to changes in drug pharmacokinetics and bioavailability versus sensitivity of the neuronal circuits that mediate the affected behavioral functions, has not been established. Recent studies point to central adaptive changes insofar as rewarding, locomotor and c-fos-inducing effects of amphetamine and MK-801, injected directly into the lateral ventricle, are greater in food-restricted than ad libitum fed rats. The increased expression of c-fos in nucleus accumbens (NAC) shell, in particular, suggests that food restriction may augment drug reward by modulating dopamine (DA) synaptic function in this area.


The first purpose of this study was to investigate whether the rewarding effects of cocaine and the delta1 opioid agonist DPDPE, both of which increase DA synaptic transmission, are augmented by food restriction. The second purpose was to determine whether the delta2 opioid agonist, deltorphin-II, which has been reported to exert DA-independent rewarding effects, is subject to the potentiating effect of food restriction.


Rewarding effects of drugs were measured in terms of their ability to lower the threshold for lateral hypothalamic self-stimulation (LHSS) using a rate-frequency method.


In separate experiments, cocaine (50, 100 and 150 microg, ICV) and DPDPE (10 and 25 microg, ICV) produced greater threshold-lowering effects in food-restricted than ad libitum fed rats. Deltorphin-II (5.0, 10 and 25 microg, ICV) had no effect on reward thresholds, regardless of feeding regimen.


While the reported DA-independence of deltorphin-II rewarding effects seemed to offer a means of testing the hypothesis that DA transmission is the critical modulated variable in food-restricted subjects, rewarding effects of this compound could not be demonstrated in the LHSS paradigm. The present results do, however, confirm and extend prior findings indicating that the enhanced self-administration of abused drugs by food-restricted subjects is due to enhanced sensitivity of a final common pathway for drug reward.

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