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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003 Jun;75(3):577-84.

Effects of perinatal exposure to delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol on operant morphine-reinforced behavior.

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Departamento de Psicobiología, Facultad de Psicología, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Ciudad Universitaria, 28040 Madrid, Spain.


The present study examined the effects of Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta(9)-THC) when administered during the perinatal period on morphine self-administration in adulthood. To this end, pregnant Wistar rats were daily exposed to Delta(9)-THC from the fifth day of gestation up to pup weaning, when they were separated by gender and left to mature to be used for analyses of operant food- and morphine-reinforced behavior in a progressive ratio (PR) schedule. We also analyzed dopaminergic activity (DOPAC/DA) in reward-related structures during specific phases of the behavioral study. In both reinforcement paradigms, food and morphine, females always reached higher patterns of self-administration than males, but this occurred for the two treatment groups, Delta(9)-THC or vehicle. These higher patterns measured in females corresponded with a higher DOPAC/DA in the nucleus accumbens prior to the onset of morphine self-administration in comparison to males. Interestingly, DOPAC/DA was lower in Delta(9)-THC-exposed females compared to oil-exposed females and similar to oil- and Delta(9)-THC-exposed males. In addition, Delta(9)-THC-exposed females also exhibited a reduction in DOPAC/DA in the ventral tegmental area, which did not exist in males. All these changes, however, disappeared after 15 days of morphine self-administration and they did not reappear after 15 additional days of extinction of this response. Our data suggest that females are more vulnerable than males in a PR schedule for operant food and morphine self-administration; perinatal Delta(9)-THC exposure is not a factor influencing this vulnerability. The neurochemical analysis revealed that the activity of limbic dopaminergic neurons prior to morphine self-administration was higher in females than males, as well as that the perinatal Delta(9)-THC treatment reduced the activity of these neurons only in females, although this had no influence on morphine vulnerability in these animals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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