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Behav Brain Res. 2008 Feb 11;187(1):17-26. Epub 2007 Aug 22.

Electrolytic lesions of the habenula attenuate brain stimulation reward.

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Department of Psychiatry, Université de Montréal and Centre de Recherche Fernand-Seguin, Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine, 7331 Hochelaga, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H1N 3V2.


The present experiment used electrolytic lesions in combination with curve-shift scaling to study the functional relation between the habenula and four different brain sites that support operant responding for brain stimulation reward. Rats were implanted with a monopolar stimulation electrode aimed at the lateral hypothalamus, ventral tegmental area, dorsal raphe or median raphe nuclei, and a lesioning electrode in the ipsilateral habenula. Operant nose poking resulted in self-administration of trains of electrical pulses to one of the above stimulation sites. Reward thresholds were derived from response-number curves and defined as the pulse number necessary for half-maximal responding. Rats were tested daily at each of three current intensities that were chosen from individual number-current trade-off functions and that yielded baseline reward thresholds of approximately 10, 20 and 40 pulses/train. Testing resumed 24h after lesioning the habenula (100 muA anodal current, 20-25s) and continued for 3-4 weeks. A total of 19 rats completed the experiment. In five of these, habenular lesions clearly reduced the rewarding effectiveness of the stimulation; reward thresholds increased by approximately 30-245% (0.12-0.54 log10 units). Generally, lesion effects were observed at low and medium current intensities, developed gradually and did not recover. Histological analysis revealed that in two rats the stimulation electrode was located in the posterior lateral hypothalamus, two in the anterior ventral tegmental area and one in the area of the dorsal raphe. These results strongly suggest that the habenula constitutes an important component of the neural circuitry important for brain stimulation reward.

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