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Addict Biol. 2009 Sep;14(4):431-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2009.00163.x. Epub 2009 Jun 1.

Electroacupuncture treatment reverses morphine-induced physiological changes in dopaminergic neurons within the ventral tegmental area.

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  • 1Neuroscience Research Institute, Peking University, China.

Abstract

Chronic morphine administration decreases the size of dopamine (DA) neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). These transient morphological changes are accompanied by a reduced sensitivity of morphine-induced conditioned place preference (CPP) after chronic exposure to the drug. In this study we examined alterations in the firing rate of DAergic neurons by means of extracellular recording following chronic morphine exposure and applied 100 Hz electroacupuncture (EA) treatment to reverse the reduced firing rate of these neurons. In the first set of experiments we show that in rats, which received chronic morphine treatment for 14 days, a small dose of morphine was not able to induce a CPP response anymore. However, the sensitivity to morphine was reinstated by consecutive EA treatment for 10 days. The electrophysiological response of VTA DA neurons to morphine was markedly reduced in chronic morphine-treated rats compared to saline-treated controls. A substantial recovery of the reactivity of VTA DA neurons to morphine was observed in rats that received 100 Hz EA for 10 days. Our findings suggest that 100 Hz EA is a potential therapy for the treatment of opiate addiction by normalizing the activity of VTA DA neurons.

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