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Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jul;63(1):161-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.10.018. Epub 2011 Nov 2.

Cannabinoid facilitation of behavioral and biochemical hedonic taste responses.

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Department of Toxicology, University of Cagliari, Italy.


Cannabinoid receptor agonists are known to stimulate feeding in humans and animals and this effect is thought to be related to an increase in food palatability. On the other hand, highly palatable food stimulates dopamine (DA) transmission in the shell of the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and this effect undergoes one trial habituation. In order to investigate the relationship between the affective properties of tastes and the response of NAc shell DA we studied the effect of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on behavioral taste reactivity to intraoral infusion of appetitive (sucrose solutions) and aversive (quinine and saturated NaCl solutions) tastes and on the response of in vivo DA transmission in the NAc shell to intraoral sucrose. Rats were implanted with intraoral cannulae and the effect of systemic administration of THC on the behavioral reactions to intraoral infusion of sucrose and of quinine or saturated NaCl solutions were scored. THC increased the hedonic reactions to sucrose but did not affect the aversive reactions to quinine and NaCl. The effects of THC were completely blocked by the CB1 receptor inverse agonist/antagonist rimonabant given at doses that do not affect taste reactivity to sucrose. In rats implanted with microdialysis probes and with intraoral cannulae, THC, made sucrose effective in raising dialysate DA in the shell of the NAc. As in the case of highly palatable food (Fonzies, sweet chocolate), the stimulatory effect of sucrose on shell DA under THC underwent one trial habituation. Altogether, these findings demonstrate that stimulation of CB1 receptors specifically increases the palatability of hedonic taste without affecting that of aversive tastes. Consistent with the ability of THC to increase sucrose palatability is the observation that under THC pretreatment sucrose acquires the ability to induce a release of DA in the shell of the NAc and this property undergoes adaptation after repeated exposure to the taste (habituation). This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Central Control of Food Intake'.

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