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Eur J Neurosci. 2012 Jan;35(2):279-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2011.07943.x. Epub 2012 Jan 12.

Inputs from the basolateral amygdala to the nucleus accumbens shell control opiate reward magnitude via differential dopamine D1 or D2 receptor transmission.

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Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, 468 Medical Science Building, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada.


The basolateral amygdala (BLA), ventral tegmental area and nucleus accumbens (NAc) form a functionally connected neural circuit involved in the processing of opiate-related reward and memory. Dopamine (DA) projections from the ventral tegmental area to the BLA modulate associative plasticity mechanisms within the BLA. However, the role of DA receptor signaling in the BLA and its functional outputs to the NAc during opiate reward processing is not currently understood. Using an unbiased place conditioning procedure, we measured the rewarding effects of morphine following intra-BLA microinfusions of specific DA D1 or D2 receptor agonists in either opiate-naive or opiate-dependent/withdrawn rats. Activation of intra-BLA D1 receptors strongly potentiated the behaviorally rewarding effects of opiates, only in the opiate-naive state. However, once opiate dependence and withdrawal occurred, the intra-BLA DA-mediated potentiation of opiate reward salience switched to a D2 receptor-dependent substrate. We next performed single-unit, in-vivo extracellular neuronal recordings in the NAc shell (NA shell), to determine if intra-BLA D1/D2 receptor activation may modulate the NA shell neuronal response patterns to morphine. Consistent with our behavioral results, intra-BLA D1 or D2 receptor activation potentiated NAc 'shell' (NA shell) neuronal responses to sub-reward threshold opiate administration, following the same functional boundary between the opiate-naive and opiate-dependent/withdrawn states. Finally, blockade of N-methyl-d-aspartate transmission within the NA shell blocked intra-BLA DA D1 or D2 receptor-mediated opiate reward potentiation. Our findings demonstrate a novel and functional DA D1/D2 receptor-mediated opiate reward memory switch within the BLA→NA shell circuit that controls opiate reward magnitude as a function of opiate exposure state.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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