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J Neurosci. 1996 May 1;16(9):3112-22.

Rewarding actions of phencyclidine and related drugs in nucleus accumbens shell and frontal cortex.

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  • 1Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology, Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Montre├íl, Quebec, Canada.


Rats learned to lever-press when such behavior was reinforced by microinjections of phencyclidine (PCP) directly into the ventromedial (shell) region of nucleus accumbens, indicating that the drug has direct rewarding actions in that region. Separate groups of rats learned to lever-press when reinforced with microinjections of dizoclipine (MK-801) or 3-((+/-)2-carboxypiperazin-4yl)propyl-1-phosphate (CPP), drugs known to block NMDA receptor function but not dopamine uptake, into the same region. Each drug was ineffective or markedly less effective when injected at a slightly more dorsal and lateral site in the core of nucleus accumbens. Self-administration of PCP, MK-801, or CPP directly into nucleus accumbens was not altered by co-infusion of a dose of the dopamine antagonist sulpiride that effectively blocked intracranial self-administration of the dopamine uptake inhibitor nomifensine, suggesting that the rewarding actions of the NMDA receptor antagonists are not dopamine-dependent. Rats also developed lever-pressing habits when PCP, MK-801, and CPP were each microinjected directly into frontal cortex, a region previously associated with the rewarding actions of cocaine but not nomifensine. Thus nucleus accumbens and frontal cortex are each potential substrates for the rewarding properties of PCP and related drugs, and the ability of these drugs to disrupt NMDA receptor function seems sufficient to account for their rewarding actions. When considered with independent evidence, the present results suggest a model of drug reward within which the critical event is inhibition of medium spiny neurons in nucleus accumbens.

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