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J Neurosci. 2005 Dec 14;25(50):11777-86.

Hedonic hot spot in nucleus accumbens shell: where do mu-opioids cause increased hedonic impact of sweetness?

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Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


Mu-opioid systems in the medial shell of the nucleus accumbens contribute to hedonic impact ("liking") for sweetness, food, and drug rewards. But does the entire medial shell generate reward hedonic impact? Or is there a specific localized site for opioid enhancement of hedonic "liking" in the medial shell? And how does enhanced taste hedonic impact relate to opioid-stimulated increases in food intake? Here, we used a functional mapping procedure based on microinjection Fos plumes to localize opioid substrates in the medial shell of the nucleus accumbens that cause enhanced "liking" reactions to sweet pleasure and that stimulate food intake. We mapped changes in affective orofacial reactions of "liking"/"disliking" elicited by sucrose or quinine tastes after D-Ala2-N-Me-Phe4-Glycol5-enkephalin (DAMGO) microinjections in rats and compared hedonic increases to food intake stimulated at the same sites. Our maps indicate that opioid-induced increases in sucrose hedonic impact are generated by a localized cubic millimeter site in a rostrodorsal region of the medial shell. In contrast, all regions of the medial shell generated DAMGO-induced robust increases in eating behavior and food intake. Thus, our results identify a locus for opioid amplification of hedonic impact and reveal a distinction between opioid mechanisms of food intake and hedonic impact. Opioid circuits for stimulating food intake are widely distributed, whereas hedonic "liking" circuits are more tightly localized in the rostromedial shell of the nucleus accumbens.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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