Prepulse inhibition modulation by contextual conditioning of dopaminergic activity

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When a neutral stimulus is repeatedly paired with a drug, an association is established between them that can induce two different responses: either an opponent response that counteracts the effect of the drug, or a response that is similar to that induced by the drug. In this paper, we focus on the analysis of the associations that can be established between the contextual cues and the administration of dopamine agonists or antagonists. Our hypothesis suggests that repeated administration of drugs that modulate dopaminergic activity in the presence of a specific context leads to the establishment of an association that subsequently results in a conditioned response to the context that is similar to that induced by the drug. To test this hypothesis, we conducted two experiments that revealed that contextual cues acquired the property to modulate pre-pulse inhibition by prior pairings of such context with the dopamine antagonist haloperidol (Experiment 1), and with the dopamine agonist d-amphetamine (Experiment 2). The implications of these results are discussed both at a theoretical level, and attending to the possibilities that could involve the use of context cues for the therapeutic administration of dopaminergic drugs.

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