Brain Stimulation Reward Following Chronic Lead Exposure in Rats

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Adult male rats were exposed to drinking water containing either 500 parts per million (ppm) lead acetate or an equal concentration of sodium acetate for 80 days. Bipolar electrodes were then implanted into the medial forebrain bundle (MFB), and rats were allowed to recover for 7 days. On Day 8 postsurgery, control and lead-treated rats were placed in an operant chamber and shaped to press a lever to receive 200-ms trains of current. Data from a range of current intensities and frequencies were recorded to obtain threshold values for each rat, defined as the stimulation needed to support half-maximal lever responding. Results indicated that chronic lead exposure attenuated the reinforcing effect of brain stimulation. Because of the large number of reward systems mediated by the MFB–nucleus accumbens pathway, these data suggest that a variety of motivational phenomena may be affected by contaminant exposure.

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