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Studies on Sprague-Dawley rats using in vivo microdialysis and HPLC showed that the acquisition and performance of a classical conditioned reflex with pain reinforcement was accompanied by increases in the concentrations of citrulline (a side product of nitric oxide formation) and arginine (the substrate of NO synthase) in the intercellular space of the nucleus accumbens. During extinction of the reflex, there was a decrease in the elevation of extracellular citrulline in this brain structure, which correlated with the extent of extinction of the reflex. Recovery of the reflex led to increases in arginine and citrulline levels in the nucleus accumbens. These data suggest that there is an increase in nitric oxide production in the nucleus accumbens during the acquisition and performance of a classical conditioned reflex with pain reinforcement, which decreases as the reflex is extinguished and recovers with recovery of the reflex.