Environmental novelty modulates the induction and expression of single injection-induced behavioral sensitization to morphine

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Abstract

Opioid addiction is a growing public health problem, being currently considered an epidemic in the United States. Investigating the behavioral effects of opioids and the factors influencing their development becomes of major importance. In animals, the effects of drugs of abuse can be assessed using the behavioral sensitization model, which shares similar neuronal substrates with drug craving in humans. Importantly, novelty plays a critical role on the development of behavioral sensitization. The aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of a new environment on both the induction and expression phases of morphine (Mor)-induced behavioral sensitization in the two-injection protocol. Mice were initially treated with saline, 15 or 30 mg/kg Mor (induction phase), and subsequently challenged 7 days later with 15 mg/Kg Mor (expression phase). Locomotor frequency was evaluated during behavioral sessions, performed as follow: induction session on a novel environment and expression on a familiar open-filed apparatus; induction session on animals' home-cage (familiar environment) and expression session on an unknown open-filed apparatus; both sessions on novel environments; and both sessions on familiar contexts. Mor-induced behavioral sensitization was only observed when animals were exclusively exposed to novelty during the induction phase, not being observed when both the induction and expression sessions were performed on similar (novel or familiar) environments. Our results suggest that the development of behavioral sensitization to Mor depends on the exposure to novelty during the induction phase and absence of novelty during the expression phase, indicating a complex relationship between novelty and Mor-induced behavioral effects.

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