Behavioural brain research

The effects of nucleus accumbens μ-opioid and adenosine 2A receptor stimulation and blockade on instrumental learning.

PMID 25101542


Prior research has shown that glutamate and dopamine receptors in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) core are critical for the learning of an instrumental response for food reinforcement. It has also been demonstrated that μ-opioid and adenosine A2A receptors within the NAcc impact feeding and motivational processes. In these experiments, we examined the potential roles of NAcc μ-opioid and A2A receptors on instrumental learning and performance. Sprague-Dawley rats were food restricted and trained to lever press following daily intra-accumbens injections of the A2A receptor agonist CGS 21680 (at 0.0, 6.0, or 24.0ng/side), the A2A antagonist pro-drug MSX-3 (at 0.0, 1.0, or 3.0μg/side), the μ-opioid agonist DAMGO (at 0.0, 0.025, or 0.025μg/side), or the opioid receptor antagonist naltrexone (at 0.0, 2.0 or 20.0μg/side). After five days, rats continued training without drug injections until lever pressing rates stabilized, and were then tested with a final drug test to assess potential performance effects. Stimulation, but not inhibition, of NAcc adenosine A2A receptors depressed lever pressing during learning and performance tests, but did not impact lever pressing on non-drug days. Both μ-opioid receptor stimulation and blockade inhibited learning of the lever-press response, though only naltrexone treatment caused impairments in lever-pressing after the task had been learned. The effect of A2A receptor stimulation on learning and performance were consistent with known effects of adenosine on effort-related processes, whereas the pattern of lever presses, magazine approaches, and pellet consumption following opioid receptor manipulations suggested that their effects may have been driven by drug-induced shifts in the incentive value of the sugar reinforcer.