An in vivo autoradiographic technique permitted the visualization of discrete neuroanatomical changes in opiate receptor binding as a result of 23-h water deprivation and drinking. Two groups of rats (n = 5) were placed on a 23-h water deprivation schedule for 10 days. On the last day, one group was given access to water for 15 min. These groups, plus a matched ad libitum water control group (n = 5), received an injection of 0.002 mg/kg [3H]diprenorphine ([3H]Dpr) through chronically implanted jugular catheters followed by preparation for opiate receptor autoradiography. Relative cerebral blood flow was estimated non-quantitatively by the injection of 75 μCi/kg iodo-[14C]antipyrene into 3 additional groups identically treated. Results indicated that water-deprivation stress increased [3H]Dpr binding in the claustrum, lateral hypothalamus, amygdala and ventral tegmental area while decreasing binding in the medial frontal cortex, lateral septum, dorsolateral thalamus and central gray. All effects of water deprivation were reversed in animals receiving water. Observations of changes in relative blood flow were shown to have no correlation with changes in opiate receptor binding. It appears that water deprivation stress causes a reduction in opioid release in areas along the mesotelencephalic dopamine pathway which may contribute to a drive state. Water intake may then reduce or otherwise alter the drive state through the release of opioids along these pathways, contributing to the perception of reward. © 1987.
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