The following experiments investigated the behavioral response to local microinfusion of dopamine (DA) and selective DA agonists into the core and shell subregions of the nucleus accumbens. Rats were implanted with chronic indwelling cannulae aimed at these subregions. Two experiments were conducted. In experiment 4, the response to DA (0, 2, 5, 10 μg/0.5 μl/side), the D-1 agonist SKF82598 (0, 0.1, 1.0 μg), the D-2/3 agonist quinpirole (0, 1, 5, 15 μg) and the D-3 preferring agonist pramipexole (0.1, 1.0, 10.0 μg) was examined in photocell activity cages. Locomotor (horizontal) and rearing (vertical) activities were measured. DA and SKF-82958 induced relatively greater increases in activity following stimulation of the shell as compared with the core. Quinpirole induced a dose-dependent suppression of activity after infusion into both sites, although the core was more sensitive to the suppressive effect than the shell. Pramipexole induced time-dependent, biphasic effects that were small in magnitude and did not differentiate between site. In experiment 2, an observation procedure was used to record behaviors (locomotion, rearing, feeding, drinking). Dopamine (0, 2, 10 μg) elicited greater increases in rearing and feeding behavior in the shell than in the core. SKF-82958 (0, 0.75 μg) enhanced locomotion and rearing to a similar extent in both subregions in this test, whereas a mixture of a low dose (0.25 μg) of the D-1 and D-2 agonists selectively induced behavioral activation in the shell. In contrast to the results in the activity cage test, quinpirole (0, 1, 5 μg) increased motor activity at the lower dose when infused into the shell but not into the core. No alterations in feeding were observed following infusion of selective agonists, and no changes in drinking were found with any of the treatments. In summary, the shell appears to be relatively more sensitive to the motor activating effects of DA agonists than the core. Moreover, circuits associated with shell may be preferentially involved in feeding.
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