Involvement of the medial septum in stress-induced relapse to heroin seeking in rats

Eur J Neurosci. 2000 May;12(5):1705-13. doi: 10.1046/j.1460-9568.2000.00037.x.


Intermittent footshock stress has been shown to reinstate extinguished drug-taking behaviour in rats, but the brain areas involved in this effect are to a large degree unknown. Here we studied the role of the septum in stress-induced reinstatement of heroin seeking. Rats were trained to self-administer heroin for 9-10 days (three 3-h sessions per day, 0.1 mg/kg per infusion). Following training, extinction sessions were given for 8-13 days by substituting saline for heroin, and then tests for reinstatement of heroin seeking were carried out. Reversible inactivation of the medial septum with tetrodotoxin (TTX; 1-5 ng, infused 25-40 min before the test sessions) reliably reinstated heroin seeking, mimicking the effect of 15 min of intermittent footshock. This effect of TTX was not observed after infusions made 1.5 mm dorsally into the lateral septum. In other experiments, it was found that infusions of a low, subthreshold dose of TTX (0.5 ng) into the medial septum, when combined with 2 min of footshock that in itself was ineffective, reinstated heroin seeking. Furthermore, electrical stimulation (400 microA pulses, 100 micros duration, 100 Hz frequency) of the medial septum during exposure to 10 min of intermittent footshock attenuated footshock-induced reinstatement of heroin seeking. These data suggest a role for the medial septum in stress-induced relapse to drug seeking. The septum is thought to be involved in neuronal processes underlying behavioural inhibition, thus we speculate that stressors provoke relapse by interfering with these processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electroshock
  • Extinction, Psychological
  • Heroin / administration & dosage
  • Heroin Dependence / physiopathology*
  • Heroin Dependence / psychology*
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Recurrence
  • Self Administration
  • Septal Nuclei / drug effects
  • Septal Nuclei / pathology
  • Septal Nuclei / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Tetrodotoxin / toxicity


  • Tetrodotoxin
  • Heroin