Rationale: The endogenous cannabinoid system is thought to play a role in reinforcement processes.
Objectives: We tested the effects of five doses of the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) antagonist SR141716 [0, 0.3, 1, 3 and 10 mg/kg intraperitoneal (IP)] on intracranial self-stimulation at the level of the median forebrain bundle (MFB). Self-stimulation was assessed 30 min and 210 min after SR141716 administration. We compared the effect of SR141716 with the effect of a decrease in the magnitude of stimulation (-100 microA) and the effects of a cocaine injection (1, 5 and 10 mg/kg IP).
Methods: a protocol of rate-frequency curve for self-stimulation was applied. Two rate-frequency curves were established daily, 3 h apart. The frequency required to produce half-maximal performance (M50) and the maximal performance (RMax) were used as the parameters to characterize the rate-frequency functions.
Results: SR141716 decreased the sensitivity to the electrical brain stimulation. SR141716 induced a shift to the right of the rate-frequency curve. This effect depended on the dose administered and the time after injection. Thirty minutes after the injection, 1, 3 and 10 mg/kg SR141716 induced a significant decrease in sensitivity to electrical stimulation, as shown by an elevation in the M50 value. RMax showed a tendency to decrease with increasing doses. At 210 min after administration, 3 and 10 mg/kg SR141716 maintained their decreasing effect on the sensitivity to the stimulation as shown by the significant increase of the M50, however, the maximal response was restored to the basal value. A decrease in self-stimulation intensity produced an effect comparable to the one observed 30 min after either 3 or 10 mg/kg SR141716, while cocaine (5 and 10 mg/kg) produced the opposite effect. Neither condition affected the rate-frequency curve measured 3 h later.
Conclusions: In accordance with recent observations, these experiments suggest that the endogenous cannabinoid system facilitates the perception or the effects of positive reinforcers. They also suggest that this neurochemical system could be a target of interest for treating psychopathologies implicating the reinforcing system.