The dorsomedial shell of the nucleus accumbens facilitates cocaine-induced locomotor activity during the induction of behavioral sensitization

Behav Brain Res. 2002 Apr 1;131(1-2):9-16. doi: 10.1016/s0166-4328(01)00352-7.


The mesolimbic dopamine system has been intensely studied as the neural circuit mediating the locomotor response to psychostimulants and behavioral sensitization. In particular, the dopaminergic innervation of the nucleus accumbens has been implicated as a site responsible for the manifestations of behavioral sensitization. Previous studies have demonstrated an augmented release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens upon a systemic injection of a psychostimulant. In addition, alterations in the dopaminergic innervation patterns in this brain region have been demonstrated in animals that received repeated injections of cocaine. Furthermore, lesions of projection sites that have terminations in the nucleus accumbens have demonstrated alterations in psychostimulant induced locomotion, both acutely, as well as in sensitization paradigms. Since dopamine in the nucleus accumbens is believed to regulate several excitatory amino acid inputs, the present study examined the effects of a localized electrolytic lesion in the dorsomedial shell of the nucleus accumbens in order to better understand the functional role this brain region has in behavioral sensitization. All animals received bi-daily injections of 15 mg/kg i.p. cocaine. Only those demonstrating behavioral sensitization after a subsequent challenge dose were included in the analysis. Following acute exposure to cocaine, lesioned animals did not show any difference in their locomotor response when compared with sham controls. However, after repeated exposure to cocaine, sensitized animals demonstrated a significant attenuation in locomotor behavior when compared with sensitized sham controls. This decrease in horizontal locomotion persisted 2 days into withdrawal, yet dissipated in the sensitized animals that were challenged 2 weeks following their last injection. The data presented here demonstrate that the dorsomedial shell of the nucleus accumbens plays an important role in the initial stages of behavioral sensitization to cocaine.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Cocaine / adverse effects
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / anatomy & histology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / physiology


  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Cocaine