The psychogenetically selected Roman high- and low-avoidance rat lines: a model to study the individual vulnerability to drug addiction

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2007;31(1):148-63. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2006.07.008.


The Roman high- (RHA) and low-avoidance (RLA) rat lines were selected for, respectively, rapid vs poor acquisition of two-way active avoidance in the shuttle-box. Here, we review experimental evidence indicating that, compared with their RLA counterparts, RHA rats display a robust sensation/novelty seeking profile, a marked preference and intake of natural or drug rewards, and more pronounced behavioral and neurochemical responses to the acute administration of morphine and psychostimulants. Moreover, we show that (i) the repeated administration of morphine and cocaine elicits behavioral sensitization in RHA, but not RLA, rats, (ii) in sensitized RHA rats, acute morphine and cocaine cause a larger increment in dopamine output in the core, and an attenuated dopaminergic response in the shell of the nucleus accumbens, as compared with RHA rats repeatedly treated with saline, and (iii) such neurochemical changes are not observed in the mesoaccumbens dopaminergic system of the sensitization-resistant RLA line. Behavioral sensitization plays a key role in several cardinal features of addiction, including drug craving, compulsive drug seeking and propensity to relapse following detoxification. Comparative studies in the Roman lines may therefore represent a valid approach to evaluate the contribution of the genotype on the neural substrates of drug sensitization and addiction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning*
  • Behavior, Addictive / genetics*
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Genetics, Behavioral
  • Individuality
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Substance-Related Disorders / genetics*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Dopamine