Attenuation of cue-induced heroin-seeking behavior by cannabinoid CB1 antagonist infusions into the nucleus accumbens core and prefrontal cortex, but not basolateral amygdala

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2008 Sep;33(10):2483-93. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1301630. Epub 2007 Dec 5.


As with other drugs of abuse, heroin use is characterized by a high incidence of relapse following detoxification that can be triggered by exposure to conditioned stimuli previously associated with drug availability. Recent findings suggest that cannabinoid CB(1) receptors modulate the motivational properties of heroin-conditioned stimuli that induce relapse behavior. However, the neural substrates through which CB(1) receptors modulate cue-induced heroin seeking have not been elucidated. In this study, we evaluated alterations in cue-induced reinstatement of heroin-seeking behavior produced by infusions of the CB(1) receptor antagonist SR 141716A (0, 0.3 and 3 microg per side) delivered into the prefrontal cortex (PFC), nucleus accumbens (NAC), and basolateral amygdala (BLA) of rats. Results show that following extinction of operant behavior the presentation of a discriminative stimulus conditioned to heroin availability reinstated nonreinforced lever pressing to levels comparable to preextinction levels. Intra-PFC SR 141716A dose-dependently reduced cue-induced reinstatement of heroin seeking, with a significant reduction following the 3 microg per side dose. In the NAC, both SR 141716A doses induced a significant reduction in cue-induced reinstatement, with the highest dose completely blocking the effect of the cue. In contrast, intra-BLA SR 141716A did not alter cue-induced reinstatement of responding while systemic administration of this antagonist (3 mg/kg, i.p.) significantly blocked cue-induced reinstatement in all three-placement groups (BLA, PFC, and NAC). These findings provide new insights into the neural mechanisms through which CB(1) receptors modulate the motivational properties of heroin-associated cues inducing relapse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / drug effects
  • Amygdala / metabolism
  • Amygdala / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Cues*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Extinction, Psychological / drug effects
  • Extinction, Psychological / physiology
  • Heroin / pharmacology*
  • Heroin Dependence / drug therapy*
  • Heroin Dependence / metabolism
  • Heroin Dependence / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Narcotics / pharmacology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiopathology
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / metabolism
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Reward
  • Rimonabant


  • Narcotics
  • Piperidines
  • Pyrazoles
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Heroin
  • Rimonabant