The ventral pallidum is critically involved in the development and expression of morphine-induced sensitization

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2009 Mar;34(4):874-86. doi: 10.1038/npp.2008.111. Epub 2008 Jul 30.


Repeated, intermittent exposure to drugs of abuse results in response enhancements to subsequent drug treatments, a phenomenon referred to as sensitization. As persistent neuronal sensitization may contribute to the long-lasting consequences of drug abuse, characterizing the neuroanatomical substrates of sensitization is providing insights into addiction. It is known that the ventral tegmental area (VTA) is necessary for induction, and expression involves the nucleus accumbens (NAc). We reveal here that the ventral pallidum (VP), a brain region reciprocally innervated by the VTA and the NAc, is a critical mediator of opiate-induced behavioral sensitization. Blockade of VP mu-opioid receptors (via intra-VP CTOP injections) negated the ability of systemic administration of the opiate, morphine to induce motor sensitization, and for sensitized rats to subsequently express enhanced responding to a morphine challenge. Intra-VP morphine was sufficient to induce motor sensitization, and this sensitization was expressed following 17 days of withdrawal. Rats with a treatment history of intra-VP morphine demonstrated cross-sensitization to a challenge injection of systemically administered morphine. Conversely, repeated systemic treatments of morphine cross-sensitized to an intra-VP morphine challenge. These results indicate that activation of VP mu-opioid receptors is sufficient to evoke behavioral sensitization and that these receptors are necessary for sensitized responding to systemic morphine. The study pioneers the concept that both development and expression of drug-induced sensitization are regulated by the VP. Thus, the VP is likely an important contributor to neuronal adaptations that underlie addiction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Catheterization
  • Globus Pallidus / drug effects*
  • Globus Pallidus / metabolism*
  • Globus Pallidus / pathology
  • Male
  • Morphine / administration & dosage*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Narcotic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / pathology
  • Photomicrography
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Somatostatin / analogs & derivatives
  • Somatostatin / pharmacology


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • phenylalanyl-cyclo(cysteinyltyrosyl-tryptophyl-ornithyl-threonyl-penicillamine)threoninamide
  • Somatostatin
  • Morphine