1. Repeated administration of psychostimulants and micro-opioid receptor agonists elicits a progressive enhancement of drug-induced behavioural responses, a phenomenon termed behavioural sensitization. These changes in behaviour may reflect plastic changes requiring regulation of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole proprionic acid (AMPA) receptor function. 2. In the present study, rats were treated for 7 days with saline or morphine (10 mg/kg). After a washout period of either 24 h or 7 days, locomotion, oral stereotypy and state-dependent memory in a passive avoidance test were measured in the presence or absence of 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione disodium salt (CNQX; 3 mg/kg), an AMPA receptor antagonist. In order to evaluate the mechanism underlying the behavioural responses, quantitative real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction was used to evaluate mRNA expression of the AMPA receptor subunits GluR2 and GluR3 in the striatum, prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, hypothalamus and amygdala of animals treated repeatedly with morphine. 3. The results indicate that repeated morphine treatment followed by 7 days (but not 24 h) washout produces behavioural sensitization, as determined by locomotion, oral stereotypy and state-dependent memory. Blockade of AMPA receptors with CNQX on the test day did not alter these behavioural responses. In addition, repeated morphine treatment followed by 7 days (but not 24 h) washout decreased GluR2 mRNA expression in both the amygdala (by 50%) and hippocampus (by 35%). Repeated morphine treatment did not alter GluR3 mRNA expression in any brain area assessed. 4. These data imply that AMPA receptors are involved in the development (but not expression) phase of behavioural sensitization. The decreases in GluR2 mRNA expression in the amygdala and hippocampus may result in the formation of calcium-permeable AMPA receptors, which are believed to play an important role in behavioural sensitization.