Sensitization occurs to the locomotor effects of morphine and the specific mu opioid receptor agonist, DAGO, administered repeatedly to the ventral tegmental area but not to the nucleus accumbens

Brain Res. 1987 Aug 4;417(1):51-8. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(87)90178-8.


Several recent reports have demonstrated that opiate action in both the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the nucleus accumbens (N.Acc.) produces an increase in locomotor activity. In the present experiments, the effect of repeated bilateral injections into these sites of either morphine or the mu opioid receptor agonist Tyr-D-Ala-Gly-NMe-Phe-Gly-ol (DAGO) was investigated. As previously reported with morphine and other opioids, repeated injections of either morphine or DAGO into the VTA produced a progressive enhancement or sensitization of their locomotor activating effects. On the other hand, although both substances injected into the N.Acc. elicited increased locomotion, repeated injections did not lead to sensitization. It has been suggested that the increased locomotor activity produced by opiate injection into the VTA is dopamine-dependent while that produced by intra-N.Acc. injections is not. The present findings provide neuroanatomical support for the view that sensitization to the locomotor activating effects of opiates and opioids brought about by repeated drug exposure involves the mesolimbic dopamine system.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Enkephalin, Ala(2)-MePhe(4)-Gly(5)-
  • Enkephalins / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Morphine / pharmacology*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Receptors, Opioid / drug effects
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • Septal Nuclei / drug effects*
  • Stimulation, Chemical
  • Tegmentum Mesencephali / drug effects*


  • Enkephalins
  • Receptors, Opioid
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • Enkephalin, Ala(2)-MePhe(4)-Gly(5)-
  • Morphine