Background: Whether propofol produces a pleasant affective state remains unclear from clinical studies. In the current study, the effect on affective state of subanesthetic and anesthetic doses of propofol was assessed at a preclinical level with rats in a place conditioning paradigm. Propofol was compared with methohexital.
Methods: In the place conditioning paradigm, propofol-induced effect was repeatedly paired with one of two distinguishable compartments of the apparatus, whereas the vehicle-induced effect was repeatedly paired with the other compartment. During a subsequent free-choice test, a preference for the drug-paired compartment over the vehicle-paired compartment would be indicative of pleasant state induced by the drug. For all experiments, the conditioning session lasted 8 days and consisted of four pairings of the drug with one compartment and four pairings of the equivalent volume of vehicle with the other compartment. In experiment 1A, four groups of rats were designated according to the dose of propofol that they received intraperitoneally: 0,30,60, or 90 mg/kg. In experiment 1B, the same procedure was used with subanesthetic doses of intraperitoneal methohexital: 0,10,20, or 30 mg/kg. In experiment 2, the rats were conditioned during the recovery period from short-term anesthesia. For one group, anesthesia was induced by propofol (100 mg/kg) whereas for the other group, anesthesia was induced by an equivalent anesthetic dose of methohexital (40 mg/kg).
Results: In experiment 1A, the 30-mg/kg, 60-mg/kg, and 90-mg/kg groups showed a place preference for the drug-paired compartment, but only the group conditioned with 60 mg/kg propofol significantly differed from the 0-mg/kg group. In experiment 1B, the groups conditioned with methohexital showed no place preference for the drug-paired compartment. In experiment 2, the rats showed a place preference for the compartment in which they recovered from propofol-induced anesthesia but no place preference for the compartment in which they recovered from methohexital-induced anesthesia.
Conclusions: Propofol, but not methohexital, induced a pleasant affective state in rats at subanesthetic doses as well as during recovery from an anesthetic dose.