A reward-relevant relationship between dopamine projection regions of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) was investigated through the use of brain stimulation reward (BSR) thresholds. Using a rate-free method, changes in VTA BSR thresholds were determined after intracranial injections of the dopamine D1 antagonist, SCH 23390 into the prefrontal cortex (PFC), or the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). Reward thresholds assessed immediately after the infusion of SCH 23390 into the NAcc (0.5 microgram/0.5 microliter/side) were significantly higher than those assessed just after saline infusions, indicating a drug-induced attenuation of the rewarding effects of the brain stimulation. The effects of this dose subsided when tested 24 h later. Conversely, intra-PFC infusions of SCH 23390 at the same dose (0.5 microgram/0.5 microliter/side) resulted in lowered BSR thresholds when rats were tested immediately after infusion. In addition, animals tested 24 h after receiving the lowest dose (0.125 microgram/0.5 microliter/side) demonstrated a robust delayed threshold-lowering effect. These immediate and delayed effects of the intra-PFC dopamine antagonist demonstrate a facilitation of VTA BSR and are consistent with the view that PFC dopamine serves a modulatory role over important reward elements within the NAcc. The deferred effects of intra-prefrontal cortex DA receptor blockade on brain stimulation reward thresholds may reflect adaptive responses of subcortical structures to changes in PFC dopamine neurotransmission. It has been suggested that neural adjustments of this type may underlie long term changes in central nervous system functioning brought about by disease, drug use or behavioral conditioning.
Copyright 1998 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.