Biological Determinants of Reinforcement - Vol. 7

By Michael L. Commons; Russell M. Church et al. | Go to book overview

7
Separate Neurochemical Substrates for Cocaine and Heroin Reinforcement

George F. Koob Division of Preclinical Neuroscience and Endocrinology, Research Institute of the Scripps Clinic

Psychomotor stimulants and opiates act as other natural reinforcers that increase the probability of a response: These drugs, as other reinforcers such as food, strengthen and maintain operant behavior, that is, drug self-administration ( Pickens & Harris, 1968; Woods & Schuster, 1968; Deneau, Yanagita & Seevers, 1969; Thompson & Pickens, 1970; Yokel & Pickens, 1973; Schuster & Thompson , 1969). Given the neuropharmacological advances that allow for relatively specific inactivation of specific neurochemical systems, it becomes feasible to examine the neurobiological mechanisms for these reinforcing effects. Such studies would not only provide information on the basic mechanisms of action for the behavioral effects of these drugs, but also should provide insight into the neurobiological organization of reinforcement processes themselves.

The neurochemical substrates of reinforcement have already been well studied, particularly with regard to the neurochemical basis of brain stimulation reward (for reviews see German & Bowden, 1974; Fibiger, 1978; Wise, 1978). A general consensus of that work has been that brain catecholamine systems play an important, if not critical, role. More recently, this catecholamine hypothesis has been elaborated in terms of a critical role for brain "dopamine-reward" under which the reinforcing properties of all reinforcers are ultimately mediated in series with the brain dopamine systems (see Wise, 1982). Although this position has been challenged from various points of view, critical experiments have been elusive ( Koob, 1982; Ettenberg, Koob, & Bloom, 1981; Wise, 1982). The unique properties of drug self-administration provide a novel means by which to address the question of the neurochemical substrate of reinforcement.

In stimulant and opiate self-administration, animals maintain a relatively stable level of drug intake over time with very regular inter-infusion intervals

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