• dopamine;
  • microdialysis;
  • motivation;
  • nucleus accumbens;
  • reward


Non-adaptive activation of dopamine transmission in the nucleus accumbens shell by drugs of abuse has been attributed a fundamental role in the mechanism of drug addiction. In order to test this hypothesis, we compared in the same subject the effect of an addictive drug (ethanol) and of taste stimuli, including ethanol's own taste, on dialysate dopamine in the nucleus accumbens shell as an estimate of dopamine transmission and on taste reactivity as an expression of motivational valence. Ethanol was also monitored in the dialysates. In naive rats, intraoral infusion of a 20% sucrose + chocolate solution elicited a monophasic increase of dialysate dopamine immediately after the intraoral infusion. In contrast, intraoral infusion of 10% ethanol, 10% ethanol + 20% sucrose or 10% ethanol + 20% sucrose + chocolate solutions elicited a biphasic increase of nucleus accumbens dopamine with an early taste-related rise and a late rise related to dialysate ethanol. Pre-exposure to the ethanol solutions 24 h before resulted in the absence of the early dopamine rise and permanence of the late dopamine rise. This late dopamine rise was actually increased as compared with that of the nonpre-exposed group when sucrose-containing ethanol solutions were tested. The results indicate that single trial pre-exposure to the ethanol solutions differentially affects the responsiveness of nucleus accumbens shell dopamine to the direct intracerebral action of ethanol and to the effect of its taste with potentiation, or no change of the first and abolition of the second. These observations point to the existence of major differences in the adaptive regulation of nucleus accumbens dopamine transmission in the shell after drug as compared with taste reward. These differences, in turn, are consistent with a role of nucleus accumbens shell dopamine in the mechanism of the behavioural effects of addictive drugs.