A test of the opponent-process theory of motivation using lesions that selectively block morphine reward


Dr Hector Vargas-Perez, as above.
Email: vargashector@yahoo.com


The opponent-process theory of motivation postulates that motivational stimuli activate a rewarding process that is followed by an opposed aversive process in a homeostatic control mechanism. Thus, an acute injection of morphine in nondependent animals should evoke an acute rewarding response, followed by a later aversive response. Indeed, the tegmental pedunculopontine nucleus (TPP) mediates the rewarding effects of opiates in previously morphine-naive animals, but not other unconditioned effects of opiates, or learning ability. The aversive opponent process for acute morphine reward was revealed using a place-conditioning paradigm. The conditioned place aversion induced by 16-h spontaneous morphine withdrawal from an acute morphine injection in nondependent rats was abolished by TPP lesions performed prior to drug experience. However, TPP-lesioned rats did show conditioned aversions for an environment paired with the acute administration of the opioid antagonist naloxone, which blocks endogenous opioids. The results show that blocking the rewarding effects of morphine with TPP lesions also blocked the opponent aversive effects of acute morphine withdrawal in nondependent animals. Thus, this spontaneous withdrawal aversion (the opponent process) is induced by the acute rewarding effects of morphine and not by other unconditioned effects of morphine, the pharmacological effects of morphine or endogenous opioids being displaced from opiate receptors.