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Papers of the Week

Papers: 9 Apr 2022 - 15 Apr 2022


Animal Studies

2022 Apr 06

Pharmacol Biochem Behav

Psychological pain and opioid receptors: Reward downshift is disrupted when tested in a context signaling morphine.


Ruiz-Salas JC, de la Casa GL, Torres C, Papini MR
Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2022 Apr 06:173386.
PMID: 35398142.


A sucrose downshift causes a temporary suppression of consumption accompanied by psychological pain, a negative emotion triggered by reward loss. When administered systemically before downshift sessions, opioid agonists reduce and opioid antagonists enhance such behavioral suppression. However, little is known about the effects of signals of opioid drugs on behavior during a reward downshift episode. Research showed that morphine administration can induce a direct effect (e.g., hypoalgesia) followed by a compensatory effect (e.g., hyperalgesia). Therefore, a signal for morphine could elicit either a direct or a compensatory effect. Male Wistar rats were exposed to ten 5-min sessions of access to 32% sucrose in context A, followed by three sessions of access to 4% sucrose in context B. In parallel, animals received pairings between context B and morphine (5 mg/kg, sc) occurring each day immediately after sucrose sessions (contexts were counterbalanced). Control conditions included a saline control (no morphine injected), an unpaired control (morphine injected after exposure to B) tested in A (Experiment 1), and an unpaired control tested in B (Experiment 2). In both experiments, behavioral suppression induced by the 32-to-4% sucrose downshift was attenuated when the downshift occurred in a context previously paired with morphine. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that reward downshift is accompanied by an emotion of negative valence that can be counteracted by the conditioned release of endogenous opioids triggered by signals of morphine, much like it is attenuated by systemic morphine administration. Alternative hypotheses are also discussed.