Increased dopamine receptor activity in the nucleus accumbens shell ameliorates anxiety during drug withdrawal

Anna K. Radke, Jonathan C. Gewirtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


A number of lines of evidence suggest that negative emotional symptoms of withdrawal involve reduced activity in the mesolimbic dopamine system. This study examined the contribution of dopaminergic signaling in structures downstream of the ventral tegmental area to withdrawal from acute morphine exposure, measured as potentiation of the acoustic startle reflex. Systemic administration of the general dopamine receptor agonist apomorphine or a cocktail of the D1-like receptor agonist SKF82958 and the D2-like receptor agonist quinpirole attenuated potentiated startle during morphine withdrawal. This effect was replicated by apomorphine infusion into the nucleus accumbens shell. Finally, apomorphine injection was shown to relieve startle potentiation during nicotine withdrawal and conditioned place aversion to morphine withdrawal. These results suggest that transient activation of the ventral tegmental area mesolimbic dopamine system triggers the expression of anxiety and aversion during withdrawal from multiple classes of abused drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2405-2415
Number of pages11
Issue number11
StatePublished - Oct 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Sofiya Hupalo, Jacob Leslie for technical assistance and Dr Mark Thomas for the use of the place conditioning apparatus. This work was funded by grants from NICHD (HD007151 to AKR) and NIDA (DA007097 to AKR and DA018784 to JCG).


  • addiction and substance abuse
  • dopamine
  • nucleus accumbens
  • opioids
  • startle
  • withdrawal


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