A diencephalic circuit in rats for opioid analgesia but not positive reinforcement

Maggie W. Waung, Kayla A. Maanum, Thomas J. Cirino, Joseph R. Driscoll, Chris O’Brien, Svetlana Bryant, Kasra A. Mansourian, Marisela Morales, David J. Barker, Elyssa B. Margolis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mu opioid receptor (MOR) agonists are potent analgesics, but also cause sedation, respiratory depression, and addiction risk. The epithalamic lateral habenula (LHb) signals aversive states including pain, and here we found that it is a potent site for MOR-agonist analgesia-like responses in rats. Importantly, LHb MOR activation is not reinforcing in the absence of noxious input. The LHb receives excitatory inputs from multiple sites including the ventral tegmental area, lateral hypothalamus, entopeduncular nucleus, and the lateral preoptic area of the hypothalamus (LPO). Here we report that LHb-projecting glutamatergic LPO neurons are excited by noxious stimulation and are preferentially inhibited by MOR selective agonists. Critically, optogenetic stimulation of LHb-projecting LPO neurons produces an aversive state that is relieved by LHb MOR activation, and optogenetic inhibition of LHb-projecting LPO neurons relieves the aversiveness of ongoing pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number764
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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