Dopaminergic neurons: Effect of acute and chronic morphine administration on single cell activity and transmitter metabolism

Martha C. Nowycky, Judith R. Walters, R. H. Roth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


At various time points following acute and chronic administration of morphine to rats, dopamine transmitter metabolism and neuronal activity were determined. Following acute injection of morphine (20 mg/kg intraperitoneally), dopamine cell firing rates increased slowly and steadily. This slow increase was accompanied by a similar slow increase in the accumulation of the dopamine metabolite, dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC). Apparent in vivo tyrosine hydroxylase activity, measured by dopa accumulation following inhibition of dopa decarboxylase, also increased. In chronically treated animals the average firing rate of dopamine cells was measured two hours after the last injection of morphine. The distribution of dopamine cell firing rates was significantly higher than in controls. DOPAC levels and in vivo tyrosine hydroxylase activity were also increased at this time. When morphine (100 mg/kg intraperitoneally) was administered to chronically treated animals 12 hours after the last injection a slow increase of firing rates was observed similar to that seen in naive animals after an acute morphine injection. In chronically morphine treated animals naloxone caused a rapid dose-dependent decrease in firing rates and DOPAC levels. In vivo tyrosine hydroxylase activity was not changed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-116
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Neural Transmission
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1978
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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