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We hypothesized that opioid receptor antagonists would inhibit motivated behavior produced by a natural reward. To evaluate motivated responses to a natural reward, mice were given access to running wheels for 71.5 h in a multi-configuration testing apparatus. In addition to a running wheel activity, locomotor activity (outside of the wheel), food and water intake, and access to a food container were measured in the apparatus. Mice were also tested separately for novel-object exploration to investigate whether naloxone affects behavior unrelated to natural reward. In untreated mice wheel running increased from day 1 to day 3. The selective µ-opioid receptor antagonist β-funaltrexamine (β-FNA) (5 mg/kg) slightly decreased wheel running, but did not affect the increase in wheel running from day 1 to day 3. The non-selective opioid receptor antagonist naloxone produced a greater reduction in wheel running than β-FNA and eliminated the increase in wheel running that occurred over time in the other groups. Analysis of food access, locomotor behavior, and behavior in the novel-object test suggested that the reduction in wheel running was selective for this highly reinforcing behavior. These results indicate that opioid receptor antagonism reduces responses to the natural rewarding effects of wheel running and that these effects involve multiple opioid receptors since the non-selective opioid receptor antagonist had greater effects than the selective µ-opioid receptor antagonist. It is possible that at the doses employed, other receptor systems than opioid receptors might be involved, at least in part, in the effect of naloxone and β-FNA. Copyright © 2024 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.


Nobue Kitanaka, Kanayo Arai, Kaoko Takehara, F Scott Hall, Kazuo Tomita, Kento Igarashi, Tomoaki Sato, George R Uhl, Junichi Kitanaka. Opioid receptor antagonists reduce motivated wheel-running behavior in mice. Behavioural pharmacology. 2024 Apr 01;35(2-3):114-121

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PMID: 38451023

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