Effects of quinpirole on central dopamine systems in sensitized and non-sensitized rats
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The present study examined post mortem changes in central dopaminergic terminal regions following acute or chronic treatment regimens with the dopamine D2/D3 receptor agonist quinpirole, a psychomotor stimulant which induces pronounced behavioural sensitization when given chronically. Drug-induced changes in nucleus accumbens, striatum and amygdala were bilateral in nature, while in prefrontal cortex (medial prefrontal and anterior cingulate combined), left and right brain regions responded differentially to quinpirole. Acute drug treatment increased dopamine tissue levels in nucleus accumbens and right prefrontal cortex, while the dopamine metabolite 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, was decreased in amygdala. In contrast, sensitization to quinpirole was associated with decreased dopamine levels in left prefrontal cortex, and increases in 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid levels in subcortical structures, particularly striatum and amygdala. Additionally, the increase in striatal 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid in chronic quinpirole animals was independent of drug treatment on the final day of injections. In summary, quinpirole induces a variety of simultaneous, regional changes in dopaminergic function, with the sensitized condition being primarily associated with an up-regulation of subcortical dopamine activity. While the nucleus accumbens and striatum play a well known role in motor activation and sensitized behaviour, it is concluded that the amygdala and prefrontal cortex have significant modulatory influences on these processes, with the role of the prefrontal cortex being asymmetrical in nature. Given the suggested relevance of behavioural sensitization to psychopathological states in humans, parallels are drawn between the present data and clinical findings, particularly in relation to obsessive-compulsive disorder.