Dopamine concentrations in nucleus accumbens subregions are differentially affected by ethanol administration
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Dopamine increases in the nucleus accumbens after contingent and noncontingent ethanol administration in rats, but the contributions of the core, coreshell border, and shell subregions to this response are unclear. Also, it is not fully understood if increases in dopamine under these circumstances are due to the pharmacological effects of ethanol, stimuli associated with administration, or both. The studies presented in this dissertation were conducted to investigate dopamine’s role in each of these accumbal regions during ethanol administration and presentation of associated stimuli. Using microdialysis, ethanol and dopamine concentrations in accumbal subregions were measured every five minutes before, during, and after either experimenter-delivered intravenous ethanol or operant ethanol self-administration. After intravenous ethanol infusions, the increase in dopamine in the shell of the accumbens was significantly higher than that observed in the core. During operant ethanol self-administration, the core, core-shell border, and shell, all exhibited significant increases in dopamine during transfer of the animal into the operant chamber, with animals trained to drink sucrose + ethanol showing significantly higher increases when compared to those trained to drink sucrose alone. Dopamine increased significantly only in the core-shell border during ethanol consumption, and dopamine levels in the core and shell responded in a similar manner during all phases of the experiment. Together, these results suggest that dopamine responses to intravenous ethanol infusions and operant ethanol self-administration are subregion specific. Also, while increases in dopamine resulting from intravenous ethanol infusions in naïve animals appear to be due to the pharmacological effects of the drug, increases in ethanol-experienced animals during transfer into the operant chamber, and during ethanol consumption, may also be due to stimuli associated with ethanol administration.