Upregulation of the cAMP signal transduction pathway in the locus coeruleus by CREB has been implicated as the mechanism responsible for certain aspects of opioid-induced physical dependence. The temporal course of withdrawal correlates with LC firing, and administration of α2 agonists into the locus coeruleus leads to a decrease in LC firing and norepinephrine release during withdrawal. A possible mechanism involves upregulation of NMDA receptors, which is supported by the attenuation of withdraw by NMDA receptor antagonists. Physical dependence on opioids has been observed to produce an elevation of extracellular glutamate, an increase in NMDA receptor subunits NR1 and NR2A, phosphorylated CaMKII, and c-fos. Expression of CaMKII and c-fos is attenuated by NMDA receptor antagonists, which is associated with blunted withdrawal in adult rats, but not neonatal rats While acute administration of opioids decreases AMPA receptor expression and depresses both NMDA and non-NMDA excitatory postsynaptic potentials in the NAC, withdrawal involves a lowered threshold for LTP and an increase in spotaneous firing in the NAc.
^ Blum K, Werner T, Carnes S, Carnes P, Bowirrat A, Giordano J, Oscar-Berman M, Gold M (2012). "Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll: hypothesizing common mesolimbic activation as a function of reward gene polymorphisms". Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 44 (1): 38–55. doi:10.1080/02791072.2012.662112. PMC 4040958. PMID 22641964. It has been found that deltaFosB gene in the NAc is critical for reinforcing effects of sexual reward. Pitchers and colleagues (2010) reported that sexual experience was shown to cause DeltaFosB accumulation in several limbic brain regions including the NAc, medial pre-frontal cortex, VTA, caudate, and putamen, but not the medial preoptic nucleus. Next, the induction of c-Fos, a downstream (repressed) target of DeltaFosB, was measured in sexually experienced and naive animals. The number of mating-induced c-Fos-IR cells was significantly decreased in sexually experienced animals compared to sexually naive controls. Finally, DeltaFosB levels and its activity in the NAc were manipulated using viral-mediated gene transfer to study its potential role in mediating sexual experience and experience-induced facilitation of sexual performance. Animals with DeltaFosB overexpression displayed enhanced facilitation of sexual performance with sexual experience relative to controls. In contrast, the expression of DeltaJunD, a dominant-negative binding partner of DeltaFosB, attenuated sexual experience-induced facilitation of sexual performance, and stunted long-term maintenance of facilitation compared to DeltaFosB overexpressing group. Together, these findings support a critical role for DeltaFosB expression in the NAc in the reinforcing effects of sexual behavior and sexual experience-induced facilitation of sexual performance. ... both drug addiction and sexual addiction represent pathological forms of neuroplasticity along with the emergence of aberrant behaviors involving a cascade of neurochemical changes mainly in the brain's rewarding circuitry.
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