Two brain sites for cannabinoid reward

Abraham Zangen, Marcello Solinas, Satoshi Ikemoto, Steven R. Goldberg, Roy A. Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


The recent findings that Δ9tetrahydrocannabinol ( Δ9THC), the active agent in marijuana and hashish, (1) is self-administered intravenously, (2) potentiates the rewarding effects of electrical brain stimulation, and (3) can establish conditioned place preferences in laboratory animals, suggest that these drugs activate biologically primitive brain reward mechanisms. Here, we identify two chemical trigger zones for stimulant and rewarding actions of Δ9THC. Microinjections of Δ9THC into the posterior ventral tegmental area (VTA) or into the shell of the nucleus accumbens (NAS) increased locomotion, and rats learned to lever-press for injections of Δ9THC into each of these regions. Substitution of vehicle for drug or treatment with a cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist caused response cessation. Microinjections of Δ9THC into the posterior VTA and into the posterior shell of NAS established conditioned place preferences. Injections into the core of the NAS, the anterior VTA, or dorsal to the VTA were ineffective. These findings link the sites of rewarding action of Δ9THC to brain regions where such drugs as amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, and nicotine are also thought to have their sites of rewarding action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4901-4907
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number18
StatePublished - 7 Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Locomotion
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Reward
  • Self-administration
  • THC
  • Ventral tegmental area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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