Opioid regulation of spinal cord plasticity: evidence the kappa-2 opioid receptor agonist GR89696 inhibits learning within the rat spinal cord. Academic Article uri icon


  • Spinal cord neurons can support a simple form of instrumental learning. In this paradigm, rats completely transected at the second thoracic vertebra learn to minimize shock exposure by maintaining a hindlimb in a flexed position. Prior exposure to uncontrollable shock (shock independent of leg position) disrupts this learning. This learning deficit lasts for at least 24h and depends on the NMDA receptor. Intrathecal application of an opioid antagonist blocks the expression, but not the induction, of the learning deficit. A comparison of selective opioid antagonists implicated the kappa-opioid receptor. The present experiments further explore how opioids affect spinal instrumental learning using selective opioid agonists. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were given an intrathecal injection (30 nmol) of a kappa-1 (U69593), a kappa-2 (GR89696), a mu (DAMGO), or a delta opioid receptor agonist (DPDPE) 10 min prior to instrumental testing. Only the kappa-2 opioid receptor agonist GR89696 inhibited acquisition (Experiment 1). GR89696 inhibited learning in a dose-dependent fashion (Experiment 2), but had no effect on instrumental performance in previously trained subjects (Experiment 3). Pretreatment with an opioid antagonist (naltrexone) blocked the GR89696-induced learning deficit (Experiment 4). Administration of GR89696 did not produce a lasting impairment (Experiment 5) and a moderate dose of GR89696 (6 nmol) reduced the adverse consequences of uncontrollable nociceptive stimulation (Experiment 6). The results suggest that a kappa-2 opioid agonist inhibits neural modifications within the spinal cord.

published proceedings

  • Neurobiol Learn Mem

author list (cited authors)

  • Washburn, S. N., Maultsby, M. L., Puga, D. A., & Grau, J. W.

complete list of authors

  • Washburn, Stephanie N||Maultsby, Marissa L||Puga, Denise A||Grau, James W

publication date

  • January 1, 2008 11:11 AM