Dopamine receptors and learned helplessness in the rat: An autoradiographic study

Martin L. Kram, Gerald L. Kramer, Patrick J. Ronan, Mark Steciuk, Frederick Petty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


(1) Disturbances of mesolimbic and mesocortical dopamine (DA) function have been implicated in the pathophysiology of several psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder. (2) Utilizing the learned helplessness (LH) animal model of clinical depression and quantitative autoradiography, the authors studied the densities of D1 and dopamine-2-like receptors (D2-like receptors) in medial prefrontal cortex, septum, nucleus accumbens and caudate nucleus in rats that received inescapable stress and were subsequently tested for LH behavior. (3) Dopamine-1 receptor (D1 receptor) densities were significantly higher in the core and shell of the nucleus accumbens and in the medial caudate nucleus of rats that did not become helpless after stress, compared to rats that developed LH. (4) Densities of D2-like receptors were significantly lower in the core of the nucleus accumbens in both the LH and the nonhelpless (NH) rats compared to controls. Densities of D2-like receptors were also lower in the medial and lateral caudate nuclei in LH rats compared to the other groups. (5) Increased D1 receptor densities in NH rats in the nucleus accumbens may be associated with an adaptive or protective role of this brain region in the prevention of escape deficits after exposure to inescapable stress. (6) Decreased D2-like receptor densities in the caudate nucleus in helpless rats may reflect a motor deficit associated with LH behavior, while decreases of D2-like receptor densities in the core of the nucleus accumbens may reflect a generalized effect of exposure to inescapable stress. (7) This study highlights the importance of the mesolimbic/nigrostriatal dopaminergic systems in mediating behavioral responses to inescapable stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-645
Number of pages7
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Caudate
  • D receptors
  • D-like receptors
  • Depression
  • Dopamine
  • Learned helplessness
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Quantitative autoradiography
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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