Reversal of morphine disruption of maternal behavior by concurrent treatment with the opiate antagonist naloxone

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  08 Oct 1982:
Vol. 218, Issue 4568, pp. 166-168
DOI: 10.1126/science.7123227


Rats whose pregnancies were surgically terminated on day 17 of gestation were injected with morphine, morphine plus naloxone hydrochloride, or saline, and then tested for maternal responsiveness toward foster young. Morphine treatment alone significantly disrupted the rate of onset and quality of maternal responsiveness. Concurrent administration of naloxone to morphine-injected rats reinstated the rapid onset of behavioral responsiveness toward foster young, such that the responsiveness of the rats treated with both morphine and naloxone was indistinguishable from that shown by saline-injected controls. The disruptive effects of morphine did not appear to result from a general reduction in activity levels as measured in an open-field apparatus. These findings suggest that the normal onset and maintenance of maternal behavior in the rat may be regulated by endogenous opiates.