Age-dependent and strain-dependent influences of morphine on mouse social investigation behavior

Bruce C. Kennedy, Jules B. Panksepp, Jenny C. Wong, Emily J. Krause, Garet P. Lahvis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Opioid-coded neural circuits play a substantial role in how individuals respond to drugs of abuse. Most individuals begin using such drugs during adolescence and within a social context. Several studies indicate that adolescent mice exhibit a heightened sensitivity to the effects of morphine, a prototypical opiate drug, but it is unclear whether these developmental differences are related to aspects of motivated behavior. Moreover, exposure to opioids within the rodent brain can alter the expression of social behavior, yet little is known about whether this relationship changes as a function of development or genetic variation. In this study, we conducted a series of experiments to characterize the relationship between genetic background, adolescent development and morphine-induced changes in mouse social investigation (SI). At two time points during adolescent development [postnatal days (PD) 25 and 45], social interactions of test mice of the gregarious C57BL/6J (B6) strain were more tolerant to the suppressive effects of morphine [effective dose 50 (ED50)=0.97 mg/kg and 2.17 mg/kg morphine, respectively] than test mice from the less social BALB/cJ (BALB) strain (ED50=0.61 mg/kg and 0.91 mg/kg morphine, respectively). By contrast, this strain-dependent difference was not evident among adult mice on PD 90 (ED50=1.07 mg/kg and 1.41 mg/kg morphine for BALB and B6 mice, respectively). An additional experiment showed that the ability of morphine to alter social responsiveness was not directly related to drug-induced changes in locomotor behavior. Finally, administration of morphine to stimulus mice on PD 25 reduced social investigation of test mice only when individuals were from the B6 genetic background. Overall, these results indicate that alterations in endogenous opioid systems are related to changes in SI that occur during adolescence, and that morphine administration may mimic rewarding aspects of social encounter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-159
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioural Pharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • addiction
  • adolescence
  • drug abuse
  • motivation
  • mouse
  • mouse genetics
  • opioid
  • peers
  • sociability
  • social reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Age-dependent and strain-dependent influences of morphine on mouse social investigation behavior'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this