Naltrexone suppresses the late but not early licking response to a palatable sweet solution: Opioid hedonic hypothesis reconsidered

Pasquale G. Frisina, Anthony Sclafani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Opioid antagonists suppress the intake of sweet solutions, but typically have little effect on the initial rate of drinking. The lack of an early drug response was investigated in the present study because it questions the general idea that opioid antagonists reduce the hedonic response to sweets. The first experiment, which measured the rat's licking response to a sucrose+saccharin (S+s) solution, revealed that naltrexone suppressed S+s intake but not initial lick rates. Experiment 2A indicated that the drug's delayed behavioral effect was not due to the 10-min injection-test interval used. Increasing the interval to 20 min did not reduce the latency of drug action. Experiment 2B tested the idea that rats require several minutes to detect that naltrexone has reduced the hedonic value of the S+s solution. The S+s solution was presented either for 30 min without interruption or for 3 min followed, after a 6-min delay, by another 27-min access. In both test conditions, naltrexone did not suppress S+s licking until 7-9 min of drinking had occurred. However, the drug blocked an "appetizer effect"; a post-delay increase in licking rate produced by the split-session test procedure. Microstructure analysis indicated that in all cases, naltrexone reduced S+s licking by reducing the number of lick clusters rather than lick cluster size. In contrast to these drug effects, Experiment 2C showed that reducing the concentration of the S+s solution decreased initial lick rates. Together, these findings suggest that opioid antagonists do not affect all aspects of flavor hedonics, but may primarily alter the intake-maintaining action of palatable flavors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-172
Number of pages10
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Lick microstructure
  • Oral habituation
  • Palatability
  • Sucrose+saccharin


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