Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmacology & Toxicology

First Advisor

Keith L. Shelton


Inhalants are a loosely defined diverse group of volatile substances which people abuse. Despite widespread misuse of inhalants, there are limited preclinical methods available to study the reinforcement-like properties of inhalants. One procedure which has demonstrated substantial promise as a tool to investigate inhalant pharmacology is the intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) procedure. ICSS utilizes pulses of electrical stimulation to the mesolimbic reward pathway to serve as a temporally defined and controlled operant reinforcer with a highly adjustable efficacy. The first aim of the project was to characterize the effects of commonly abused inhalants: including toluene, trichloroethane, nitrous oxide, isoflurane and R134a in ICSS.

The second aim was to attenuate inhalant-facilitated ICSS by utilization of compounds which would attenuate the pharmacological actions of toluene on GABAA receptors. The low efficacy benzodiazepine negative modulator Ro15-4513 significantly attenuated the ability of toluene to facilitate ICSS without itself significantly altering baseline ICSS responding. Pretreatment with Ro15-4513 also attenuated methamphetamine ICSS even though there is no evidence of methamphetamine interacting with GABAA receptors. Given these unexpected results, I employed a microdialysis procedure to examine the effect of Ro15-4513 on methamphetamine stimulated dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens. Pretreatment with Ro15-4513 significantly attenuated methamphetamine stimulated dopamine release while having a negligible effect on dopamine release when administered alone. These results suggest that a modest level of benzodiazepine-site negative modulation can reduce the reinforcement enhancing effects of abused drugs regardless of their primary mechanism of action through allosteric modulation of GABAergic neurons within the mesolimbic pathway. Further, these results may have implications for expanding the examination of GABAA negative modulator medications beyond those trials currently being conducted with alcohol.

Finally, the effects of chronic intermittent toluene exposure on ICSS and nesting behaviors were examined. Subjects were systemically exposed to air, chronic intermittent toluene (CIT), or escalating chronic intermittent (ECIT) toluene for 15 min at 3300 PPM toluene vapor per exposure. The results show that ECIT resulted in decreased overall responding in ICSS relative to air control and showed a tolerance-like effect to facilitatory effects of 3300 ppm toluene during ICSS compared to CIT group. These results indicate that escalating use of toluene produces reductions in its reward-like effects and may contribute to escalation to other drugs of abuse.


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